How A Startup Could Save America’s National Parks

Parks Project is a new outdoor lifestyle brand with a sole purpose: save the U.S. national parks. After a weekend volunteering in the Santa Monica mountains, friends Keith Eshelman and Sevag Kazanci were struck by the challenges facing America’s underfunded and underappreciated national parks.

Inspired by their time working for social enterprise company TOMS, the two entrepreneurs set out to harness consumer power to help support some of the parks’ underfunded projects. Now having contributed over $200,000 to park partners and pairing up with 100 specialty stores, they are rolling out in REI stores nationwide this summer.

The United States is home to some of the worlds most impressive national parks. Following the creation of Yellowstone national park in the 1870s, today the country has 60 protected areas, 14 of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But as Eshelman and Kaznaci learned, the parks are facing severe underfunding and a lack of advocacy.

Both children and adults are spending less time playing outside or connecting with nature than previous generations. In particular, there is concern over youth engagement with the National Parks. The average age of visitors to Denali is 57 years. In Yellowstone, it is 54. Over the last 10 years, the number of visitors under the age of 15 has decreased by half.

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