News from the Outdoor Industry affecting the Blue Ridge and Beyond…

Toms Expands into Coffee

Toms announced the launch of Toms Roasting Co. as the next product in the evolution of Toms’ One for One movement.

Expanding its mission to use business to improve lives, Toms Roasting Co. will turn a daily ritual into a daily giving opportunity: For every bag of coffee purchased, Toms will provide one week of water to a person in need.

Government Shutdown Reduced Visits to National Parks By Nearly 8 Million

Visits to national parks declined by 9.1 million, or 3.3 percent, in 2013 compared with 2012 — due in large part to the government shutdown that took place during the first 16 days of October, according to a report from the National Park Service (NPS).

Great Smoky Mountains National Park retained its top spot among the 59 formally designated national parks, with 9.35 million visits in 2013. Grand Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park retained their number-two and number-three spots in the top 10. Glacier National Park in Montana moved into the number 10 spot.

More than 273.6 million total visits were recorded during the year at the 401 parks, historic sites and recreation areas that make up the National Park System. Despite the shutdown, some parks reported increases in visitation in 2013, including Gettysburg National Military Park and Vicksburg National Military Park, both of which were buoyed by large crowds and increased interest due to Civil War sesquicentennial events. Other parks saw reduced numbers due to extended weather-related closures, including Blue Ridge Parkway, which saw visitation fall by 2.5 million due in large part to storm damage and generally cold and wet conditions. In New York City, the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy forced the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Castle Clinton to remain closed for part of the year.

NPS also released a new report showing visitors to national parks generated $26.75 billion in economic activity and supported 243,000 jobs in 2012. Golden Gate National Recreation Area replaced the Blue Ridge Parkway as the most visited site in the National Park System.

The complete list of park visitation and other visitor-related statistics is available here.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s 5th Annual Leaders in Conservation Awards

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) will recognize Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell during its fifth annual Leaders in Conservation Awards Gala, May 20, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

Secretary Jewell will be honored with the Vanguard Award in recognition of her notable advocacy for national parks, national scenic trails, wilderness areas and the benefits of outdoor recreation. As the 51st Secretary of the Interior, Jewell serves as steward for 20 percent of the nation’s lands, including national parks, national scenic trails, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands, and also oversees the responsible development of conventional and renewable energy supplies on public lands and waters. Prior to her confirmation in 2013, Secretary Jewell served in the private sector, most recently as president and chief executive officer of Recreation Equipment, Inc. (REI).

In addition to Secretary Jewell, the ATC’s Leaders in Conservation Awards Gala will recognize Sen. Richard Burr and Congressman David Price, both from North Carolina, for their commitment to the preservation of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).

Thule Group Releases Positive Second Annual Enviro Report

Thule Group AG released its second annual environmental report, highlighting progress it made in 2013 reducing its use of water, increasing its use of renewable energy and conducting product life cycle assessments.

“At the Thule Group we have had the fundamental values of sustainability and the environment in mind throughout our history,” the company said in announcing the release of the report. “With our environmental reports, we have made this work more visible and formalized which also gives us the opportunity to monitor the development in a comprehensive way and through this make further improvements.” Thule Group has approximately 3,400 employees at more than 50 production facilities and sales offices worldwide.

Lodging Bookings Solid in Eastern Resorts

Advance reservation activity at mountain resorts in both the Rockies and Northeastern regions showed continued strength in February bolstered by continued good economic news and snowfall. As of Feb. 28, with nearly 95 percent of all winter lodging business either already completed or on-the-books, aggregated figures for both regions show an 4.6 percent increase in overall occupancy for the 2013-14 season (November through April) compared to last year and a 10.4 percent increase in revenue according to the most recent data released by Denver-based DestiMetrics in their forward-looking monthly Mountain Market Briefing. Most notably, the report’s aggregated revenue figures among Western resorts have now exceeded the total year-end revenues from last winter with more than a month of business yet to be added to the bottom line.

In addition to snowfall in many regions, strong economic news was also credited with driving business to the mountains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average made a strong rebound from January’s plunge and gained 623 points in January for the biggest single month increase since January 2013. The Unemployment Rate actually bumped up one basis point to 6.7 percent but the increase was considered positive news since the uptick was attributed to job seekers returning to the workforce as employers added 175,000 jobs during the month. The only declining variable discussed was the Consumer Confidence Index that dipped 1.6 percent for the sixth decline in the past 12 months but following increases in December and January. Unease among consumers about the short term outlook for business conditions, jobs and earnings was cited as the primary reason for the drop.

Columbia Sportswear Raises $1 Million for Breast Cancer Research

Columbia’s Tested Tough in Pink Collection, a partnership with the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) and key participating retailers, raised over $123,000 in 2013 — pushing the overall donation from the campaign to more than $1 million since 2007.

“Columbia Sportswear Company has not only been ‘trying stuff since 1938’, as their company tagline denotes, they’ve clearly accomplished stuff as well,” says NBCF Founder & CEO, Janelle Hail. “Since 2007, they have raised over $1 million and helped NBCF provide thousands of free mammograms and early detection services for underserved women in all 50 states.”

Two Deaths Reported at Half-Marathons

Two runners collapsed and died near the finish lines of half-marathons in recent weeks and a third runner collapsed and was resuscitated immediately after completing the New York City Half.

After finishing the Shamrock Half-Marathon in Virginia Beach, 16-year-old Cameron Gallagher, an active athlete, was treated at an aid tent and taken to a nearby hospital, where she later died, according to the Richmond-Times Dispatch.

In the town of Fleet, Hampshire, UK, organizers of the Brooks Fleet Pre-London Half Marathon reported a male runner collapsed near the end of the race route and could not be resuscitated by medical staff. The same day, a 43-year-old runner collapsed at the finish line of the New York City half-marathon but was revived with oxygen from an EMT.

According to research, for approximately every 150,000 marathoners, one will die, typically from a heart attack precipitated by a congenital heart defect (in runners under 35 or so) or by artery blockage in older runners. The death rate in half-marathons is 40 percent that of marathons.

Paddle Nation Grants Now in Third Year

Outdoor Nation — the growing national initiative hoping to reconnect Millennials to the outdoors—along with top paddlesport manufacturers, retailers and stakeholders, Outdoor Retailer, and the National Park Service announced the opening of the 2014 Paddle Nation Grants.

The initiative, now in its third year, will award $2,500 to each of 16 innovative paddling projects selected to connect young Americans to their waterways through recreational paddling.

Projects that involve a national water trail, wild and scenic rivers, or a local outdoor retailer sponsor will be given special consideration. Those that engage family or multi-generational populations and urban or underserved communities are also encouraged. Winning projects will: reinforce the idea that recreational paddling is one of the most accessible and impactful ways to introduce young Americans to the outdoors; and be in partnership with a 501c3 and utilize social media channels as a way to reach additional audiences and engage participants. For more information or to apply for a Paddle Nation Grant, visit outdoornation.org/grants.

SFIA Reports Consumer Confidence in Sports and Fitness Industry Affected by Cold Weather

Participation in sports and plans to buy sports and fitness products decreased in the first quarter of 2014 due to severe winter weather, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) Pulse Report.

The Q1 SFIA Pulse Report said future planned participation increased from the 4th quarter of 2013 as those most likely to participate have been identified as higher income earners and between the ages of 25-49. Another key finding from the report is the bump seen in planned future spending on sports/fitness equipment. More information about SFIA’s Pulse Reports can be found here.