As the sun dove below the horizon on a short January day, the idea for Protect Our Parks sparked while Recover's President Bill Johnston was on a run. For all of us, moving outdoors in any capacity is a natural means to unplug, unwind, blow off steam, and process. Fueled by the piece of Recover's mission to inspire and educate, creating a tee that donates $5 directly to the National Park Foundation with every sale turned from spark to ignition. While mountain biking on the trails in Pisgah National Forest this summer, we caught up with Bill. Straight from the source, this is how and why Protect Our Parks was created.
Why did Recover decide to create, launch and invest in Protect Our Parks?
It's enormously important to us, our family and our friends. Protect Our Parks is a testimony to the right of all people to have these awesome public lands, and to how paramount that access is for individuals physically and mentally. We are passionate outdoors people, and our love of the outdoors and the environment is why we founded the company. Our business is built upon education and creating environmental awareness by creating solutions to environmental problems, and right now there is so much importance riding on the private sector to drive change. In today's political landscape and in the reality of how vulnerable our planet is right now, this is the least we could do to raise awareness and funds for something that we care about.
We know that mountain biking is one of your favorite ways to get out in the Parks... How did you get into it?
I really got into it when I started working in the office for Moondance in Asheville during the off-season. We have some of best trail riding out here in Western North Carolina; the world class trails are a hidden gem, but we've been put on the map a little more and the sport is growing a ton. It's a lifelong sport and people can get involved at any age - it doesn't matter. Different trails can dictate the riding and skill levels, but there’s always something for everyone. At this point in my life, what I love about it most is that it's fairly easy to access if you have a good trail system. Pisgah National Forest is a mecca around here. There are trails on public lands in Charlotte too and with mountain biking, I can manage my work and time. I'm a big outdoor enthusiast and would love to spend as much time out in the wilderness as possible, but that's not something we can always do. Mountain biking is a way for me to daily connect with nature and get out into the woods.
What do you love about having access to trails?
I love that I can still accomplish what I want to with work on a daily basis, but also get that mental outlet to unplug. The climbs are great physically, and then you get the exhilaration of riding downhill, getting speed and living in the moment. It forces you to disconnect and get away from everything. That is even more important these days when we're so consumed by devices; going some place like Pisgah where you don't get cell service and can't get emails for just an afternoon is revitalizing. Really, mountain biking is just pure fun.
Why is protecting our National Parks and public lands important?
When I think back on my life, some of my best memories and the things I cherish most have happened outside and in a wilderness setting. Public lands, in general, are one of the things that make America so unique. Our massive amount of untouched wilderness is one of our greatest assets, and as technology evolves more and more, those places to unplug are going to become more valuable. When I think about my niece and nephew and other generations, those places should be protected forever. Keeping that outlet to get outside is so important and our National Parks make sense for so many reasons. Everybody has that right to enjoy them and they're built for everyone. Even if you didn't grow up with it or don't have many resources, there are designated public lands that anyone can access if they can get exposure to it. These places are all across the country for everyone to enjoy. Once you get out there and experience it, it's a given they're worth protecting.