MOSCOW — Bill Parks, the founder of the Moscow-based Northwest River Supplies, died Sunday at St. Luke’s Hospital in Boise.
Parks died at age 88 of natural causes.
NRS, which sells equipment and apparel for boating and paddlesports, said in a statement that Parks was “a businessman, river runner, and educator, but he was foremost a humanitarian.”
“He leaves behind a 50-year legacy of serving customers and community, people and the planet, steadfast in his belief that business can be a force for good in the world,” said NRS.
After a 1969 rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, Parks became interested in river running and saw potential for a company to supply that sport with gear. Parks started NRS in 1972 when he used $2,000 of his personal savings to stock an inventory of gear in his garage.
During this time, he was a faculty member at the University of Oregon. After founding NRS, Parks moved to Moscow to join the faculty at the University of Idaho in the College of Business and Economics. He continued to build NRS while teaching full-time, often hiring his students to assist customers, help out in the warehouse and fulfill orders.
NRS has grown from a mail-order business in Parks’ garage to a global outdoor sporting goods brand and an employer of 140 people on the Palouse.
The organization grew to become a multimillion-dollar international company. In 2014, Parks financed a deal to transfer all NRS stock to the company’s workers to make it totally employee-owned.
NRS moved into its new 155,000-square-foot facility on South Blaine Street in 2019. The company celebrated its 50th anniversary in August.
His presence was felt in other community matters. In 2017, he donated $25,000 toward the purchase and installation of new playground equipment for Indian Hills Park.
Moscow Mayor Art Bettge told the Daily News that Parks also provided funding to enable Paradise Path and Latah Trail to be paved to the east of town.
“Bill Parks was a true philanthropist,” Bettge said. “He quietly and humbly donated to many worthy causes that benefited everyone in not only Moscow, but the larger region. He always dodged publicity or credit, preferring to just provide benefits without wanting any credit.”
In 2020, Parks and his wife, Donna, sold the former NRS building on U.S. Highway 95 to Palouse Ice Rink at a significantly reduced price. With $1 million from Moscow’s Hamilton Fund and additional donations, Palouse Ice Rink transformed the building into a full-size ice rink that opened in December. It is called the Parks Activity Recreation Center.
“He will be missed, but his legacy will remain through the projects he helped see through to conclusion,” Bettge said. “I wish there were more good souls like Bill who stepped up for the good of all.”
NRS said in its statement that even during his final days, Parks was discussing business with NRS managers.
“His wife and best friend, Donna Holmes Parks, was by his side until the end,” NRS said.
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