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Parks California is thrilled to announce the 2022-2023 Route to Parks grants to nonprofits and organizations across the state that are expanding access to the outdoors and instilling a personal connection with nature. The grants are made possible by a joint agreement between California State Parks, Parks California – dedicated to strengthening parks and inspiring all to experience these extraordinary places – and the generous support of donors who believe in the benefits and magic of nature.

Adventure Risk Challenge, 2022 ARC Community Leadership Program

Adventure Risk Challenge facilitates transformational opportunities for rural, low-income, and English Learner high school students. Community Leadership Program will empower underserved youth through integrated leadership, literacy, and wilderness experiences. The outdoor experiences will include six excursions to state parks, most of which will be overnight trips and culminate in a month-long summer course. These outdoor experiences are part of a longer two-year progression for youth to achieve academic success, to access outdoor spaces, and to exercise leadership in their communities and beyond.

Big City Mountaineers, Deepening Relationships through and with the Outdoors 2023

Big City Mountaineers is partnered with four youth development non-profits in the Bay Area and Sacramento, enabling students to experience and connect with some of California’s most special natural areas, while strengthening and expanding their social-emotional skills. The program provides access for 80 youth who come from historically marginalized communities. Programming includes a series of outings in California State parks, including day hikes and overnights, which will lead up to a weeklong backpacking experience. The fully outfitted and professionally guided trips will foster greater interest and comfort in outdoor spaces, as well as deepen student’s relationships with peers and mentors.

City of Dreams, Youth to Parks

City of Dreams supports the youth living in San Francisco’s public housing communities build bright futures through mentorship, youth development, and outdoor experiences. The Youth to Parks program connects participants and their families to their nearest state park, Candlestick Point Recreation Area. Participants will receive interpreter lead activities to engage youth in environmental stewardship, STEM knowledge and the physical and mental health benefits of outdoor recreation. The youth will also have the opportunity to participate in day and overnight trips to state parks in the surrounding region. City of Dreams programming will help these youth build bright futures rooted in connections to nature and community.

City Surf Project, Immersive Surf Experiences along the California State Park Coastline

City Surf Project (CSP) works to ensure equitable access to the ocean and to the benefits of outdoor recreation for youth who have traditionally not seen their identities represented in outdoor spaces, providing opportunities for Bay Area youth to learn surfing. CSP works with high school and middle school students through extended-touch surf programs with Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and in SFUSD schools, introducing them to a challenging but fun sport that fosters physical and mental well being, and inspires a connection to nature. This project will support transportation (considering elevated fuel costs) to state park surf sites, and staffing and program support for our Introduction to Surfing summer camps, as well as the training and employment of Surf Instructor Leadership Training (SILT) participants who provide critical leadership to camp participants, as role models from their community.

Coastside State Parks Association, Coastal Explorers

The mission of the Coastside State Parks Association (CSPA), founded in 1992, is “to inspire public appreciation and stewardship of the natural resources and cultural heritage of the San Mateo Coast, in partnership with California State Parks.” CSPA provides support to at Año Nuevo, Pigeon Point, and Half Moon Bay. CSPA’s initial Coastal Explorers program will provide 128 third-grade students from Title 1 schools in San Mateo County with two day-visits to the San Mateo coast environment. The program has a follow-up phase whice includes information and incentives for families to visit on their own. The schools will each get 5 backpacks with maps to the parks and bus routes, a park vehicle pass, nature guides, binoculars, other materials, and suggested activities. Students will be encouraged to show their parents the trip videos, which will be password-protected and online.

Community Nature Connection, Terngava Naturalist Yu’pa’

Terngava Naturalist Yu’pa’ translates to Summer Naturalist in the Wild. Community Nature Connection will work with the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians Education and Cultural Learning Department to coordinate and implement the Terngava Naturalist Yu’pa’ Program. This program will result in four access trips to California State Parks for tribal youth and families. The culturally relevant programming will increase knowledge of topics of ecology, land acknowledgements, outdoor recreation, storytelling, and traditional names and uses of plants among participants.

Crystal Cove Conservancy, Project Crystal & Project Crystal Code STEM Education Programs

Crystal Cove Conservancy’s Project Crystal and Project Crystal Code community science programs bring underserved fifth grade and middle school students to Crystal Cove State Park’s Moro Canyon to study how the ecosystem is changing. The two-year program immerses students in nature while learning science alongside State Park natural resource managers and UC Irvine scientists as they ask questions about the park’s natural environment, develop models of the ecosystem, visit the park again to collect data, and then work in small research teams to analyze their findings and share recommendations back with State Park staff. Project Crystal’s unique approach uses Crystal Cove as an outdoor classroom and learning lab where students explore real world problems in real contexts alongside real scientists and engineers – and they see the positive impact of their work for the health of the park and its habitats.

Exploring New Horizons Outdoor Schools, Outdoor Educational Equity at Pigeon Point

Every student should experience a residential outdoor education program before high school as participation can lead to: increased motivation to learn and achievement in school; greater self-esteem, attitudes of respect and responsibility; better conflict resolution and problem-solving skills; decreased stress, depression, and symptoms of ADD. During the 2022-23 school year, Exploring New Horizons Outdoor Schools (ENH) is partnering with the Salinas City Elementary School District (SCED), California State Parks, and Memorial County Park to engage over 500 lower-income Salinas students and their parents/guardians in free outdoor education at our Pigeon Point site. During 3-day overnight programs, groups of 25-40 students, their parents/guardians, and classroom teachers will explore the tidepools, coastal ecosystems, and the redwood forest.

Growth Opportunities through Athletics, Learning & Service – GOALS, GOALS Park Adventures

GOALS seeks to expand existing free school-year afterschool programming with park field trips excursions featuring hiking, nature centers, ranger talks and supporting educational enrichment. Through this project, GOALS will add 30 park/nature field trips to the existing GOALS offerings made free to more than 1,300 participants. Half at minimum must be State Parks such as Chino Hills State Park and Bolsa Chica State Park. We will also be targeting some beautiful regional parks and county parks in our ‘greater Anaheim area. GOALS will also offer major mountain summer excursions to their unique wilderness camp, Camp Valcrest, located up at at 6,000 foot elevation in the Angeles National Forest. This project will support nature excursions for campers with a closing field trip to Silverwood Lake State Park.

Hearts for Sight Foundation, White Cane Leaders In State Parks

The mission of Hearts for Sight Foundation (HFS) is to break down barriers to health and fitness that restrict the blind and visually impaired, so that they may pursue physical, mental, and emotional wellness. White Cane Leaders In State Parks would provide Southern California’s poorest disabled youth and adults with an introduction to nature, many of whom would never otherwise have the opportunity to visit state parks and beaches such as Topanga State Park, Malibu Creek State Park, Kenneth Hahn State Park (Stoneview Nature Center), Will Rogers State Historic Park, Leo Carrillo State Park, Los Angeles Historic State Park, Crystal Cove State Beach, Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve and State Beach and Placerita Canyon State Park.. Through this healthy activity, they will develop their confidence and self-esteem. They will learn about wilderness environments, develop their imagination and creativity and, above all, have fun!

Insight Garden Program, Insight Garden Program: Ground and Grow Reentry Services

Insight Garden Program (IGP) restores connections to self, community, and the natural world and cultivates spaces that embrace our diverse, interconnected, and multifaceted humanity. Grounded in the belief that access to nature is a human right, IGP’s mission is to transform the lives of people in prison, prison environments, and the communities to which people in prison return. IGP operates in 10 California state prisons, 7 of which are located in rural communities (specifically, Stockton, Lancaster, Avenal, Ione, Chowchilla and Folsom, CA). Our integrated in-prison curriculum and reentry activities include mindfulness activities, working in gardens, community outings into nature, stress-reduction skills, strategies for developing personal resilience and understanding the healing benefits that nature can provide them, their families, and communities. This grant will allow us to deepen the work we are doing in our “Ground and Grow” reentry program, serving formerly incarcerated individuals by connecting them with state parks through virtual sessions, planning sessions, a bald eagle and boat tour at Millerton Lake SRA, and camping trips to Folsom Lake SRA with hiking and mountain biking.

Napa County Office of Education, Redwoods to Tidepools

Napa County Office of Education’s Redwoods to Tidepools project will provide 150 elementary and middle school students from Expanded Learning programs in Sonoma and Napa counties the opportunity to visit the Sonoma Coast and Armstrong Woods during 2023 Spring and Summer programming. The majority of students in the partnering schools are low-income, with as many as 94% qualifying for free or reduced-price meals, and many are second-language learners. Our students have limited or no opportunity to visit our beautiful CA State parks due to lack of transportation and because of parent work schedules and other historic and structural barriers. Redwoods to Tidepools includes 10 field trips, 5 to Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve and 5 to the Sonoma Coast. Each of the 150 participating students from 5 schools will attend field trips to both sites, as well as engage in extensive pre-and-post trip environmental education. Students will learn about and explore firsthand the beauty of the redwoods and tidepools, and understand their value in our local ecosystem. The overarching objective is to develop and instill the importance of environmental stewardship to our students.

NatureTrack Foundation, NatureTrack – “New Tracks” ~ Fostering a Lifelong Fascination with Nature

NewTracks will provide outdoor field trips to local beaches and trails for wheelchair users and others who are mobility impaired. Using Freedom Trax devices, which quickly transform a manual wheelchair into a battery-powered, all-terrain vehicle, participants of all ages will be able to enjoy the beaches of the central coast. This program provides an opportunity for wheelchair users to independently maneuver their wheelchair in areas that have previously been inaccessible. NatureTracks organizes transportation for small field trips of five participants, which are open to the public or can be booked by educators.

Outdoor Outreach, State Parks Discovery Project

Outdoor Outreach connects youth to the transformative power of the outdoors, and our vision is an outdoors for all that inspires and sustains healthy and vibrant communities. The State Parks Discovery project, which provides access to state parks and beaches in southern California, will reach 250 youth from communities that have been historically impacted and marginalized by social inequities, helping to remove the barriers that these young people face in accessing meaningful outdoor experiences. Through year-round, repeat, and reinforced opportunities, youth will engage in a variety of activities like hiking, surfing, mountain biking, and kayaking. This program will provide all resources needed for an enjoyable experience, including transportation, instruction, and gear and equipment.

Pukúu Cultural Community Services, Tutčint Nature Advocates Program

The Tutcint Nature Advocates Program engages indigenous youth in an empowerment program with the objective of creating social justice leaders by reclaiming indigenous knowledge and holistic well-being. Pukuu focuses on programming in northern Los Angeles County with an emphasis on providing services to Native American youth, as well as the youth of San Fernando, addressing the needs of historically marginalized communities. The program will provide excursions to state parks with workshops and demonstrations that uplift Traditional Ecological Knowledge of the region through curriculum, storytelling, outdoor and cultural activities.

Santa Barbara Police Activities League, PALs Outdoors

PALs Outdoors will take Police Activities League students on four visits to California State Parks and beaches to provide enriching outdoor experiences and access to nature and history. The outdoor experiences are in addition to PALs mentoring programs, therefore trips are an additional opportunity for peer and mentor bonding. The relationships between mentors, staff, and students create a safe and comfortable space for new experiences. PALs staff are representative of the youth they serve, so culturally competent education is provided to the students participating in four PALs Outdoor trips.

Save the Redwoods League, Redwood Rides

Save the Redwoods League seeks to nourish relationships and support the well-being of BIPOC and low-income communities by dismantling these barriers, providing access to redwood parks, and offering individualized, engaging, and enriching outdoor resources and activities. Redwood Rides will support community groups to experience meaningful redwood state park experiences through relationship-building, outing design, planning, and preparation, and managing trip logistics. The Redwood Rides program is delivered through an established partnership with community-based organizations (from across the Bay Area, Sonoma, and Santa Cruz), redwood state park agencies, and Yoots (a low-cost transportation solution).

United American Indian Involvement, Inc., UAII-Parks California Bear Tracks for Native Youth

As a licensed California Department of Public Health clinic, a Federally Qualified Health Center Look Alike, and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, UAII is committed to working with the Native American community, reaching into the larger AI/AN population to break generational cycles of poverty, overcome cultural barriers, and improve whole-person wellness. Our UAII American Indian Clubhouse will provide quarterly day-long educational excursions in the “Bear Tracks for Native Youth” program, to encourage our young AI/AN clients to see regular outdoor recreation as not only accessible, but an important part of their lives, creating generational change. Bear Tracks will complement existing UAII recreation programs through additional hiking and camping opportunities, conservation movement involvement, and intergenerational heritage talking circles, while traveling to Dockweiler State Beach and Bolsa Chica State Beach.

Ventana Wildlife Society, State Parks Access for Families of North Monterey County

Ventana Wildlife Society specializes in providing meaningful outdoor experiences and removing the common barriers that create inequalities in environmental and outdoor education. VWS proposes multiple new youth and family programs that increase access to State Parks and provide opportunities for meaningful engagement. Funding will support two recurring weekly nature classes, four single-day trips, and two family campouts at State Parks for families of North Monterey County – providing direct services for youth and families; entrance fees; transportation; materials and resources in Spanish for distribution; program support for current and new community partners to become involved. Participating families will receive a backpack with items needed to assist them in returning to State Parks after our program is complete, as well as assistance with transportation costs.