The San Diego FoundationThe San Diego Foundation has announced $442,000 in grants for 11 local programs that will connect, protect and increase access to nature for underserved children and families throughout the San Diego region.

According to The San Diego Foundation Parks for Everyone report, many low-income, ethnically diverse communities have limited access to parks and open spaces. The Opening the Outdoors Program closes this gap by providing children and families in these San Diego communities with equitable access to nature.

The 2017 Opening the Outdoors Program will support collaborative projects that strengthen education and environmental efforts. Proposals from this year’s grant cycle will collectively engage more than 11,000 youth, 2,000 volunteers and 4,000 residents across San Diego County.  These projects will also conserve and restore 5,500 acres of land, 8.9 miles of trails and improve 22 parks, while installing 2,310 additional native plants throughout the region.

“As we learned from the Our Greater San Diego Vision report, access to and appreciation of the outdoors is a core value shared among San Diegans,” noted Katie Rast, Director of Community Impact at The San Diego Foundation. “Through the Opening the Outdoors Program, more San Diegans will grow up with a deeper connection to the outdoors and the local environment, which will help preserve our natural spaces for generations to come.”

The 2017 grants from the Opening the Outdoors Program are made possible thanks to funding through the Environment Endowment at The San Diego Foundation, Satterberg Foundation in partnership with San Diego Grantmakers, Brutten Family Fund, Willis & Jane Family Fund I, TCJ Fund, Eugene M. and Joan F. Foster Family Charitable Fund, and other generous donors at The San Diego Foundation.

For more information about the Opening the Outdoors program, visit


SAY San Diego
Outdoor Advocates – $50,000
In an effort to promote civic engagement around key environmental challenges, SAY San Diego and The AjA Project will partner with Healthy Planet USA to provide unique experiences for underserved youth in central and southeast San Diego by connecting the environment with the arts. Students will learn how to use photography to document and raise awareness about the importance of conservation and environmental justice. The project will culminate in a community-wide exhibition where students will present their visual findings to local leaders.

International Rescue Committee – San Diego
LET’s HIKE – $50,000
Park-poor community City Heights has one of the largest populations of refugees in the country. These youth often arrive with low English language proficiency, limited to no formal education, and little understanding about U.S. culture. The grant program will work with Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego Canyonlands and San Diego Unified School District to provide refugee youth from City Heights with opportunities to explore the surrounding regional parks and outdoor spaces, with a focus on environmental education and stewardship.

San Diego County Marine Protected Area Youth Engagement Program – $49,900
San Diego is world famous for its beaches and coastline, with critical preservation of these marine resources facilitated by California’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) network. Unfortunately, many youth in low-income, park poor communities of San Diego never have the opportunity to visit and enjoy these natural spaces nor gain exposure to marine career opportunities. This program will work with Outdoor Outreach and San Diego Coastkeeper to engage students from underserved and tribal communities in outdoor recreation, education and stewardship, while contributing valuable research to a statewide database.

Earth Discovery Institute
Keeping Time with Nature: Citizen Science and Phenology – $44,500
With its unique topography and climate, San Diego is home to an unusually abundant number of endemic and rare species which tell us much about what is changing in the natural environment. The grant program will work with Endangered Habitats Conservancy, San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, Outdoor Outreach and Cajon Valley Union School District to enable students from park-poor, low income communities in East County to learn about these species and utilize the scientific method to establish baseline data for the region as part of nationwide studies on phenology, while engaging youth to begin envisioning themselves as real scientists.

San Diego Canyonlands
Canyon Connections Program – $42,500
Given their proximity to dense communities in central San Diego, canyons provide some of the best opportunities for residents to experience nature in their own backyards. The grant program is a partnership with Ocean Discovery Institute to pair educational and stewardship opportunities for City Heights youth and families, as well as design a key trail segment of the City Heights Canyon Loop. By providing residents with an opportunity to care for their local open spaces, this program will create a sense of ownership and responsibility with the community.

Outdoor Outreach
Youth Connections: Inspiring Possibilities through the Outdoors – $42,500
The outdoors has been proven to help vulnerable and underserved youth overcome risk factors to become healthy, happy, successful adults. Through this grant program, Outdoor Outreach will work with Movement BE to train disadvantaged San Diego teens as outdoor educators and instructors, and will help them develop the skills needed to advocate for local and state policies to increase outdoor access for low-income, park-poor communities.

San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy
Get Out in Nature (GOIN’) – $41,200
While Escondido is located less than 20 miles from the coast, many students in this region have never been to the ocean or explored a local lagoon. By working with The Escondido Creek Conservancy, I Love a Clean San Diego and Outdoor Outreach, this grant program will provide opportunities for Escondido youth and families to explore the outdoors, which will inspire the community to enjoy parks and open spaces, and take action to ensure that these places are protected in perpetuity.

Escondido Education COMPACT
Escondido Creek Trail, Opening the Outdoors Initiative – $40,900
Historically ridden with homelessness and gang violence, the Escondido Creek Trail has a poor reputation within the community. Escondido Education COMPACT will change this negative stigma by working with Circulate San Diego, Bike/Walk Escondido and other partners to host meetings, outreach events and activities such as community cleanups that will improve the trail and encourage residents to use it more often.

San Diego River Park Foundation
Cool River Education Program for Barrio Logan – $35,500
According to the Parks for Everyone report, Barrio Logan is a vastly underserved, park-poor neighborhood in San Diego. Leveraging the support of the San Diego Fly Fishers and King-Chavez Academy, this program will provide hands-on experiences for Barrio Logan students in science, recreation and ecology with a 3-day field trip series and a 6-week ‘Trout in the Classroom’ program. The program will also offer volunteer service learning experiences for residents to participate in restoration and stewardship of sensitive lands along the San Diego River.

Ocean Connectors
Ocean Connectors Sea Turtle Discovery – $25,000
Interactive learning and hands-on experiences are critical to helping students understand and build a connection with the local environment. In collaboration with Living Coast Discovery Center, the grant program will enable every student in fourth grade at all ten National City public elementary schools to experience the Sea Turtle Discovery program. The Sea Turtle Discovery program is an essential part of the Ocean Connectors multiyear curricula, providing fourth grade students with their first introduction to outdoor learning and conservation.

Urban Corps of San Diego County
Connecting Urban Youth with Trails and Nature Program – $20,000
In order to protect the environment San Diego is known for, we must invest in the next generation of environmental stewards today. In partnership with Back Country Land Trust and the US Forest Service, this program will restore a damaged public trail, introduce youth from park-poor communities to local ecosystems and core environmental concepts, and improve habitat in East County. Urban Corps will also provide unique paid job experiences for young adults to develop an ethic of environmental stewardship and introduce them to various career paths in environmental conservation.

About The San Diego Foundation

The San Diego Foundation maximizes the impact of your charitable giving. We mobilize philanthropic resources to advance quality of life, increase social impact and champion civic engagement. For more than 40 years, The Foundation and our donors have granted more than $1 billion to grow a vibrant San Diego region. Learn more on our website, and consider a donation to the Fund for the Future Endowment which supports San Diego community needs now and forever.

By Zen Chi

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