The San Diego Foundation offices in Liberty Station.

The San Diego Foundation Friday granted $698,000 to 20 nonprofit organizations expanding access to and instilling a love of the outdoors for children and families who have been historically denied equal access to parks, outdoor education or recreation opportunities throughout the San Diego region.

The grants are made possible by the Opening the Outdoors Program at the foundation, which is intended to connect, protect and increase equitable access to the outdoors across San Diego County.

Additional funding was provided by the foundation’s San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund, which began in March 2020 in response to the COVID- 19 pandemic and raised more than $67 million for nonprofits working in impacted communities.

“The pandemic has affected the health and wellbeing of so many San Diegans and the OTO grants have increased support at a time of critical need,” said Christiana DeBenedict, director of the foundation’s environmental initiatives. “Access to the outdoors for youth and families in San Diego provides multiple benefits in the face of increased stressors including lockdowns, isolation and education and safety challenges.

According to a foundation statement, many people from historically marginalized populations, including low-income and Black, Indigenous and people of color communities, have long experienced barriers to accessing the outdoors safely, including a lack of safe infrastructure in their neighborhoods and an inability to afford recreational permits.

The 2021 Opening the Outdoors grants will support 20 local nonprofit programs which address many of the equity barriers outlined in The San Diego Foundation’s 2020 Parks for Everyone report, including safety, walkability, transportation, cultural inclusion, fees, permits and expenses as well as issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as mental health, well-being and food insecurity.

The 2021-2022 grantees and a brief summary are:

— Back Country Land Trust: $40,500 for field trips, hands-on workshops and the opportunity to work with tribal leaders and trained docents in installing a native plants garden on their school campus;

— Coastal Roots Farm: $25,000 for 1,600 4th-grade Escondido Union School District students to have outdoor environmental science, technology, engineering and math education;

— Crisis House: $50,000 for the Pathways activities program and Camp HOPE to promote restorative healing for children and teens impacted by domestic violence;

— Earth Discovery Institute: $12,856 for a utility vehicle to aid staff in continuing restoration work to help students and families engage with local outdoor spaces;

— Friends of The Water Conservation Garden: $26,000 for Ms. Smarty- Plants Enrichment Experiences;

— Groundswell Community Project: $50,000 for surf therapy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals and women;

— Lumbercycle: $40,700 to develop a food oasis near the border by empowering participants with education and tools to affordably produce, prepare and consume healthier food;

— Nature Collective: $5,000 for the Escondido Creek Watershed environmental programming to move to a virtual platform;

— Ocean Connectors: $50,000 for National City youth living in underserved Pacific coastal communities to engage in coastal and marine science education;

— Ocean Discovery Institute: $25,000 for the Living Lab program to serve 2,500 3rd- 5th-grade students at City Heights elementary schools with field trips in an urban community within a coastal watershed;

— Outdoor Outreach: $50,000 for nature-based job training, employment opportunities and youth-led advocacy activities;

— Pan African Family Union: $50,000 for the African Women’s Health and Wellness Project to increase the mental and physical wellbeing of African women and aid in the purchase of a vehicle for programming;

— Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation: $50,000 for patients in the outdoor outreach multi-week program;

— San Diego Canyonlands: $50,000 for paid environmental industry internships for youth throughout City Heights;

— San Diego Center for Children: $50,000 for youth to create a native plant garden within a canyon rim restoration at the 12-acre main campus to create safe spaces to engage with nature;

— San Diego Coastkeeper: $10,848 to fund equipment purchases for monthly programming that engages BIPOC students in a yearlong environmental science program;

— Social Advocates for Youth, San Diego: $30,972 for Real Connections to the Coast — a program for elementary, middle and high school students to visit the coast, explore tidepools and kayaking;

— Urban Surf 4 Kids: $25,000 for trauma-informed surf therapy camps;

— Via International: $37,023 for the 50th anniversary of San Diego Border Field State Park and to improve public access to the park and park development efforts; and

— WILDCOAST: $20,000 for the Coastal Connectors program to train youth leaders from tribal and park-deficient communities.

–City News Service

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