A Win for Equitable Park Access
In a significant stride toward fostering equitable access to parks and nature, NatureTrack and Wilderness Youth Project have been awarded grants totaling nearly $400,000 through the California Natural Resources Agency’s Youth Community Access program.
Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Seibel lead the state’s Outdoors For All Strategy, which recently allocated a total of almost $18 million to 71 projects statewide.
Santa Ynez Valley-based NatureTrack received $97,400 to support outdoor field trips for underserved, low-income K-12 students in the north county of Santa Barbara County. Older youth will be recruited from local colleges to work as trip docents.
Sue Eisaguirre, founder of NatureTrack said, “We are thrilled to receive this grant, as it allows us to extend our impact to a greater number of students of all abilities in north Santa Barbara County who may otherwise have limited or no access to learning in and from the natural world – where learning truly comes alive! Plus, we are committed to supporting educators by ensuring our field trip aligns with the student’s classroom studies, providing a comprehensive and immersive educational experience. We learn from the teachers who tell us the trip which fits their curriculum best.”
Since NatureTrack’s founding in 2011, more than 35,000 students have had a chance to experience a docent-led outdoor field trip.
Santa Barbara-based Wilderness Youth Project received $288,500 to support their Bridge to Nature program that funds outdoor access to nature and mentoring programs for underserved and low-income youth ages 7-17, and the funding includes the acquisition of a clean vehicle for adventure transportation.
Michelle Howard, Grants Management Director said, “At Wilderness Youth Project, gratitude is part of the fabric of our work, whether expressed in a circle of participants or in staff meetings. Giving thanks is as natural to us as the rocky sandstone of the Santa Ynez Mountains and the sandy shores of Butterfly Beach. We are incredibly grateful for the grant from Youth Community Access, and we hope that it inspires deepening support for local nature connection and access.”
Wilderness Youth Project serves 1,200 local children annually and this grant will support the subsidized Bridge to Nature school day programs and after-school programs at 11 local elementary schools and two preschools in Santa Barbara and Carpinteria (where the majority of students come from low-income families).
NatureTrack and Wilderness Youth Project have a longstanding history of collaboration on more than just this Press Release. This school year, NatureTrack lent its Freedom Trax wheelchair system to Wilderness Youth Project, facilitating the participation of two fourth grade participants who use wheelchairs to join Wilderness Youth Project’s school-day Bridge to Nature adventures on the sand and trails at Haskell’s Beach.
NatureTrack extends the availability of Freedom Trax devices to other nonprofits and private citizens at no charge. The mission of “Access for All” resonates throughout both the work of NatureTrack and Wilderness Youth Project, and the impact of Freedom Trax has significantly expanded this work.
The California Natural Resources Agency Youth Community Access Program, funded by Proposition 64, grants projects throughout the state that bring youth in underserved and low-income communities to parks, nature and places of cultural and historic significance.
Youth Community Access projects include a vast variety of efforts to develop youth leadership while sailing the ocean, constructing trailheads, exploring California’s hidden places, restoring a fish hatchery and other activities that encourage getting outdoors.
It’s part of the “Outdoors for All Strategy.” The plan serves as a blueprint for how the California Natural Resources Agency and communities will build a movement and further momentum on work already underway — while partnering with key communities across the state to track progress and support future actions to get more people outside and provide outdoor experiences.
“Every Californian deserves to reap the mental, physical and emotional benefits of time spent in nature,” said California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “Outdoors for All is a declaration of the Governor’s and my commitment to mental and physical health—with a lens on equity, inclusivity and community — to advance our vision for all Californians to not only have access to the outdoors, but ultimately to feel pride, ownership, and belonging in our state’s magnificent natural spaces.”
In 2021, Governor Newsom and the State Legislature committed $1 billion toward the Outdoors for All Strategy , including $500 million in grants to local communities for parks infrastructure and transportation and education programs, and $500 million to expand access to California state parks and other state facilities through infrastructure and improvements to existing programs.
NatureTrack is a 501c3 nonprofit that provides outdoor docent-led field trips during the usual school day for Santa Barbara County children at no cost to the schools or students, utilizing local trails and beaches throughout north and south county. Learn more at https://naturetrack.org. NatureTrack is expanding its reach up to San Luis Obispo and down to Ventura County with the Trax program.
ABOUT WILDERNESS YOUTH PROJECT
The mission of Wilderness Youth Project is to foster confidence, health, and a lifelong love of learning for young people and families through active outdoor experiences and mentoring. For more information, visit www.wyp.org, or contact WYP at 805-964-8096 or firstname.lastname@example.org.