State Parks Awards $57MM in Outdoor Equity Program Grants to Advance California’s “Outdoors for All” Initiative

Sacramento, California State Parks, Richmond, Contra Coast, Los Angeles, San Diego
Photo by Caryle Barton on Unsplash

125 communities will receive funding for outdoor programs

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—California State Parks today announced a $57 million investment for 125 low-income urban and rural communities to expand their access to outdoor experiences at state parks and other public lands. 

“People from all over the world visit California to experience our state’s natural wonders, but too many young Californians grow up without access to these invaluable opportunities,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “This grant investment will change that by expanding equity and access so thousands of youth and families can enjoy the immense natural beauty of California.” 

Awarded through the new Outdoor Equity Grants Program, the funding helps establish hubs for local activities and trips to natural areas for underserved communities. The program also empowers youth and families with outdoor leadership education, career pathways, environmental justice engagement, and access to nature. 

“California State Parks is incredibly proud to announce grant funding to strengthen access to parks and open spaces and contribute to a better quality of life for Californians,” said California State Parks Director Armando Quintero. “These programs will turn parks into outdoor classrooms, inspiring a new generation of environmental leadership in California.” 

For the first grant cycle of the program, State Parks evaluated 384 grant applications totaling $167.78 million in requests. The $57 million in grants was made available through general funds approved by the California Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom in the 2020/21 and 2021/22 state budgets. 

A few projects receiving grants are highlighted below, with the full list of projects available online at parks.ca.gov/oep.

Contra Costa County

City of Richmond: $700,000 was awarded to conduct the Youth Outdoors Richmond Program for residents near Nevin Community Center. This program will include approximately 99 activity days in the community for approximately 12,000 participants and approximately 36 trips to natural areas for approximately 1,200 participants during three years of programming. Some of the activities in the community will include leadership and skill development and stewardship in local parks. A Calaveras Big Trees State Park Camping Trip, located about 158 miles east of Richmond in the counties of Calaveras and Tuolumne, is one of the trips that will be available to the community. 

Los Angeles County

Watts Labor Community Action Committee Outdoor Program: $700,000 was awarded for residents near the MudTown Farms. This program will include approximately 112 activity days in the community for approximately 1,900 participants and approximately 100 trips to natural areas for approximately 1,800 participants during four years of programming. Some of the activities in natural areas outside of the community include a beginner family camp at Hopkins Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach, kayaking at the manufactured harbor at Marina del Rey and an environmental experience in Angeles National Forest at Strawberry Peak and San Gabriel Mountains. 

San Diego County

Outdoor Outreach: $674,566 was awarded to the City Heights Adventure Club Program for residents near Crawford High School in the city of San Diego. This program will include approximately 72 activity days in the community for approximately 1,000 participants and 216 trips to natural areas for approximately 3,100 participants during four years of programming. Some of the trips to natural areas outside of the community will include half-day/afterschool outings at San Diego National Wildlife Refuge and Torrey Pines State Reserve. Participants will also be able to participate in a multi-day snowboarding mountain excursion at Snow Valley Mountain. 

In 2019, the Outdoor Equity Grants Program was enacted when Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 209. The concept for the grant program began with findings in the 2015 Parks Forward Commission Report stating that State Parks must expand access to parks for underserved communities and urban populations. The 2015 Parks Forward discussions became a catalyst for AB 209. Californians shared a similar vision in 2017 during 30 focus groups with over 500 participants for the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. Throughout the state, from heavily urbanized to rural areas, Californians emphasized a desire for multi-generational programs that “bring families together,” activate local parks and take residents with transportation challenges to natural areas outside their communities. 

“Delivering services across the state – including in many communities currently without adequate outdoor programs – will make a real, lasting difference in the lives of young people and all residents,” said Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot. “I am especially excited about empowering young people to explore their leadership potential. It’s one more way the state of California is working to improve the lives of all Californians.” 

Four of every 10 Californians have no access to open space within walking distance of their home and six of every 10 Californians live in park-poor neighborhoods. Programs such as the Outdoors Equity Grants Program help advance the “Outdoor Access for All” initiative championed by Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and the Natural Resources Agency’s “Outdoors for All” initiative. This effort expands outdoor access to all Californians through focused investments in open space infrastructure, outdoor programming, and improvements to permit applications, with a priority to expanding access in underserved communities.

Subscribe to California State Parks News online at www.parks.ca.gov/news or click here. 

California State Parks and the recreational programs supported by its divisions of Boating and Waterways, Historic Preservation and Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation provide the opportunity for families, friends, and communities to connect. Off-highway motor vehicle recreation, boating activities, horseback riding, cycling, hiking, camping, rock climbing, tours, hikes, school group enrichment, and special events are just some of the activities enjoyed in 280 park units organized into 21 field districts throughout the state. Learn more at www.parks.ca.gov.

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