About 45 percent of San Diego County’s total land area is green space, but many low-income, ethnically diverse communities have limited access to parks and open spaces.
To address these challenges, environmental advocates and activists recently joined The San Diego Foundation Center for Civic Engagement and the Dolores Huerta Foundation at Weaving Movements “Love For The Land” at Daley Ranch House in Escondido to discuss the importance of increasing access to nature and opening the outdoors to all communities.
Speakers included professional snowboarder Ryan Hudson, Outdoor Outreach executive director Ben McCue, co-founder of the Escondido Creek Conservancy Steve Barker, and co-founder and executive director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation Camila Chávez.
“We show students how to rock climb, bring them to the ocean to teach them to swim,” McCue shared while discussing Outdoor Outreach’s programs for underserved youth. “Something that can be so inherently scary for them, they can overcome. It allows them to look at other aspects of their life and see that they can really do these things that they never thought they could do, and overcome these challenges.”
Hudson shared his story of going from a homeless child to a professional snowboarder, a transformation that was put in motion during his first trip to Big Bear as a youth with Outdoor Outreach.
“That first trip I took was my first opportunity to see mountains and the first time I had felt and seen snow,” he remembered. “It was amazing and really eye opening. It just changed my world completely.”
Learn more about Ryan Hudson’s story:
Another local effort focused on getting youth in underserved communities outdoors is the Parks4Kids Project.
Escondido Creek co-founder Steve Barker is an advocate for the project, which is part of a national campaign to celebrate the National Park Centennial and connect young people with parks. For just $10, you can provide a powerful park experience for a child.
Barker also spoke about the importance of the recreation economy, which he said contributes more than $640 billion to the U.S. economy and produces 6 million jobs. In California alone, the recreation economy is responsible for $85 billion in revenue and 732,000 workers.
“Communities that invest in outdoor recreation get a return on their investment,” he emphasized.
Hear more from our speaker panel:
At The San Diego Foundation, our Opening the Outdoors program has had a profound impact since launching in 2012, helping more than 13,000 youth in underserved communities access the outdoors to experience nature.
There are several ways you can join us and help ensure youth are protected, connected and can access the outdoors in communities throughout San Diego.
You can get started by reading the Parks For Everyone report to learn more about access to greenspace throughout the County. Or, visit the Parks4Kids website at parks4kids.info to support giving kids a powerful outdoor experience.
Learn about our upcoming efforts in partnership with San Diego Grantmakers, the Satterberg Foundation and other donors today.
How does your organization help San Diego’s youth access the outdoors? Let us know in the comments!