June 27, 2019 – San Diego, CA – The San Diego Foundation today announced $458,454 in grants for 13 programs that will connect, protect and improve access to nature, especially for the San Diego region’s most park-poor and underserved communities.

The 2019 Opening the Outdoors grantmaking prioritized collaboration among nonprofit organizations working together to create a more vibrant region by increasing the number of natural amenities in low-income communities; building public support for policies that expand green space; and providing repeat, reinforcing opportunities for youth to engage with the environment.

As indicated by the regional park finder tool, Get Outside San Diego, there are more than 1,100 parks within our region, highlighting the many opportunities to access the spectacular natural amenities in San Diego County. However, 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 serves to close this gap by investing in long-term solutions that ensure all San Diego youth grow up with equitable access to nature and the outdoors.

The 2019 Opening the Outdoors grants will support a total of 29 nonprofit organizations working to engage over 13,000 youth and 3,000 community residents, while improving 17,000 acres of natural land and 4 miles of trails in the region.

“As the Our Greater San Diego Vision report revealed, access to and appreciation of the outdoors is a core value shared among San Diegans,” shared Mark Stuart, President and CEO of The San Diego Foundation. “These 2019 Opening the Outdoors grant projects will promote equity across the region by investing in programs that help overcome the underlying barriers preventing low-income, park-poor populations from accessing the outdoors.”

The 2019 grants from the Opening the Outdoors Program are made possible thanks to funding support from the Satterberg Foundation and Marisla Foundation, as well as inspired donors and other environmental endowment funds at The San Diego Foundation.

The 2019 grants were awarded to:

San Diego Canyonlands – $50,000
The grant will bring together San Diego Canyonlands (SDCL) and Urban Corps of San Diego County (UC) to create a mentorship program connecting SDCL’s habitat restoration professionals with UC’s at-risk youth to provide paid job training and to inspire careers in habitat restoration. UC offers at-risk young adults ages 18-26 paid green job training, concurrent enrollment in a second chance high school diploma program, wraparound support services and post-program placement in college or the workforce.

The San Diego River Park Foundation – $50,000
The grant will help decrease the barriers to nature for immigrants and refugees in El Cajon. The San Diego River Park Foundation will develop a multi-lingual map of Forester Creek Watershed, host a series of events and learning workshops to empower El Cajon residents and provide opportunities for residents to advocate for culturally relevant community activities.

Nature Collective – $40,000
The grant will expand upon the Nature Collective’s innovative program in the Escondido Union School District, which was supported by The San Diego Foundation in 2018 and provides every third, fourth and fifth-grade student with outdoor nature experiences, while simultaneously meeting California’s Next Generation Science Standards. The Nature Collective will increase opportunities for middle and high school students to engage with the outdoors through a summer camp and teen mentorship program.

Urban Surf 4 Kids – $40,000
The grant will provide foster and at-risk youth from all over San Diego County access to the beach and the ocean through surf therapy camps. Through its transformative surf therapy program, Urban Surf 4 Kids uses water sports as a catalyst to teach these youth how to trust themselves, stay physically and emotionally healthy, and deeply value the outdoors.

San Diego Children and Nature – $37,000
The grant will enable San Diego Children and Nature to collaborate with local public libraries, recreation centers, park rangers and organizations to provide 200 backpacks filled with high-quality nature exploration tools for youth and their families to positively engage with the outdoors. San Diego Children and Nature will also host community events and trainings to increase connectivity to local trails, parks and outdoor spaces.

Indigenous Regeneration – $36,000
The grant will enable Indigenous Regeneration to increase Mata’Yuum’s long-term resiliency to climate change and weather-related impacts by enhancing existing trails and open space. The grant will ensure the organization can continue to inspire native communities through re-generative living concepts such as food cultivation, medicinal farming, and culture and eco-village education programs.

Ocean Connectors – $35,000
The grant will enable Ocean Connectors to engage 100% of National City students in grades four through seven in Ocean Connectors programs, reaching more than 3,000 youth. As part of the grant, Ocean Connectors will also engage every third-grade student at Kimball Elementary in targeted habitat restoration and education during 10 outdoor learning days at Paradise Creek, a wetland habitat located immediately adjacent to the school.

Outdoor Outreach – $32,500
The grant will support the Outdoor Voices Youth Leadership Initiative and will allow Outdoor Outreach to provide 3,000 hours of nature-based job and leadership training to 25 young adults. In addition, working with over 40 diverse community partners including Rady Children’s Hospital, Barrio Logan College Institute and the National Conflict Resolution Center, Outdoor Outreach will expand meaningful access to nature for more than 1,000 youth from under-parked communities.

WILDCOAST – $32,500
The grant will allow WILDCOAST to enhance its Explore My Marine Protected Area (MPA) Project, which was developed in 2018 thanks to support from The San Diego Foundation. Through strategic partnerships with educators, tribes, student groups, businesses and resource managers, the project will implement WILDCOAST’s NGSS-aligned MPA Outreach Toolkit to strengthen MPA compliance, conservation capacity, appreciation and awareness across the county.

The Escondido Creek Conservancy – $30,000
The grant will expand the reach of the Habitats program, which was successfully piloted in 2018 through funding from The San Diego Foundation. The Habitats program introduces third-grade students to the concept of ecosystems by exploring and investigating local habitats in the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. Together in collaboration with the Nature Collective, Friends of Daley Ranch and San Diego Zoo Global, the program will foster environmental stewardship and will culminate in students being empowered to become environmental leaders in their homes, their classrooms and their communities through multi-year outdoor engagement opportunities.

Groundwork San Diego-Chollas Creek – $25,454
The grant will support the Celebrating Our Parks: Connecting Kids to the Coast pilot project, which will engage 200 youth from the park-poor and low-income community of Encanto in nature-based education, recreation, and stewardship. Through the partnership, Groundwork San Diego-Chollas Creek will strengthen outdoor experiences surrounding one of the most park-deficient regions in San Diego County.

Environmental Health Coalition – $25,000
The grant will help Environmental Health Coalition and National City residents advocate for community-proposed projects that increase the accessibility of Old Town National City parks. Building upon recent successes to expand two National City parks, local leaders will continue to push for greater access, particularly for residents who are dependent on public transit to explore the outdoors.

Friends of Daley Ranch – $25,000
The grant will help Friends of Daley Ranch engage every seventh grader in the Escondido Union School District in a full day of outdoor learning that builds upon the complementary outdoor programming by the Nature Conservancy, The Escondido Conservation Center and San Diego Zoo Global. Students will gain knowledge and appreciation for natural habitats and recreational opportunities after the entire experience.

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 $1.1 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 for good, forever.


Vince Heald, Beck Ellman Heald, 858-453-9600, vheald@behmedia.com

Justin Nunez, The San Diego Foundation, 336-254-7056, justin@sdfoundation.org