For the third consecutive year, the Outdoor Foundation celebrated its national network of Thrive Outside Communities and collective work to address equity barriers and help make the outdoors accessible for all. National Thrive Outside Day took place on Oct. 7 and kicked off a month of nationwide outdoor celebrations.

As an initiative of the Outdoor Foundation, National Thrive Outside Day is connected to the organization’s Thrive Outside Initiative that is focused on reversing the declining trend of outdoor engagement by working with local partners to empower communities to make outdoor recreation an accessible lifestyle for all. The initiative awards multi-year, capacity-building grants to diverse communities to build and strengthen networks focused on providing children and families with repeat and reinforcing experiences in the outdoors.

San Diego was selected as a Thrive Outside Community in 2019.Thrive Outside San Diego, which is led by San Diego Foundation, is strengthening an existing network of nonprofit, philanthropic, academic and government partners that include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, County of San Diego Parks & Recreation Department, Outdoor Outreach, YMCA of San Diego County and the Nonprofit Institute at the University of San Diego.

Creating Equitable Access

Mount Laguna

As part of this year’s celebration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hosted a weeklong celebration that kicked off on Saturday, Oct. 7, which is not only National Thrive Outside Day, but also Urban Wildlife Conservation Day.

That day kicked off the weeklong celebration for National Wildlife Refuge Week, which celebrates the great network of lands and waters that conserves and protects Americans’ precious wildlife heritage. One of the events hosted in San Diego that week was an outdoor art education event – “Art in the Wild.”

During the event, participants learned about endangered and threatened species found in the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex and received a free 45-minute painting lesson.

The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, provides vital habitat for thousands of native species, including sandhill cranes, American alligators, bison, and sea turtles. National wildlife refuges offer outstanding recreation, too.

Refuge Week is a perfect time to see why tens of millions of Americans visit wildlife refuges each year. Wildlife refuges also add to Americans’ comfort and safety by curbing flood risk and wildfire damage, providing cleaner air and water, and supporting local communities.

Promoting Outdoor Access

“At San Diego Foundation, we are committed to outdoors for all, outdoors for health, and outdoors forever,” said Christiana DeBenedict, SDF Director of Environmental Initiatives. “Through Thrive Outside, we’re helping create a more inclusive and accessible outdoor experience for all through our community-led program built with trusted local and national partners.”

San Diegans enjoy a strong quality of life – access to the ocean, mountains, and deserts makes the region unique. The region’s great outdoors sets it apart and contributes to the regional economy, making San Diego one of the world’s most livable places.

Yet, many local communities lack critical access to parks and green space.

Youth surfing as part of the Level Up SD Summer 2023 program

Through its Outdoor Access programs, San Diego Foundation works with nonprofit partners to preserve outdoor spaces, increase equitable access to the outdoors, and support the next generation of environmental stewards in the San Diego region.

In addition to the Thrive Outside San Diego Community, San Diego Foundation Outdoor Access programs also include Opening the Outdoors and Get Outside San Diego.

About Thrive Outside San Diego

Led by San Diego Foundation, Thrive Outside San Diego is an equity-focused program that brings together diverse stakeholders to create more inclusive, representative and accessible outdoor learning experiences for underserved San Diegans. San Diego County is rich with parks and green space, however, not all San Diegans have equal access to the outdoors.

Many of our region’s low-income, ethnically diverse communities also have the least amount of natural space. Since 2020, Thrive Outside San Diego has served over 9,000 young people per year in our region, 90% of whom qualified for a free or reduced lunch and 84% of whom identify as Black, Latino/a and/or Asian-Pacific Islander.

Learn more about Thrive Outside San Diego.

About the Outdoor Foundation

The Outdoor Foundation is dedicated to getting people outside for their health, the health of communities and the health of the outdoor industry. Through community investment and groundbreaking research, Outdoor Foundation works with partners across the country to address equity barriers and help make the outdoors accessible for all.

Outdoor youth programming and public-private partnerships, such as the Thrive Outside Initiative, are helping to address equity barriers to the outdoors in communities across the country. The Outdoor Foundation is working through strategic investments to move the needle on barriers such as safety, walkability, transportation, cost and cultural inclusion.