April 22, 2015 – San Diego, CA – The San Diego Foundation announced grants for 12 local programs that will connect, protect and increase access to nature in the region. The 2015 Opening the Outdoors grants total $460,000 and will support education and environmental efforts across San Diego, particularly in underserved regions such as South County.

The goal of the 2015 Opening the Outdoors grants program is to advance community-driven efforts to engage youth in environmental programs and develop an interconnected network of natural areas, gathering places and trails across the county so that the outdoors is easily accessible from any San Diegan’s doorstep. These projects will provide life-long opportunities that grow the vibrant quality of life in San Diego through the WELL – Work, Enjoy, Live, Learn – framework.

“With so much to offer, San Diego’s outdoor environment and active community is the lifeblood of our region,” said San Diego Foundation Vice President of Community Impact Dr. Emily Young. “By prioritizing education, accessibility and connectedness of the outdoors, each of the 2015 Opening the Outdoors grant projects will ensure that San Diego’s environment grows even more vibrant for future generations. We are excited about the positive impact these grants will have on our regional community.”

The 2015 grants were awarded to:

Circulate San Diego
Safe Routes to Nature – Walk & Roll to the Park – $61,000
Why it matters: One of the largest obstacles in getting more people outdoors is the lack of safe, accessible walking and biking paths. This project aims to solve this by facilitating safe routes in park-poor neighborhoods in Chula Vista and surrounding Otay Valley Regional Park. By engaging with city groups and local residents, the program will drive awareness and support for paths that encourage transit and physical activity.

San Diego Audubon Society
OutdoorExplore and Neighborhood Nature Guides – $43,400
Why it matters: Research shows that children grow up happier and healthier when they learn and play outdoors. The project will introduce San Diego Unified School District and Chula Vista students to natural spaces in their respective communities and inspire them to develop a stewardship ethic for these environments. Outdoor field trips will be combined with a training program that gives young adults the knowledge and skills to support natural spaces in their communities.

Girls Scouts San Diego
Girl Scout Outreach – Community Presence Initiative – Urban Explorers! – $40,000
Why it matters: Language barriers and economic factors can often make it difficult for children to get outdoors and experience San Diego’s natural environment. Through Girl Scout Outreach, these funds will provide San Ysidro and City Heights communities with year-round learning focused on the environment, leadership development, life skills and healthy living.

Living Coast Discovery Center
Science Without Boundaries – $35,180
Why it matters: Experience shows that children retain knowledge more effectively through experiential learning, including in the outdoors. The Science Without Boundaries project will provide students from underserved communities with outdoor teachings about resource conservation and protection, as well as interactive day camps that prioritize hands-on experience. By investing in San Diego’s youth, Living Coast drives awareness and participation to protect the region’s precious natural resources.

H.A.C.E.R (Helping Achieve Community Empowerment & Revitalization) – $30,400
Why it matters: Findings show that San Diegans want greater access to safe, beautiful space in their respective communities, which is proven to drive economic growth. This project will help transform a vacant lot in Logan Heights into a vibrant community garden and park with community programing by enlisting input and support from local community leaders and residents.

Ocean Connectors
National City Outdoor Education – $10,000
Why it matters: Outdoor-based education programs are crucial to enhancing access to nature in communities with limited green space. This project will provide marine science education programs to elementary school students in the area that addresses its diversity of environmental needs. The goal is to give local students the knowledge, tools and inspiration to create positive, lasting change in National City.

Earth Discovery Institute
Schoolyard Habitat and Along the Watershed Education Program – $59,963
Why it matters: Hands-on learning is often the most important catalyst for responsible action. This educational program will integrate exploration, science discovery, and community improvement, all in an effort to build environmental stewardship among children and their families. The funds will support the construction of a natural habitat at Anza Elementary School and educational field trips throughout the community that tie directly to schools’ science curriculums.

San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy
San Dieguito Watershed Explorers Program – $53,500
Why it matters: Oftentimes financial and transportation burdens prevent students from learning more about the region and environment they live in, which can negatively impact future awareness and action. This project will expand nature education programs to the entire San Dieguito watershed by taking students to different areas along the 55-mile stretch of land. It will help students recognize the role they play in keeping the natural community a thriving ecosystem.

San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy
Our Living Watershed – $33,845
Why it matters: The most valuable form of education is when learning is combined with field experience and done so over an extended period of time. Given the natural link between Escondido and the San Elijo Lagoon via Escondido Creek, this project creates an environmental and conservation education program for 1,500 underserved students in Escondido to prioritize multi-year active learning and service in the region.

Outdoor Outreach
San Diego Outdoors Discovery Project – $33,000
Why it matters: It’s at the intersection of youth activity and civic engagement that future leaders are born. This project will support 105 outdoor trips for youth in the southeast San Diego, City Heights, and El Cajon regions, combining recreational activities with civic engagement and environmental stewardship. The project will increase not only participants’ understanding and perception of the value of the outdoors, but also those of their families, friends and communities.

Ocean Discovery Institute
Watershed Avengers Manzanita Canyon Restoration – $30,777
Why it matters: Safety and habitat health are paramount for the sustainability and growth of San Diego’s trails. This project will improve the accessibility and overall quality of habitats in Manzanita Canyon. It will incorporate over 1,500 young people and their families to further promote environmental action and leadership. Located at the corner of four City Heights neighborhoods, this will provide a seamless connection between the urban and natural environment.

San Diego Canyonlands
City Heights Canyons ‘Loop Trails’ Project – $28,835
Why it matters: Not only are trails an essential part of outdoor recreation, but many residents and young people use these trail networks to get to and from their homes each day. This project, in collaboration with Ocean Discovery Institute, will help complete the trail system in Manzanita Canyon that connects the east and west ends of the City Heights neighborhood, providing residents with a safe and accessible way to enjoy the outdoors and get around.

About The San Diego Foundation
Founded in 1975, The San Diego Foundation’s purpose is to promote and increase effective and responsible charitable giving. The Foundation manages more than $675 million in assets, more than half of which reside in permanent endowment funds that extend the impact of today’s gifts to future generations. Since its inception, The Foundation has granted more than $916 million to the San Diego region’s nonprofit community. For more information, visit The San Diego Foundation’s website, SDF News blog, Facebookand Twitter pages.

Vince Heald, Beck Ellman Heald, 858-453-9600, vheald@behmedia.com
Justin Nunez, The San Diego Foundation, 619-235-2300, justin@sdfoundation.org