September 17, 2020 – San Diego, CA – The San Diego Foundation today announced $344,990 in grants for 13 nonprofit programs that will increase opportunities for youth and families in the San Diego region to grow, connect and thrive through positive interactions with the outdoors.

The grants are made possible through the Opening the Outdoors Program, which aims to protect, connect and increase equitable access to the outdoors for communities of concern through repeat, reinforcing outdoor engagement. Together with the Thrive Outside Initiative at The San Diego Foundation, the Opening the Outdoors Program has supported more than 90 nonprofit organizations and helped tens of thousands of families and youth in the region.

“Nature is not an amenity but a necessity for the well-being of San Diegans,” expressed Lydia Van Note, Director of Environmental Initiatives at The San Diego Foundation. “The 2020 Opening the Outdoors grants will help create healthy individuals, communities and economies by making access to the outdoors more equitable across the region.”

As indicated by the Parks for Everyone 2020 report, released in conjunction with this year’s Opening the Outdoors grants, the San Diego region still experiences significant disparities in available green space. While progress has been made, it remains true that many local communities lack critical access to parks and nature. The new report finds that the communities that historically suffer from the greatest inequities in usable green space are those with higher concentrations of lower-income households, as well as communities with greater racial and ethnic diversity.

Focusing on communities with fewer parks, the 2020 Opening the Outdoors grants will support a total of 13 nonprofit programs that will improve more than 17,000 acres of natural land by engaging over 6,700 San Diegans across the region. Each program will address many of the equity barriers outlined in the Parks for Everyone report, including park safety, walkability, transportation, cultural inclusion, as well as fees and permits.

The grants from the Opening the Outdoors Program are made possible thanks to funding support from the Colonel Frank C. Wood Memorial Fund, as well as other national funders and environmental endowment funds at The San Diego Foundation.

The 2020 grants were awarded to:

Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center – $58,000
The grant will support a partnership between Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center and A Reason To Survive to design and deliver a two-semester internship and National City’s first Resident Leadership Academy for youth rooted in outdoor learning, health, creativity, resiliency, and sustainability. The purpose is to develop youth leaders who are inspired to create community change by activating outdoor spaces through agriculture, art and culture.

Outdoor Outreach – $50,000
The grant will support in-depth nature-based job training, employment opportunities and youth-led advocacy activities for 40 young adults over the impact period. These community leaders will in turn lead and mentor more than a thousand youth through outdoor youth development programs.

The Escondido Creek Conservancy – $45,000
The grant will enable The Escondido Creek Conservancy to develop and implement a series of fully immersive week-long outdoor engagement opportunities for underserved youth in Escondido to connect with nature through hands-on scientific learning. The grant will eliminate financial and transportation barriers to nature and offer a series of repeat, reinforcing opportunities for youth to positively interact with nature.

WILDCOAST – $45,000
The grant will support the Explore My Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) project to strengthen the next generation of coastal and marine stewards in San Diego County and help conserve and manage 11 MPAs that together comprise 17,779 acres of the region’s coastal and marine ecosystems. Utilizing digital resources and tools, as well as field activities, the project will positively impact students, families, communities, and our coastal and marine ecosystems.

Ocean Connectors – $40,000
Through this grant, Ocean Connectors will continue offering third and fourth-grade students in the National City Public Elementary Schools the Paradise Creek Habitat Restoration and Education and Sea Turtle Discovery Programs. Additionally, grant funding will allow Ocean Connectors to add one additional school to the Paradise Creek program and develop virtual education content for the Sea Turtle Discovery Program.

Living Coast Discovery Center – $37,000
The Living Coast Discovery Center’s Trail to Bay Challenge, launched in September 2018, encourages families to participate in three guided hikes and one cleanup event in South Bay, San Diego communities. Funding for this project will see an expansion and growth of the Trail to Bay Challenge to areas outside of Chula Vista and increasing participation in outdoor recreation and clean-up events.

Ocean Discovery Institute – $25,000
The grant will help provide outdoor opportunities to middle school students in the nature deficient and underserved community of City Heights. The focus will be on providing local youth with high-quality science and environmental experiences so that children develop a passion for science and conservation, stay in school, go to college, and gain entry to high paying fields where they make a difference.

Opening the Outdoors – Capital Grants

In addition to the above grants, six additional capital grants were selected to advance efforts to increase opportunities for communities to grow, connect and thrive through positive interactions with the outdoors. Capital expenses are defined as funding used to buy, maintain or improve fixed assets such as buildings, vehicles, equipment or land.

San Diego County Bicycle Coalition – $15,000
The grant will enable San Diego County Bicycle Coalition to provide free bicycles and bike safety education to residents of Mid-City through an “Earn a Bike” program and new urban park area.

City Heights Community Development Corporation – $10,000
The grant will help City Heights CDC activate an urban trail and steward a community vision for a new park along Chollas Creek in City Heights.

San Diego Canyonlands – $10,000
The grant will support a pilot internship program that would create a pipeline for City Heights students to develop professional careers in the environmental industry through restoration in San Diego canyons.

Earth Discovery Institute – $4,940
The grant will support the Explorers Program, which is a comprehensive conservation effort that includes education and outreach to elementary students, their families and the community of San Diego.

Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation – $3,900
The grant will support the Surrounded by Science program, which will provide enriching science-based field trips to Mission Trails Regional Park to local high school students.

San Diego River Park Foundation – $1,150
The grant will help empower 150 youth from an El Cajon elementary school to be environmental leaders in their community to help engage 1,300 community members.


About The San Diego Foundation

The San Diego Foundation inspires enduring philanthropy and enables community solutions to improve quality of life in our region. For more than 45 years, The Foundation and our donors have granted more than $1.2 billion to support nonprofit organizations and strengthen our San Diego community. Learn more at and consider a donation to the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund, helping nonprofits and San Diegans affected by the coronavirus pandemic.


Justin Nunez, The San Diego Foundation, 336-254-7056,