California State Parks announced the second application period for the Outdoor Equity Grants Program (OEP), which offers $50 million in grant funding for nature-based outdoor programs. The funding helps establish hubs for local activities and trips to natural areas for underserved communities. The program also empowers youth and families with outdoor leadership education, career pathways, environmental justice engagement and access to nature. The application deadline for this competitive statewide program is Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023.
“The Outdoor Equity Grants Program increases the ability for youth, families and other community members in park-poor communities to improve their health and wellness by connecting them to natural areas throughout California,” said California State Parks Director Armando Quintero. “We are excited to continue developing California’s future environmental leaders.”
State Parks will host eight in-person workshops for potential applicants throughout California between Labor Day and the end of September. Additionally, there will be three virtual application workshops scheduled in October. All workshops will be from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. RSVP links to the workshops will be available on DPR’s Office of Grants and Local Services webpage at parks.ca.gov/oep.
The program funds transportation, program operations, staffing, supplies and equipment, and other costs that traditionally presented barriers for historically underserved urban and rural communities throughout California. Eligible applicants include non-profit organizations with 501(c)3 status and all local, state and federal agencies. Examples include school districts and other public education agencies, cities and counties, joint powers authorities, open-space authorities, regional open-space districts, California Native American tribes, and other relevant public agencies.
For the first grant cycle of the program, State Parks evaluated 384 grant applications totaling $167.78 million in requests. A total of $57 million in grant funding was made available through general funds approved by the California Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom in the 2020/21 and 2021/22 state budgets, and awarded on May 27, 2022.
Two examples of the projects that received funding during the first round of grants include:
Contra Costa County
City of Richmond: $700,000 was awarded to conduct the Youth Outdoors Richmond Program for residents near Nevin Community Center. This program will include approximately 99 activity days in the community for 12,000 participants and 36 trips to natural areas for 1,200 participants during three years of programming. Some of the activities in the community will include leadership and skill development and stewardship in local parks. A Calaveras Big Trees State Park Camping Trip, located about 158 miles east of Richmond in the counties of Calaveras and Tuolumne, is one of the trips that will be available to the community.
Los Angeles County
Watts Labor Community Action Committee Outdoor Program: $700,000 was awarded to residents near the MudTown Farms. This program will include approximately 112 activity days in the community for 1,900 participants and 100 trips to natural areas for 1,800 participants during four years of programming. Some of the activities in natural areas outside of the community include a beginner family camp at Hopkins Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach, kayaking at the manufactured harbor at Marina del Rey, and an environmental experience in Angeles National Forest at Strawberry Peak and San Gabriel Mountains.
In 2019, the Outdoor Equity Grants Program was enacted when Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 209 which is now part of the Administration’s Outdoors for All Initiative. The concept for the grant program began with Proposition 68, which proposed to utilize bond funds for community access projects that included transportation, physical activity programming, resource interpretation, natural science, workforce development and career pathways, and education. Subsequently, the public expressed a desire to expand access to parks and outdoor programs for underserved communities and urban populations. These discussions became a catalyst for AB 209 and the development of the Outdoor Equity Grants Program. Californians shared a similar vision in 2017 during 30 focus groups with over 500 participants for the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. Throughout the state, from heavily urbanized to rural areas, Californians emphasized a desire for multi-generational programs that bring families together, activate local parks and take residents with transportation challenges to natural areas outside their communities.
To learn more about this grant program and the application guide, sign up for email notices to access application workshop schedules, and for technical assistance, contacts are available at parks.ca.gov/oep.