State opens $50M in grant funding for nature-based outdoor programs

State opens $50M in grant funding for nature-based outdoor programs
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By Kathy Chouteau

California State Parks is rolling out the Outdoor Equity Grants Program’s (OEP) second application period, making available $50 million in grant funding for nature-based outdoor programs. The deadline to apply for the statewide OEP program is Thurs., Dec. 14, 2023.

Governor Gavin Newsom enacted the OEP in 2019 when he signed Assembly Bill 209—now a facet of his Outdoors for All Initiative. California State Parks said the grant funding not only helps create hubs for underserved communities to experience activities/trips to natural areas, but also empowers youth/families with outdoor leadership education, career pathways, environmental justice engagement and access to nature.

Potential applicants have access to eight in-person workshops hosted by California State Parks between Labor Day and the end of September, as well as three virtual application workshops in October—all scheduled from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. RSVP links to the workshops can be found here.

Successful applicants for the grants can expect funding to cover transportation, program operations, staffing, supplies/equipment and other costs often presenting barriers for underserved communities throughout the state, according to California State Parks. Nonprofit organizations with 501(c)3 status and local, state and federal agencies are eligible to apply.

California State Parks noted that for the program’s first grant cycle, it assessed 384 grant applications totaling $167.78 million in requests, with $57 million in grant funding being awarded.

One example of a local funding awardee was the City of Richmond, which received $700,000 during the first grant cycle for its Youth Outdoors Richmond Program nearby Nevin Community Center. California State Parks said the program will encompass 99 community activity days for 12,000 participants and 36 trips to natural areas—including a Calaveras Big Trees State Park Camping Trip—for 1,200 people during three years of programming.

To find out more about the grant program/application guide, sign up for emails re: application workshop schedules and for other assistance, click here.