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Governor announces $4.5 million in grants to get kids outside

  • Sun Jun 6th, 2021 1:30am
  • News

Submitted by the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office

Getting kids outside to explore parks and other wild places will be a bit easier this year thanks to $4.5 million in grants, Gov. Jay Inslee announced today.

No Child Left Inside grants are awarded by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission to focus on programs that expand outdoor education and recreation opportunities to under-resourced communities throughout Washington State. This year’s grants will help more than 50,000 kids spend nearly 1.5 million hours outside, doing everything from hiking to kayaking to camping.

“Getting kids outside is so important to the health and well-being of our children that awarding these grants is something I’m proud to be part of,” Inslee said. “We know that when kids spend time outside, they learn more, experience less stress, get more exercise and improve their social skills. That is especially important this year because the pandemic disrupted so many of their normal activities. These grants will make it easier for many kids to spend time in Washington’s great outdoors.”

Funding for the No Child Left Inside grant program comes from the state general fund and was one of a dozen recommendations of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation in 2014. The task force was charged with finding ways to increase participation in outdoor recreation, which has significant social and economic benefits.

“Kids need to get outside–for their physical, mental and spiritual health,” said Peter Mayer, State Parks director. “These grants help level the playing field by providing opportunities for so many who otherwise don’t have a way to experience the outdoors. We hope the grants also will help create a positive future for these kids.”

This is the highest amount of funding the No Child Left Inside program has received in its 5-year history. In total, grant applicants submitted 117 proposals requesting more than $6.8 million and 63 percent will receive funding. Funding last biennium covered only 16 percent of the projects.

“This funding couldn’t come at a better time,” said State Senator Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), who was instrumental in getting the increased appropriation. “With things beginning to open up, these grants will enable new opportunities for so many kids all across our state. They deserve to have a good summer. It’s wonderful to have this level of commitment from the Legislature.”

“All of our children should have access to the benefits of spending time outside,” said Megan Duffy, director of the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the grants. “These grants are important to make sure that all kids have the opportunity to hike a trail, play in a park and paddle around a lake. It is core to our sense of what it means to live in Washington.”

Grant recipients match the state funding and are contributing more than $5.3 million in donations, equipment, labor, additional grants, and other resources.

San Juan County’s grants include:

The Nature Conservancy Grant received $63,630 for Getting Kids to Nature Preserves. The Nature Conservancy will use this grant to grow its Partners to Preserves program by supporting 40 trips for almost 400 youth to preserves across Washington. The Partners to Preserves program works with organizations serving youth to bring their outdoor programs to conservancy preserves in Douglas, Island, Jefferson, Kitsap, Kittitas, Okanagan, Pacific, San Juan, and Snohomish Counties. Youth will participate in science and learn natural and cultural history, art, hiking, and camping. This grant will cover transportation, supplies, meals, the development of educational toolkits, and stipends to trip leaders. The Nature Conservancy will contribute $21,214 in donated cash. Visit RCO’s online Project Snapshot for more information and photographs of this project at https://secure.rco.wa.gov/prism/search/projectsnapshot.aspx?ProjectNumber=20-2224.

Boy Scouts of America Troop 90 Irrevocable Trust Grant was awarded $24,999 for Supporting San Juan Island Camping for Inner City Kids. The Boy Scouts of America will use this grant to fund scholarships for 40 to 80 young people to travel to San Juan Island for two or more nights of camping, as part of its Putting Outing In Scouting for Inner City and Economically Disadvantaged Youth program. This program will identify scouting units throughout Washington with a majority of low-income youth and provide funding for food, transportation, and materials for skills building such as pocket knives, compasses, T-shirts, and patches. In addition, campers will have the chance to go whale watching, earn the Pig War Military Road Trail National Historic Award, sea kayak, mountain bike, and visit two national parks. Visit RCO’s online Project Snapshot for more information and photographs of this project at https://secure.rco.wa.gov/prism/search/projectsnapshot.aspx?ProjectNumber=20-2144.

Salish Sea Sciences Grant was awarded $25,000 for Unleashing Students’ Brilliance with Salish Sea Sciences. Salish Sea Sciences will use this grant to expand its two-week, residential, summer Ecology and Conservation program for 20 Unleash the Brilliance and Rainier Scholars students with a demonstrated interest in the environment. Participants are all low-income students of color. Students will hike, canoe, sail, camp, comb the beach, and have mentorship experiences in the field with experts in marine and environmental sciences, maritime training, naturalism, conservation, restoration, advocacy, and law. All activities take place outside in national, county, and state parks, county and University of Washington biological preserves, and San Juan Islands channels. Students gain knowledge of watershed and estuarial systems and public, private, and tribal mitigation and advocacy efforts. Students return home with a fresh appreciation for the shared water system, enabled with knowledge and skills to engage with their home environment as leaders. Salish Sea Sciences will contribute $20,000 in a private grant and donations of equipment and labor. Visit RCO’s online Project Snapshot for more information and photographs of this project at https://secure.rco.wa.gov/prism/search/projectsnapshot.aspx?ProjectNumber=20-2416.

San Juan Island Conservation District Grant was awarded $40,000 toward Expanding the San Juan Islands Youth Conservation Corps. The San Juan Islands Conservation District will use this grant to recruit economically and culturally under-resourced youth to the Youth Conservation Corps, create field-focused internships for high school students, and provide an updated curriculum on ecological sciences research. The Youth Conservation Corp will expand services for middle school students in the summer and develop an internship program for 10 high school students year-round. Youth will work on stewardship and restoration projects, inquiry-based experiential outdoor education, technical field skill-building, and professional development. Students will do trail maintenance, forest-stand analysis and data collection, endangered species restorations, beach litter cleanup, public outreach and education, noxious weed removal, and other environmental stewardship activities on federal, state, county, and preservation lands in the San Juan Islands. In addition, youth ages 12-18 will be engaged in a curriculum provided in partnership with Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University. The goal is to connect students to meaningful stewardship activities and promote technical expertise in land management. The San Juan Island Conservation District will contribute $19,000 in a private grant and donations of labor and materials. Visit RCO’s online Project Snapshot for more information and photographs of this project at https://secure.rco.wa.gov/prism/search/projectsnapshot.aspx?ProjectNumber=20-2381.

Successful applicants can begin their projects as early as July 1. Projects will wrap up in June 2023, with the Recreation and Conservation Office likely accepting new applications in August 2022. More information about No Child Left Inside grant program is online at https://rco.wa.gov/grant/no-child-left-inside/.