SAN FRANCISCO – The Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) partners selected San Francisco and six other cities to participate in the planning phase of an initiative to better connect children to nature. This selection follows a leadership academy that SF Rec & Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg attended in St. Paul, Minn. in October 2015 where he joined with his counterparts from other cities and national experts to explore strategies for providing children with equitable and abundant access to nature, with particular focus on children of color and low-income children. Representatives from the Presidio Trust, as well as the San Francisco Unified School District, including Hydra Mendoza from the Mayor’s Office, joined Ginsburg at the academy.
Over the next seven months, San Francisco and the other cities will receive technical assistance from CCCN partners for a planning process to complete community assessments, and analyze equity issues, and will also have extensive opportunities for peer exchange and learning. Through this process, cities will develop implementation plans by August 2016, eligible for further CCCN grant funding and assistance through October 2017.
“This program will enhance our already thriving world class park system and gives even more opportunity to our City’s families and youth to connect with nature and the environment,” said Mayor Ed Lee.
CCCN project partners, the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education & Families and the Children & Nature Network (C&NN) also chose: St Paul, Minn.; Madison, Wis.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Providence, R.I.; Louisville, Ky.; and Austin, Texas to participate in the cohort.
“These seven cities are on the leading edge of the children and nature movement,” said Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and C&NN Co-founder. “Mayors and city leaders are in a unique position to create opportunities for all children to grow up with nature as part of their everyday lives – and, in fact, could help define the nature-rich city of the 21st Century.”
San Francisco is well-regarded for outdoor programming in an urban setting. Between outdoor classes, Camp Mather in the High Sierras, and Mobile Rec, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department has served over 25 thousand residents since 2012. Classes offered include shark fishing, kayaking and other boating, SCUBA open water, geocache adventures, rock climbing, archery, hiking and camping, surfing, and BMX biking. Mobile Rec is an opportunity for young San Franciscans to engage in outdoor and alternative recreation opportunities free of charge. The Department also runs two school-year programs: Greenagers – a program for 9th and 10th graders to work outside and learn about and improve green spaces, and the Youth Stewardship Program – a program which engages youth, 2nd – 12th grade, in environmental education and service-learning field trips in parks citywide.
“I look forward to working with incredible partners like NLC and C&NN as well as our friends in other cities to explore and promote such a worthy cause,” said Ginsburg. “Connecting children to nature is at the heart of what we do, and we’re always looking for ways to make it even easier for our littlest residents to get out and play.”