Kids and Nature

Regional Parks Foundation

August 23, 2012

Some Bay Area kids have never seen a star in the sky or even know what a tree is. The Regional Parks Foundation is working to change that.

We recently chatted with Nancy Baglietto, Director of Operations, Programs and Development about the programs supported by the Regional Parks Foundation, a sole-purpose Foundation in support of the East Bay Regional Park District.

BN: What is the main mission of the Regional Parks Foundation?
To help provide broader public access. People think of parks as free, but there are costs associated with even visiting – if you’re a low-income person, just getting to the parks is challenging. We try to level the playing field to give people the opportunity to enjoy their Regional Parks. One of our flagship programs is Campership. Each year, the Foundation grants $250,000 in scholarship support to help send kids to camp. This program also provides transportation funding so that seniors and disabled youth can also spend a day out in nature.

BN: What are some of your other programs?
As part of our Campership Program, the Foundation also provides funding support for low-income 5th and 6th graders to attend Camp Arroyo, an outdoor environmental education camp located in Livermore. While Camp Arroyo is operated by the YMCA of the East Bay, the Foundation is able to help kids attend during the academic school year who otherwise would not be given the opportunity. Part of what makes Camp Arroyo so special is that while kids are enjoying the experience of camp and the outdoors, they are also learning and fulfilling their academic state science requirement.

Park ‘n It Day Camp is another Foundation-funded program but this program takes place during the summer months and is operated by the East Bay Regional Park District recreation department; they have been quite successful in partnering with other non-profit organizations to help identify the children and families interested in attending day camps during the summer. One example of this is Family Support Services of the East Bay, an organization that supports low-income grandparents who are taking care of their grandchildren.

Our Teen Eco-Action Week is another popular program. This program works with at-risk teens to help them learn how to care for and maintain their parks.  A stipend is offered because they need to work during the summers.  We also offer scholarships for swim classes and the junior lifeguard program to teach some of the aspects of being a lifeguard.

We’re trying to build in the opportunity to teach kids about parks – many live in highly urbanized areas and do not know what it is like to see stars, be among trees or know what a spider looks like in real life.

For more information about the Regional Parks Foundation and its programs, please visit their website.

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