Access to Parks, Green Space: Results

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Access to Parks, Green Space: Results

Highlights of progress through December 2010

Strategy: Assist underserved residents to use and benefit from natural areas, parks, and other green spaces throughout the County

As a result of MCF’s funding, 4,127 underserved residents have participated in and benefited from 44 green space programs, with an average of 86% of participants reporting increased environmental literacy and 92% reporting being satisfied with the green space programming. In addition, six green spaces tailored to underserved residents have been developed, with an average of 65% of the participants involved in planning comprised of underserved populations.

Overall, participants in Foundation-supported programs who have never spent much time accessing green space programs are now making it a central part of their family activities.

Language issues continue to be a challenge for the organizations delivering these kinds of programs. While all children participating in green space programs are bilingual and mostly fluent in English, the majority of their parents speak only their native language, mostly Spanish. Thus, programs and host agencies have found they need to have bilingual staff available for field trips. Many grantee partners have contracted with staff of community organizations and service providers to offer such support, thereby increasing their leadership in their own communities and providing additional employment opportunities.

Many participants have expressed interest in getting more information regarding places to go on their own and about activities other than hiking, such as yoga, biking, cooking, and gardening. Participants and their families are also interested in getting advice and information on how to live healthier and more environmentally sustainable lifestyles. Some of MCF grantee partners have collaborated with service providers and local agencies (such as the Canal Alliance, Marin Health and Human Services, Promotoras of Marin, and Novato Youth Center, among others) to create special weekend programs that focus on healthy living and other topic areas of interest.

One of the most effective ways grantee partners have found to improve culturally relevant program offerings is to partner with local organizations and community leaders. Currently, a number of MCF’s grantee partners convene a regular learning circle focused on cultural relevancy and diversity. Among the recommendations that have emerged from this learning collaborative have been: 1) create a cultural bridge for students through the activity content in the program (e.g., connect students to their countries of origin through the study of migratory birds); 2) produce materials in the primary language of the community and culture of the participants; 3) provide staff who speak the primary language of the culture as well as translators for community events; 4) provide programming that connects students and their families to their immediate outdoor spaces through a variety of means, such as in-class programs, neighborhood field trips, and weekend family programs; and 5) collaborate as a key way to engage community members in their neighborhood green space and to deliver more effective programs overall. By working with partners delivering programs in the same community, organizations can build upon program content and strengthen the programs' resources, staff, and connections to cultural and community groups.

As a result of the efforts MCF has funded, more health and human services organizations are informed about ways to connect families with nature and the outdoors and have a greater understanding of the importance these experiences play in the mental and physical health and well-being of children and families. To sustain these changes over the long term, MCF grantees are working with community organizations to encourage families to visit natural spaces on their own and to give community organizations the tools to organize nature and outdoor outings for their constituents.

One of the most significant successes in this area of funding has been the increase in capacity and professional skills of MCF grantees to deliver culturally relevant programs to underserved residents. Whether it is hiring bilingual staff, partnering with other community-based organizations that have considerable experience and mature relationships with underserved constituents, or convening ongoing learning workshops as a cohort, MCF grantees have continued to illustrate growing effectiveness in their work.

By the numbers:

Area of Measurement For period 7/09-12/10 Goal of Five-Year Plan
Number of underserved residents participating in and benefiting from green space programs 4,127 10,000
Percent of participants reporting increased environmental literacy 86% 90%
Number of green space programs tailored to underserved residents 44 50
Number of plans developed for green space development tailored to underserved residents 6 10
Percentage of participants in planning efforts who represent underserved residents 65% 50%



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