A new grant by the San Diego Foundation will help to preserve the Escondido Creek Trail.
The San Diego Foundation’s Opening the Outdoors grant supports collaborative projects that strengthen education and environmental efforts and one of this year’s grantees is the Escondido Education Compact. The nonprofit received a $40,900 grant from the Foundation.
Historically ridden with homelessness and gang violence, the Escondido Creek Trail has a poor reputation within the community. Escondido Education Compact hopes to change this negative stigma by working with Circulate San Diego, Bike/Walk Escondido and other partners to host meetings, outreach events and activities such as community cleanups that will improve the trail and encourage residents to use it more often.
Escondido city councilmember Olga Diaz talked about the Escondido Creek Trail, which is one of the improvement projects she initiated with Katie Ragazzi many years ago.
“Our goal was to increase access, safety and use of the bike trail along the Escondido Creek. Over the years, we (collectively) have been able to add pocket parks, lighting, better fencing, and increased awareness of the trail,” said Diaz.
The City is currently working on a missing link segment between Broadway and center city parkway. The paved trail is nearly 7 miles long through Escondido and it benefits from having more community involvement.
“Education Compact works with youth to increase engagement and expand opportunities for community collaboration. I’m excited that they received a grant from the San Diego Foundation to enhance the Escondido Creek Trail for everyone who lives in our City,” said Diaz.
Patricia Huerta, executive director of the Escondido Education Compact described how the grant will be used. “The proposed Opening the Outdoors Initiative is located in the heart of the City of Escondido. The area is composed of two low income census tracts, which covers 1.1 square miles, in a neighborhood called Mission Park.
“Residents have several health concerns including one of the highest rates of obesity in the city. The area also contains the highest violent crime rates. Traffic safety is also a concern. It has the highest concentration of traffic-related accidents in all of Escondido.”
Mission Park is considered park poor. There is only one park for more than 16,000 residents. Mission Park is bordered by the Escondido Creek Trail; a 6.5-mile long paved trail that stretches across the entire city. The concept of the trail is to increase residents walking and biking.
“Unfortunately,” said Huerta, “the Escondido Creek Trail is found to be unsafe by the residents. On the trail, there is a lot of vandalism and graffiti, and it is used by the homeless and gang members. However, the City has developed a Creek Trail Master Plan that incorporates the goals and vision for the Escondido Creek Trail that includes rest stops and pocket parks, increased lighting and addressing the natural habitat.
“Escondido Education COMPACT in collaboration with Bike/Walk Escondido and Circulate San Diego believe that the Escondido Creek Trail is the perfectly positioned to increase pedestrian mobility on the Escondido Creek Trail, by having residents feel more comfortable with the creek usage, decrease the perception of criminality, and increase access for recreation, transportation, and leisure. For these and many other reasons, the Mission Park Neighborhood and Escondido Creek Trail was selected as the target area. We anticipate the impact of our Opening the Outdoors Initiative, Escondido to be:
• 5,000 youth engaged in nature-based enhanced education
• 200 community residents
• 2 walk audits
• 4 youth bike (scooters and skateboard) encouragement activities
• 4 bike adult/family encouragement activities
• 4 committed service organizations adopting the creek
• 10 community partners working together
• 16,000 residents reached
Volunteers will be needed
The Times-Advocate asked Huerta what opportunities there would be for volunteers? “There are many opportunities for youth and adults to become involved in the initiative,” she said. “They can participate in all the Creek Trail activities, which will be posted on the Escondido Creek Trail Master Calendar (via the Compact website). We are also looking for
churches, service organizations and other groups to “Adopt of Portion of the Escondido Creek Trail”. Volunteers are the core to this initiative, contact Escondido Education Compact at 760-839-4515 or visit our website to become involved.”
History of Compact
Compact was born in 1989 when key Escondido leaders from EUSD and EUHSD, the Chamber of Commerce and the City, gathered together to form an equitable organization committed to developing and implementing community-wide programs to support youth; its original purpose was expanding the education and career opportunities for youth and assisting them in becoming contributing citizens still drives what we do today.
“Compact is committed to providing innovative youth leadership development, youth workforce development, violence prevention and healthy/safety/well-being programs that remain consistent with our original motto: ‘Creating Opportunities, Making Partnerships and Connecting Teens in Escondido,” said Huerta.
In 2007, Compact decided that to best support the youth and families living in low-income under represented communities of Escondido, it needed to ensure that they were healthy and safe. “Compact expanded its vision and identified funding and partnerships. Our many years of experience in working with youth and their families positioned us to make this a seamless transition,” said Huerta.
“Compact is creating a safer and healthier Escondido through the innovative, comprehensive, collaborative partnerships and established coalitions involving key stakeholders, youth, residents and elected officials from the City of Escondido,” she said.
The Foundation’s Opening the Outdoors Program has funded a variety of programs, similar to the Escondido Education Compact program, that work to connect, protect and increase access to nature throughout San Diego. Similar projects have included the San Diego Canyonlands work in City Heights, where the organization worked with community members and partners to develop safe trail systems in the canyons and educate the public about its usage; and the Environmental Health Coalition initiative in National City and Barrio Logan, where the organization worked to expand access to Paradise Creek and Pepper Park.
In total, the San Diego Foundation announced $442,000 in grants for 11 local programs that will connect, protect and increase access to nature for underserved children and families throughout the San Diego region.
Recently the Foundation published the Parks for Everyone report, which noted that many low-income, ethnically diverse communities have limited access to parks and open spaces. The Opening the Outdoors Program closes this gap by providing children and families in these San Diego communities with equitable access to nature.
The 2017 Opening the Outdoors Program will support collaborative projects that strengthen education and environmental efforts. Proposals from this year’s grant cycle will collectively engage more than 11,000 youth, 2,000 volunteers and 4,000 residents across San Diego County. These projects will also conserve and restore 5,500 acres of land, 8.9 miles
of trails and improve 22 parks, while installing 2,310 additional native plants throughout the region.
“As we learned from the Our Greater San Diego Vision report, access to and appreciation of the outdoors is a core value shared among San Diegans,” said Katie Rast, Director of Community Impact at The San Diego Foundation. “Thanks to the Opening the Outdoors Program, more San Diegans will grow up with a deeper connection to the outdoors and the local environment, which will help preserve our natural spaces for generations to come.”
The 2017 grants from the Opening the Outdoors Program are made possible thanks to funding through the Environment Endowment at The San Diego Foundation, Satterberg Foundation in partnership with San Diego Grantmakers, Brutten Family Fund, Willis & Jane Family Fund I, TCJ Fund, Eugene M. and Joan F. Foster Family Charitable Fund and other generous donors at The San Diego Foundation.
For more information about the Opening the Outdoors program, visit sdfoundation.org/opening-the-outdoors.