Governor Jay Inslee announced today that more than $940,000 in grants will be awarded for programs in 15 counties statewide to help get kids outdoors and connect with nature and their communities.
The No Child Left Inside grants will be awarded by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. The grants target at-risk youth by focusing on programs that provide outdoor environmental, agricultural or other natural resource-based education and recreation programs. This year's grant recipients are offering a variety of educational activities, from sailing a 60-foot ship, to snow camping, to building trails.
"These grants create opportunities for kids who don't get to visit parks and other natural places," Inslee said. "When children connect with nature, it improves their health and their grades. It also can help them appreciate their communities and instills in them the importance of our state's natural resources. Investing in these programs helps all Washingtonians."
The grants will provide programs for nearly 8,000 kids. Of the 19 projects awarded funding, eight involve veterans on some aspect of the project. The Capitol Region Educational Service District 113 in Lewis County will recieve $40,424.
The Capitol Region Educational Service District 113 will use this grant to buy supplies to allow students at the juvenile detention center to become watershed stewards and join the established Chehalis Basin Education Consortium. The supplies include curriculum materials, field guides and notebooks, greenhouse and gardening supplies, and water quality monitoring kits. Students at Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center and in the day reporting program will learn about and participate in restoration projects, water quality monitoring, and rearing of native plants in a greenhouse. The overall goal is to give students access to meaningful, educational opportunities and instill a sense of environmental stewardship that will continue after they are released. The students will raise plants and then plant them along the banks of waterways at restoration sites. The service district will contribute $36,242 in donations of equipment, labor, and materials. For more information and photographs of this project, visit RCO's Project Snapshot. (16-1257)
"State Parks is excited about this grant program that gets young people outdoors for healthy recreation and environmental education," said Don Hoch, State Parks director. "We are grateful to the Recreation and Conservation Office for working with us and administering the program."
Funding for the No Child Left Inside grant program was one of a dozen recommendations of the 2014 Governor's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation. The task force was charged with finding ways to increase participation in outdoor recreation, which has significant social and economic benefits. The Governor's Council for the Healthiest Next Generation is focused on getting kids outdoors and has been supportive of funding to support the priority. The legislature provided funding for the grant program first in 2008, but the program ended during the recession when funding was no longer available. In 2015, Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island), and Sen. Linda Parlette (R-Wenatchee), spearheaded an effort to reinvigorate the program. Funding comes from the state General Fund.
"Thousands more children will get outside because of No Child Left Inside, educating them about the splendors of our incredible natural resources and beginning a lifelong love of the outdoors and outdoor recreation," said Ranker, who was the author and prime sponsor of the legislation that funded this program. "And we will be utilizing dozens of veterans to help get these kids outside because we prioritized organizations that will engage veterans for the grants. It is a great opportunity for our children, our veterans and Washington state."
"It is so great to see these grants being awarded," Parlette said. "Getting kids outside is very important, not only to their health and well-being, but so they can understand more about where they live and where they fit into a larger, connected world."
"The grant program was highly competitive," said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the grant program. "We had 122 applications requesting more than $5.4 million, but we had only $940,000 available for grants. That means we are only funding the best of the best."
Grant recipients will be matching the state funding and are contributing more than $1.9 million in donations, equipment, labor, additional grants, and other resources.