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East Bay Regional Park District

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East Bay Regional Park District

Photo of Claremont Regional Preserve, East Bay Regional Park District, by albategnius – Flickr

The East Bay Regional Park District in California is taking a leading role in the United States in promoting Healthy Parks Healthy People.

East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) is a system of beautiful public parks and trails in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The system encompasses 1,745 square miles on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay. As the largest network of urban regional parks in the US and an internationally-recognised leader in park development and management, East Bay Regional Park District has a special leadership place in the effort to educate the public about the vital role parks play in nurturing individual well-being, community health, and a sense of community pride. Overall, EBRPD receives approximately 14 million visits per year.

Environmental preservation is EBRPD’s primary focus, with 90 per cent of the open space managed to protect and conserve distinctive and irreplaceable resources.

The District takes the messages of Healthy Parks, Healthy People to the 2.5 million residents of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties to encourage people to use the parks for physical and mental well-being, especially reaching out to children, seniors, urban residents, and ethnic groups that may not be using the parks as often as the general public. Bottom line: to get more people to the parks and ensure we are getting the next generations to the parks – it’s a health issue!

Key Healthy Parks, Healthy People Programs include:

• Trails Challenge
• Kids Challenge
• Nature Hikes
• Family “Learn to Camp” Programs
• Junior Lifeguard Camp
• Junior Ranger Program
• Outdoor recreation programs including yoga outdoors, walking for health and fitness, kayaking and rowing programs.

Environmental Education

The District understands the importance of keeping parks healthy and teaching others about the many wonders of the natural environment. Naturalists offer public environmental education programs at the District’s nine visitor centers, each with programming specific to the area’s cultural and natural history.

Interactive and engaging programs are available for all ages. Naturalists offer outdoor adventures such as exploring a mudflat at low tide, meeting farm animals up close, or creating a wildlife-friendly garden. Many of the programs incorporate outdoor activity, as participants walk while identifying wildflowers, or engage in cleaning a shoreline, building a birdhouse, or tending native plants. Ecology and environmental responsibility are recurring themes.

Volunteer Programs

The East Bay Regional Park District has discovered that people want to give back to nature and make the world a better place to live, so it has tailored 14 volunteer programs to engage the public in a multitude of ways. Last year, 12,962 volunteers contributed 125,636 combined hours to programs including habitat conservation projects, and improving and protecting natural resources. Volunteers help monitor wildlife populations, create nesting habitat, or plant tree seedlings. Ongoing volunteer projects at specific parks draw dedicated individuals who attend regularly to garden, weed, or remove invasive plants. The endowment-funded Ivan Dickson program draws partners from the local community to maintain the District’s trails. School groups, businesses, community organisations, families and individuals join in caring for the parks, whether hands-on or by assisting with education, special events, or safety in the parks. For more information on EBRPD’s volunteer programs, see Sweat Equity at East Bay.

Regional Parks Foundation

Being part of the Healthy Parks, Healthy People movement has encouraged East Bay Regional Park District to recognise the varied needs of community members. Not everyone has the means to go to a local park, so the Park District has joined with The Regional Parks Foundation – an affiliate non-profit organisation that raises money through memberships, donations, and grants, with the mission of providing broader public access to the Regional Parks. The Foundation raises $1.1 million annually in support of Park District projects that include environmental restoration, camperships for low-income youth, and special capital projects. Camperships are scholarships for children to attend day and overnight camps outdoors. In 2010, the Foundation also funded swimming lessons for 500 children in several communities, in partnership with schools and non-profit organisations.

Diversity of the Region

The District currently serves an ethnically diverse group of 2.6 million East Bay residents, not counting the 700,000 non-East Bay residents who are estimated to take advantage of the outdoor opportunities offered by the District each year. Information brochures are offered in four languages plus English, and “easy loop” trails are offered for older walkers, small children and people with disabilities.

 


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