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Closeup of a girl in a black zipped up hookie with her dark hair poking out of the hood plays rock-paper-scissors -- hands in mid-air -- with a teen in a gray sweatshirt and curly red hair and sunglasses.

Getting Richmond kids outdoors — a state grant funds camping, sailing, bike riding and other activities

on October 18, 2023

On a bright and sunny day last week in Nicholl Park, Ariana Martinez, 16, stood with her black hoodie pulled over her head as she and other participants in Richmond’s new youth outdoor program played rock, paper, scissors, laughing as they fumbled the timing.

“I’m excited for her,” said Ariana’s mother, Jovita Andrade. “For her to be able to like, socialize and do more things outdoors. Because she tends to stay indoors and on her computer and stuff like that. So I just wanted to get her out here.”

By the day’s end, Ariana and the other participants were opening up with one another, laughing as they took turns strategizing on rock, paper, scissors, and then dividing into pairs to pick up trash around the park.

“It’s nice to see them slowly but surely breaking out of their shells,” said Jene Levine-Snipes, development project manager in Richmond’s recreation division, who helps with programming.

Wednesday’s introductory day in the park marked the first of bi-weekly activities in an eight-week, $700,000 state-grant-funded program to get Richmond youth outdoors. The program is free for Richmond residents. Later excursions include horseback riding, an overnight camping trip with a moonlight tour, and sailing.

“Sometimes people have bad backgrounds, and they get led different ways and wrong ways because of how their young community acts,” said youth leader and program participant Tyrone Snipes, 16. “So I just like to lead kids in the right direction and help them out, and help them feel loved and supported.”

Costs covered

Richmond’s project is funded by a grant from California’s Outdoor Equity Program and will provide for three years of programming, transportation, equipment, admission fees and food. It works with partners such as GroundWork Richmond and The Watershed Project to educate participants about the environment, said Stephanie Ny, recreation division analyst who helped write the grant proposal.

“I’m really excited that this is a free program, Ny said. “A lot of outdoorsy types of programs you see out there have a paid component. It makes it really cost-prohibitive to a lot of families here in Richmond.” 

This fall program is already filled to capacity, with 23 participants and a waiting list of 15. The program, however, will continue for the next three years. Ny said the community had a hand in designing it and choosing its locations. 

The group’s second full day of activities included a Saturday hike at Point Isabel and a trip to Keller Beach. Levine-Snipes said that a few of the 12 participants ended the day by jumping into the water. “It was relaxed,” she said. 

She would still like to see about 15 to 18 participants regularly at these events and said the program will reach out to families on the waitlist soon.

Ny is encouraged by the interest in the program so far and hopes it will grow.

“I think a successful outcome would be students participating in the program, students feeling more prepared to enjoy the outdoors, and students wanting to continue exploring nature,” she said.

For anyone interested in this program, Richmond’s recreation division puts out notifications in the city’s managers’ report and at the registration office, and sends emails to those enrolled in past programs at the city’s Recreation Complex, according to Tetteh Kisseh, recreation program director. Kisseh is looking forward to this weekend’s bike ride at Point Pinole.

“Once they jump on that bike, they become kids again,” he said. “They’re not on the street. They just become kids.”

(Top photo: Ariana Martinez and Shani Bright play rock-paper-scissors, by Matthew Busch)

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