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Santa Maria awarded more than $500,000 for outdoor recreation experience

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Courtesy of the City of Santa Maria
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Buena Vista Park will be the site for the Santa Maria Outdoor Recreation Experience

The City of Santa Maria has been awarded over half a million dollars from California State Park’s new Outdoor Equity Grant Program. The money will fund a new outdoor recreation program in Santa Maria that will expand nature and educational opportunities for everyone, according to the city.

The $589,000 grant will be used to create the Santa Maria Outdoor Recreation Experience (SMORE) at Buena Vista Park, which will provide programs for local youth. Programs hosted at this park will include horseback riding, whale watching trips, family camping trips, swimming lessons, a junior ranger program and a nature education program.

Dennis Smitherman, the Recreation Services Manager for the City of Santa Maria’s Recreation and Parks Department said, “It will become our nature center for the next 3 years at Buena Vista Park. We want people to learn about all the different ecosystems and environments that are within 10 miles of here, it’s really using that park and building as the home base to provide education.” He also said this new grant is an opportunity to get local youth involved in their community, and out into nature.

Smitherman helped write this grant, and said this is an area of Santa Maria with highly diverse socioeconomic statuses. There are single family homes, but also homes where you can find seven or eight people living inside of them — so, he said, the park really does become their backyard.

The funding of this program is meant to help advance the “Outdoors For All” initiative advocated by the Natural Resources Agency and the “Outdoor Access for All” initiative promoted by Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

Both initiatives are meant to expand outdoor access to all Californians by also prioritizing access for underrepresented communities, according to the state. Officials say the program is also meant to empower youth and families with outdoor leadership education, career pathways and environmental justice engagement.

Smitherman said a good portion of the work is already done, but now it’s time to get bigger plans moving. “It is a double-edged sword. You’re so happy to get the grant — but we got the grant, we gotta get moving. So we are always excited to hear good news like this.”

The department hopes to roll out their programs starting later this summer with just a few of their planned programs at first, and they hope to make progress throughout the year.

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