By Selen Ozturk Jul 28, 2023 | https://ethnicmediaservices.org
A new $117 million CalFIRE program aims to shade kids from record heat by replacing school pavement with drought-tolerant green space.
As extreme heat scorches California, schools preparing to reopen across the Bay Area are also preparing to use the first $47 million of a new $117 million CalFIRE program to shade kids by replacing school pavement with drought-tolerant green space.
15 projects for 100 schools statewide were selected on July 12 to receive this first round of Green Schoolyard Grants, including those in the Oakland and San Francisco Unified School Districts, and the Santa Clara County Office of Education. At least 70% of the $117 million will green schools in low-income and disadvantaged communities, which are shown in studies to be as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit hotter in summer than wealthier areas nearby.
The program is part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s historic $800 million Extreme Heat Action Plan. As part of the plan, Newsom also launched Heat Ready CA this month. This is a 2-year, $20 million public outreach campaign, with resources available on HeatReadyCA.com, which will guide the state’s response to heat waves by focusing upon vulnerable populations including older adults, frontline workers, those with chronic illness and those who are pregnant.
In 2017, Watsonville Wetlands Watch (WWW) and the City of Watsonville received a joint grant from the California Department of Fire and Forestry and the California Climate Investment Program. This boost of funding helped form WWW’s Forest and Climate Resiliency program, kickstarting a citywide tree planting effort.
As of December 2022, the program has helped plant 1,100 trees in both residential and commercial areas of Watsonville, and several other organizations and local private family foundations have contributed to funding the effort.
Now, WWW is encouraging residents and businesses to take advantage of their Adopt a Tree program, which offers free shade trees to local residents and businesses.
Jonathan Pilch, executive director of WWW, said there were two main factors that led them to lead the tree planting effort.
More than 50 trees were planted at the school
PAJARO — Nearly 100 community members gathered at Pajaro Middle School on Saturday morning to plant 50 new trees, from oaks to magnolias, on the school’s campus for the Plant a Tree for Pajaro event. The effort was spurred by the Watsonville Wetlands Watch and is a part of the larger community forest initiative intended to plant thousands of trees all over Watsonville and the Pajaro Valley.
“We’re really excited to transform this school campus,” said Jonathon Pilch, executive director of the Watsonville Wetlands Watch. “This area has one of the lowest tree canopy covers in the Monterey Bay and we started this project to both complement the larger watershed restoration work and also to increase the tree canopy because it does so much for the natural environment and human health.”
Since 2017, Esperanza Community Farms in Watsonville has provided affordable organic produce to hundreds of local families, while aiming to promote healthy eating, sustainability and economic justice.
And now, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the No Kid Hungry Centering Equity Fund, Esperanza has linked two of its programs to also bring fresh, organic salads to a local school cafeteria.
In 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Esperanza helped guide the formation of a farming co-op to help local BIPOC farmers. Members of the 9 Organic Farmers Co-Op work together on everything from managing their finances to improving crop production. They cultivate 25 acres on eight separate farms.
Climate Corps Leadership internship program set to receive $300,000
WATSONVILLE – Environmental nonprofit Watsonville Wetlands Watch has been selected by the California Natural Resources Agency to receive a $300,000 grant – funded by California’s revenue from cannabis taxes.
The funds will be used to grow the organization’s Climate Corps Leadership Institute internship program, which aims to cultivate and empower a new generation of environmental stewards in Watsonville.
Californians who took to the polls in 2014 and voted to legalize cannabis are largely to thank for the investment. As a result of Proposition 64, some cannabis tax dollars are allocated to fund youth wellness initiatives in underserved regions, or communities of color, such as Watsonville. Watsonville Wetlands is one of 65 California-based organizations funded through the inaugural grants.