What does a land trust do when it’s worked for 35 years to conserve 40,000 acres of majestic landscapes yet recognizes that many people in our communities have not benefitted from that legacy. In the case of the Big Sur Land Trust, it spent two years talking with residents and leaders across the diverse communities of its home turf in Monterey County, California. Those voices inspired the organization to broaden its work and mission: to inspire love of the land and conservation of our treasured landscapes.
The Big Sur Land Trust gained a clear picture of what it will take to create a truly lasting conservation movement: many, many more people falling in love with the land. Often it only takes an introduction to a majestic landscape to fall in love by walking the trails, smelling the native plants, or listening to the wind blowing in the trees. Outdoor enthusiasts know this instinctively. Our opportunity is to share these experiences with hundreds of youth who too oftendon’t ever get that first opportunity to fall in love with the land.
Monterey County’s cultural diversity is rooted in the Salinas Valley’s vibrant agricultural economy – producing more than $4 billion in annual revenues. Tens of thousands of farm workers, most of whom are Hispanic immigrants, contribute to producing the majority of the nation’s salad greens in our collective backyard. The seasonal pace of work is unrelenting, often involving long hours six days a week. Farm worker families often do not have the time, energy or resources to explore the great landscapes that surround us, but we know that their children are the next generation of conservation stewards in Monterey County and beyond.
With support from The North Face Explore Fund, the Big Sur Land Trust launched a series of 3-day summer camps for Salinas Valley teenagers in partnership with many local youth-serving organizations. So far more than 300 youth have been able to enjoy the Big Sur Coast, and for about 200 of them it was their first visit to Big Sur despite it being less than one hour from their homes. Together they learn about the local flora and fauna, the story of place, and the family legacy that made it possible to share that landscape with them today. Most importantly, they learn about themselves with quiet time in nature and journaling exercises that inspire reflection and introspection. This is a rare opportunity for today’s teenagers and it’s just the start of building another kind of lasting legacy for our communities.
Is your organization looking for funding to get people outdoors, or know an org that would be a great fit? Applications for the 2015 Explore Fund grants are now open.