Outdoor Equity: Family Field Trips

April 4, 2022

“Parks and trails should be in everybody’s life, and the people who visit these areas should better reflect the demographics of Mendocino County.”

The Mendocino Land Trust is excited to announce that in March we received a grant from the Community Foundation of Mendocino County to offer outreach and naturalist-led field trips to families with young children. We are especially interested in engaging with segments of our community that historically have not received equal access to parks and nature programs.

It is widely recognized that there is varying access to the outdoors among different segments of the community. Through the “Family Field Trip” program, funded by a “Community Enrichment Grant,” the Land Trust works to connect with communities that have been historically excluded or discouraged from using parks and preserves. Families will be personally invited to explore these areas with a group they know that specifically welcomes them.

Update: AUGUST 2022

We are having a great time with our Family Field Trips pilot program. So far, these free bilingual programs have engaged 264 children and 154 caregivers in thoughtful connection to nature with site visits and field trips to Low Gap park in Ukiah, Little Lake Valley in Willits, and Ten Mile Creek in Laytonville. In July, families joined us for a Beach Day near Mendocino. In August. families are invited to come learn about birds at Pelican Bluffs. If you know a family that would like to join us, please send us an email or encourage them to register here.

Details about August 20 trip to Pelican Bluffs

Representation matters

A lack of representation in leadership in the great outdoors is a critical issue. Thanks to funding from the Community Foundation, a member of the Latinx community will have a key role in this program. Esme Plascencia is an aspiring naturalist who was born in Mexico and grew up in Fort Bragg. Her shared background experience will provide better connection and a role model for young Latinx kids. Her bilingual skills will allow for better engagement with family members that do not speak English. Esme will gain paid experience as a naturalist, further developing her career.

Esme, a young latinx woman, holding a feather and kneeling next to playing toddlers
Esme at a collaborative program with Ukiah Public Library

long term effects

Outreach programs are offered at existing sites that work with traditionally underserved/low-income families, and personal invitations to free weekend field trips will connect families with nature in local preserves and in their own neighborhoods. Families experience the health benefits of spending time outdoors and exploring nature together. By focusing on programs that engage young children we can encourage nature exploration from an early age, form habits that last a lifetime and have the best opportunity to reach whole families and the larger community.

Long-term, these programs help set children from diverse communities on the path to becoming the conservationists of tomorrow and encourage families to support them in these efforts. Exploring nature using the “I notice, I wonder” model equips preschoolers to make observations about the natural world. They learn that science starts with making observations and become confident in sharing their observations. This develops linguistic and interpersonal skills and builds confidence that may inspire them to pursue careers in science, engineering, arts and teaching fields later in life.

how you can help

We appreciate when community members can connect us with organizations and sites that work with lower-income families and/or people from diverse backgrounds. Our funding allows us to visit sites to provide outreach programming and lead nature play activities with kids – or produce outreach materials for site leaders to share with the families they serve. We work to develop relationships with interested families and invite them to our field trips.

So far we have been working with Head Start preschool sites, Imagination Station preschool/daycare in Willits, Mendocino County Libraries, Laytonville Healthy Start programs. We appreciate your help in getting connected with other organizations and people that would benefit from this program. If you have ideas for us, please email

Photos from our trip to low gap park