Rainier Vista Environmental Leadership Institute earns $20K Parks Build Community grant

Project coordinator Justin Hellier with Rainier Vista youth last year.


In April, we asked you to vote on which Seattle Parks and Recreation project should receive a $20,000 grant from the National Recreation and Park Association, and the results are in. Seattle voters selected the Rainier Vista Environmental Leadership Institute as their top project.

“Seattle is a community that is committed to the environment, committed to equity and committed to developing young leaders,” project coordinator Justin Hellier said. “The Rainier Vista Youth Environmental Leadership Institute is an opportunity to bring all three of those commitments to life this summer.”

The Rainier Vista Environmental Leadership Institute will connect diverse, low-income youth to nature by engaging them in a six-week summer employment program focused on urban farming, urban forest restoration and community leadership development. The youth will work with a variety of community partners including the Seattle Housing Authority, Solid Ground and Earth Corps. The program will make tangible physical improvements to several local parks and will build the capacity of participating youth to connect to nature and serve as environmental leaders. The program will culminate in a community volunteer event led by the youth.

“Young people in Rainier Vista are the most diverse youth in our city, and in my experience they are creative, passionate, and looking for a chance to make a difference in their community,” Hellier said. “This project will give them an opportunity to spend time in Cheasty Greenspace restoring our urban forest, at the Seattle Community Farm growing food destined for the Rainier Valley Food Bank and developing their skills as community leaders. It doesn’t hurt that they’ll earn a pay check and build their resume, too!”

The grant was awarded through an initiative called Parks Build Community.  During Earth Month, the National Recreation and Park Association and Disney | ABC Television Group and ESPN collaborated to invigorate park and recreation programs and facilities across the U.S.  through Parks Build Community — an initiative that gives back to the places that shape so much of our lives. One of three Seattle Parks projects was eligible to receive a $20,000 grant – and Seattleites got to choose which one.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to continue this program into the future,” Hellier said. “We’ve already written a second grant proposal to support it next year. I have a dream of a generation of Rainier Vista young people, year after year, becoming environmental leaders through hands-on stewardship of their neighborhood forest and farm.”

To see all of the Parks Build Community grant recipients, visit http://www.parksbuildcommunity.org/.

‘Grow Your Park’ grant will help low-income families grow fresh produce

Seattle Parks and Recreation has been selected as a “Grow Your Park” grant recipient from the Darden Foundation and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). Seattle Parks was one of 15 communities awarded this grant in 2014. The grant amount is $10,000.

Environmental Stewardship Coordinator Shanyanika Burton said the department will use the funds to increase outreach efforts to underserved populations and boost participation at six of the 10 community center gardens located across Seattle.

“Food security is a crucial component of the conversation on equity,” Burton said. “Through our Good Food urban agriculture programs, we provide access to land for growing food to community members who don’t have space at home. We are hoping that raising awareness of our gardens will encourage people to come together and to eat more fresh organic produce.”

In addition to the production of nutritious food, community gardens promote healthy lifestyles, connect people to nature, cultivate community ties and strengthen self-sufficiency for many. The entire process from planting to harvesting helps create a more active, engaged and healthy community.

“The Grow Your Park grant program and its recipients embody our commitment to give back to local communities, preserve our planet’s natural resources and serve food to those in need,” said Stephanie Ghertner, director of the Darden Foundation. “Food banks and other organizations in communities across the country benefit from the fresh produce and educational opportunities community gardens provide.”

For more information about the Grow Your Park program, please visit http://www.nrpa.org/garden/.

The National Recreation and Park Association is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing park, recreation and conservation efforts that enhance quality of life for all people. Through its network of 40,000 recreation and park professionals and citizens, NRPA encourages the promotion of healthy and active lifestyles, conservation initiatives and equitable access to parks and public space. For more information, visit www.NRPA.org. For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit www.parksandrecreation.org.

The Darden Restaurants, Inc. Foundation is the charitable arm of Darden Restaurants, Inc. The Darden Foundation’s mission is to maintain a spirit of service and community engagement as defining characteristics of Darden’s family of restaurants – Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s and Yard House. Since 1995, the Darden Foundation has awarded more than $71 million in grants to leading nonprofit organizations that align with its mission and community priorities: Recipe for Success®, Preservation of Natural Resources and Good Neighbor grants. Through the Darden Harvest program, Darden Restaurants has also donated more than 66 million pounds of food to hunger relief agencies across the U.S. and Canada. In 2011, the Darden Foundation introduced the Restaurant Community Grants program that is dedicated to supporting local nonprofit organizations in the hundreds of communities where we live and serve. For more information, please visit www.dardenfoundation.com.



Take your lunch break, celebrate parks

It’s Park and Recreation Month! Take your lunch outside!


Not to brag, but the entire month of July celebrates us. And we want you to join in the party. July is Park and Recreation Month and this year’s theme is “OUT is IN.”

The National Recreation and Park Association is challenging everyone to spend the month of July doing typical indoor activities outside every day.

Our suggestions:

Surveys show that many Americans are forgoing their lunch breaks because they feel guilty spending time away from the office. But, studies show that employees who take frequent breaks throughout the workday are more productive.

So in honor of Park and Recreation Month, take your lunch break and spend it with us. You’ll be more productive, and you’ll help us make the city a safer place.

Scattered throughout downtown parks in the summer you’ll find a variety of programming sponsored by Seattle Parks and our partnership organizations catered specifically for the lunch hour. The idea is that the more positive activities we bring in, the more negative activities will move out.

Seattle Tilth staff lead a gardening workshop in Freeway Park.

Freeway Park Association Executive Director Riisa Conklin described it well when she said, “It’s like we’re creating small interventions. We want people to know there’s always something going on.”

Conklin said her association has increased programming in Freeway Park by 50 percent this year. If you stop by the park around noon, you’re apt to find the Friends of Seattle Public Library book carts, kite painting parties, Seattle Tilth gardening classes and yoga.

Friends of Seattle Public Library books carts in Freeway Park.

“Too many people don’t know the park here, and we want to draw in residents,” Conklin said. “This is their park.”

But what’s that you say? You work further south or west and don’t care to climb up to Seventh Avenue? No problem.

Tucked away in Occidental Park beneath the dappled shade you’ll find free, classical chamber performances at noon every second and fourth Tuesday through September. These pop-up concerts feature University of Washington School of Music graduates who play in unique venues all over the city.

If you’d like a little more brain stimulation, play a drop-in game of bocce at Occidental, or really get the juices flowing at a game of drop-in chess at Bell Street, Westlake or Hing Hay Parks.

We’re working hard to create a more inviting atmosphere in our parks, but we need your help. So to celebrate Park and Recreation Month, get some grub and come visit us. Your city and your stomach will thank you.

For a more complete list of our outdoor summer activities, visit http://www.seattle.gov/parks/downtown/.