Urban children in Albuquerque, N.M., will soon be able to descend on 20 acres of forestland along the Rio Grande River, where they will have the freedom to climb onto an elevated fort, hike on a trail through the cottonwood forest to learn about the different plants and animals and do what all children are supposed to do: play outside.
Children’s Bosque – Spanish for forest – is one of eight Children’s Forests and 23 More Kids in the Woods projects in 18 states awarded a total of $1 million in cost-share grants from the U.S. Forest Service. Each of the winning projects has the backing of partners and local communities, and winning proposals either expand current projects or create new ones.
In Albuquerque, it’s a brand new project on an idle piece of land that pulls together a cultural center, a Forest Service employee and the elementary school her children attends.
“They’ve been trying to do something with this site for at least eight years,” said Alicia San Gil of the Forest Service’s Region 3 office in Albuquerque. “We want to make it a space that will attract kids. We’ll make signage, trails and an outdoor classroom that looks like a fort. This site is an urban area with not a lot of play spaces, and certainly not a forested area where they can go. This land is perfect.”
The land is adjacent to the National Hispanic Cultural Center, about a half-mile from Coronado Elementary School and a mile from the Forest Service’s regional office.
“When we started thinking about the Children’s Forest, it all made sense,” she said. “They have a lot of activities at the center, and the kids can walk back and forth to the Cultural Center from the land. And we have all these employees here who would be great mentors.”
The Children’s Forest also will help with after-school programs and be a magnet for other schools and families.
Other Children’s Forest proposals that received cost-share funding are:
- Chugach National Forest, Alaska
- Pope-Baldwin Children’s Forest, Pope-Baldwin Recreation Area, Calif.
- Atlanta Children’s Forest Network, Ga.
- Children’s Forest Community Partnership, Payette National Forest, Idaho
- Upper Columbia Children's Forest, Colville National Forest, Wash.
- Children’s Forest Environmental Literacy Model, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, Colo.
- Children’s Forest in the City, Forest Service Eastern Region, Milwaukee, Wis.
More Kids in the Woods proposals that received the funding are:
- More Kids in the Central Alabama Woods, National Forests, Ala.
- Yakutat Future Scientists and Angoon Outdoor Skills Initiative, Tongass National Forest, Alaska
- Yellow Belly Ponderosa Performance Outreach, Kaibab National Forest, Ariz.
- Big Bear Discovery Center’s Nature Explore Classroom, San Bernardino National Forest, Calif.
- A Century of Leaders: Invoking the Vision of Teddy Roosevelt, Sequoia National Forest, Calif.
- Stormwater Habitat Education Development, or WaterSHED, Rocky Mountain Research Station and Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest, Colo.
- Boise Youth Engagement in Nature, Boise National Forest, Idaho
- Mountains to Meadows: The Boulder Creek Study, Payette National Forest, Idaho
- Our LAND – Learn, Admire, Nurture, Dream, Forest Service Regional Office and the Huron-Manistee and Hiawatha National Forests, Mich.
- Pioneering Discoveries: A Natural and Cultural Resources Field Camp for Tribal High School Students, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Mont.
- Discovering Flathead’s Feathered Friends, Enhancing Schoolyard and National Forest Habitat, Flathead National Forest, Mont.
- Kids in the Headwaters, Lolo National Forest, Mont.
- Get Outdoors With Conservation, Climate & Careers!, Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands, Neb.
- Children’s Water Festival Enhancement Project, Gila National Forest, N.M.
- Connecting Kids to the River Forest, Santa Fe National Forest, N.M.
- Stewardship in the Woods on 3 Forests, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Ore.
- Immersion in Nature, Willamette National Forest, Ore.
- Partners in Education, Northern Research Station, Pa.
- Sewee Earth Stewards, Francis Marion National Forest, S.C.
- More Kids in the Pineywoods, Angelina-Sabine National Forest, Texas
- The EVOLVE Project, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
- National Fishing in Schools Program, Shoshone National Forest, Wyo.