Southern California Mountains Foundation’s Urban Youth Tree Corp Project, funded through grants made possible by California ReLeaf, CAL FIRE, and the Environmental Protection Agency, was a very successful and effective effort to engage inner city, at-risk youth in urban tree care at the local parks and on the streets. 324 youths were recruited and trained through 32 environmental education, tree care, and urban forestry workshops through the project.
The focal point of the project was tree care and field education and experience for the Urban Conservation Corps (UCC). The Southern California Mountains Foundation provides a workforce development program that offers young men and women the chance to become employable citizens through hard work in environmental conservation within the southern California Mountains. The Urban Conservation Corps of the Inland Empire stems from this program, and is the latest addition to the California Association of Local Conservation Corps.
During the project period, the UCC held several community events at Sucombe Lake Park. This park has been highlighted in local papers as one of the worst parks in Southern California due to high crime and neglect from the City of San Bernardino, which filed Chapter 9 Bankruptcy that has result in the loss of 200 city workers. There are only six park workers for over 600 acres of parks throughout the City.
However, 530 volunteers joined the UCC to contribute 3,024 volunteer hours to seven community events that provided care for 2,225 urban trees. Tree care practices were guided by The Urban Youth Conservation Corps Tree Care Manual developed several years ago through a different California ReLeaf grant. Volunteers on this project were recruited from middle schools, Cal State San Bernardino, neighborhood associations, the San Bernardino County Public Works Dept, little leagues, and more.
UCC Director Sandy Bonilla notes “As a result of the California Releaf project, there has been a renewed interest in Sucombe Lake Park from the surrounding community and schools. In fact, a new audience that has been reached is the City Council. Two city council members have met with the City Attorney’s Office to see the possibilities of having the UCC as the land managers for this park, as well as provide the UCC with the resources, equipment and supplies to manage Sucombe Lake Park.”