For Immediate Release
Regional Parks’ YES! Parks program earns statewide recognition
One-of-a-kind program introduces young teens to nature
SONOMA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA | April 24, 2023
Sonoma County Regional Parks has earned a Best of the Best, Creating Community award of excellence from the California Parks and Recreation Society for its YES! (Youth Exploring Sonoma) Parks program. YES! Parks is one of only six programs in the state to receive the award in 2023.
YES! Parks introduces local teens, ages 13 through 18, to outdoor recreation, environmental education, stewardship activities, community building and career exploration. There are three multi-month programs, YES! Coast, YES! Mountain and YES! River, that teach skills such as surfing, mountain biking, backpacking, hiking, camping and kayaking. More than 200 youth have taken part in this program since its inception in 2017.
According to the California Parks and Recreation Society, the Creating Community award of excellence “recognizes outstanding initiatives by agencies, departments or districts in their effort to deliver the highest level of recreation and leisure programs and services that embody and embrace the values and mission of the profession and move the agency towards a stronger position or role within the community.”
“YES! Parks deepens participants’ connection to nature, grows leadership skills and helps create meaningful relationships,” said Alexis Puerto Holmes, program coordinator at Sonoma County Regional Parks. Puerto Holmes and her fellow program coordinators, Zaira Sierra and Josselyn Torres, along with support staff, design and deliver the program and its unique segments.
“Over the length of each YES! program, kids learn about nature and environmental challenges in our parks,” Puerto Holmes added. “They take direct action to take care of the parks, including participating in beach clean ups, creek clean ups, invasive plant removal projects and campground improvements, all designed to ignite a spirit of land stewardship and encourage them to appreciate their natural environment.”
Sandi Funke, a Sonoma County Regional Parks program manager, explained, “Teens are empowered to recreate outside and learn how being in our open spaces can help reduce stress. Participants graduate from the program with the tools to explore nearby nature, to make the outdoors a central part of their lives and, ultimately, to lead healthier lives.”
“One of my favorite parts of YES! River was our overnight camping trip,” said Spencer, a participant in last summer’s YES! River program. “I made some great friends that I still talk to and am in touch with even now. You were perfect guides. You always made us feel welcome and kept us having fun. We learned so much about the outdoors and local wildlife. It was a great experience that others should try. I know they would love it, too.”
Regional Parks is currently recruiting youth from the Forestville, Guerneville, Windsor and Healdsburg areas for the summer 2023 YES! River. ““I really recommend this program because it’s educational, but actually fun,” said Fatima, a past participant. “I got to see places I’d never been before in the place I am from.”
YES! Parks is made possible from grants and support from Parks for All – Measure M, the Coastal Conservancy, Sonoma County Community Foundation, the Kimball Foundation and the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation.
For more information about this program and Regional Parks, visit SonomaCountyParks.org.
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Sonoma County Regional Parks preserves irreplaceable natural and cultural resources and offers opportunities for recreation and education that enhance the quality of life and well-being of Sonoma County's residents and visitors. Learn more at SonomaCountyParks.org.