Small boy with mother holding him from behind on a paved park trail both smiling at camera

Understanding Our Community

Creating Equitable Access to Nature by Investing in Underserved Communities

To better understand the demographics of the residents and communities we serve and their unique needs related to access of nature, the Authority conducted a community assessment that provides a detailed picture of our jurisdiction. The Understanding Our Community report identifies barriers that prevent some residents from going outdoors to enjoy nature and receive its many health benefits.
The Authority uses the data contained within the report to inform our Urban Grant Programs, guide our Environmental Education programs to the areas of greatest need, and prioritize and inform all of our Community Engagement activities, such as local events, community meetings, and building partnerships.

An important aspect of the Authority's commitment to providing access to all our constituents is that our preserves, events, and programs are always free to the public.

A Community Assessment

Understanding Our Community Phase I laid the foundation for a new community engagement approach to increase the enjoyment of open space and nature in our local communities. The project resulted in a deeper understanding of the demographic makeup of the communities served by the Authority. Key findings, primarily based on strategic analysis of census data, enabled the Authority to better understand the barriers our communities face when accessing the outdoors.

Phase II builds on this analysis and utilizes additional research and partner input to illuminate the needs of the area’s residents that can be addressed, in part, by improved access to nature. Examples of partner input include health risk factors, access to healthy foods, locations of urban farms, community gardens, and park access points. It also expands four of the six Deep Engagement Community (DEC) boundaries, in order to incorporate communities where additional focus and support can result in the greatest benefit to local residents. By further exploring the needs of these communities, the Authority hopes to inform and inspire local organizations to help reduce barriers and expand access to nature.

Key Findings from the Understanding Our Community Report

  1. The Authority’s jurisdiction includes roughly 1.4 million people that is ethnically diverse, with residents being 33% Asian, 31% White, and 30% of Hispanic/Latino origin.
  2. There are six neighborhoods defined as Deep Engagement Communities that experience greater environmental burdens and barriers to access of nature.
  3. The most frequently cited community open space needs include better trail and park connectivity, and more urban community gardens.
  4. Various barriers restricting access to nature include lack of nearby open space and natural areas, lack of transportation, financial burdens, and a concern for safety.
Young boy in brown shirt and pants kneeling next to plants in vegetable garden
Woman with two children watering plants in raised garden bed
Smiling girl in striped sweater riding a bicycle on paved trail, young boy on tricycle in background
Group of five young adolescents walking away from camera on trail with green hills in distance

Our Approach

The data presented in Understanding Our Community are resources which the Authority anticipates will be used to continue to inform our Urban Grant Program and where to focus our Community Engagement efforts. We also hope these resources will spark new ideas in the community on ways to bring more nature access to the residents for whom it will bring the most benefit, thereby making nature access more equitable in our region.

The Authority will utilize Phase II as a strategic investment prioritization tool to inspire new projects and strategic partnerships. This tool will provide meaningful opportunities for community engagement and community action to reduce barriers to accessing nature. The Authority hopes that the information gathered will propel efforts and motivate new partnerships to expand opportunities that bring more nature-based benefits to our urban communities. In doing so, the Open Space Authority will serve its community while also acting as a model to conservation organizations across the country.

Father with two children looking at plants
Young woman in blue jacket sitting on rocks taking in view of green hills
Older couple walking on paved trial at Martial Cottle Park