(Charlie Kiefer talks of the history of the Castro family at the Castro Adobe in Watsonville in 2013. File photo by Todd Guild/Pajaronian)

SANTA CRUZ — Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks on Tuesday announced the launch of Kids2Parks (K2P), a new program created to bring students from Title 1 schools on State Park field trips.

The program, a partnership with California State Parks, increases the number of elementary school students from San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties who have visited a state park or beach by funding transportation to and from the parks.

K2P offers field trips to 99 eligible Title 1 elementary schools in Santa Cruz, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Title 1 is a designation by the US Department of Education that primarily indicates a high percentage of students from low-income families.

Teachers from schools included in the program are invited to apply at www.thatsmypark.org/k2p. The 2018/19 Kids2Parks application period is April 2-May 8. Teachers will receive a response by May 18 from California State Parks about the status of their application.

All 16 Pajaro Valley Unified School District elementary schools are included for visits to Castro Adobe and Henry Cowell state parks.

A bus trip from South County to Henry Cowell costs approximately $315, PVUSD transportation director Katie Powell said.

“Overcoming barriers to access is a primary goal for us and we’re excited that the Kids2Parks program will help students make a connection with our local state parks and beaches,” Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks Executive Director Bonny Hawley said. “The lack of resources to simply travel to a state park keeps some school groups from enjoying, learning about and engaging with our unique natural environment.”

A study by Friends and California State Parks showed that transportation costs was the most often cited problem keeping school from visiting parks.

Inspired by that study, the Friends’ Board of Directors made a commitment to address this issue and funded a pilot program that was launched in the fall of 2016 to provide transportation for school field trips.

Based on the success of the first year of the pilot, the Kids2Parks program funds transportation costs to the parks, which is approximately $300-550 per trip. Donations to the program are accepted at www.thatsmypark.org/donate/support-a-project.

Applications are accepted online at www.thatsmypark.org/k2p once a year for transportation and funding is allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis. State Parks staff will schedule field trips for the 2018-19 academic year based on availability.

Schools not selected for Kids2Parks transportation-funded field trips are welcome to schedule field trips to state parks and beaches by visiting www.thatsmypark.org/visit/field-trips.

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