About 7,000 underprivileged Oxnard students will get a free trip through the Santa Monica Mountains during the next year thanks to an $80,000 grant from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
A pilot program designed to encourage students to care about the environment will be kicked off next Wednesday, when the first busload of about 70 second-graders from Kamala School is scheduled to visit Sycamore Canyon Campgrounds in Point Mugu State Park.
Students will be greeted by Ventura County Supervisor John K. Flynn, Oxnard City Councilman Manuel Lopez and officials from the conservancy.
During the first year, students from second, fourth, sixth and eighth grades will visit the mountains and go on two-hour hikes led by naturalists.
The one-year pilot program is part of the Mountains Conservancy Education and Recreation Program, which has been busing poor inner-city youths from Los Angeles schools for hikes in the mountains since April. The Oxnard students are the first Ventura County students to participate in the program.
Students from Oxnard were chosen because “they may live close to the campgrounds, but they’re not in the habit of visiting the mountains,” said Hugh Maher, an outreach coordinator for the conservancy. Many of the students cannot afford the $6 fee charged at state parks, he said.
“We also give them information on how to get back to the parks,” he said. Naturalists will also teach the children about the fauna and flora of the mountains through games.
Starting in January, bilingual naturalists will accompany the students to help interpret for Spanish-speaking students, Maher said.
Conservancy officials are seeking to extend the life of the one-year program through financing from the County Board of Supervisors, Maher said.