An outdoor program highlighted the need for better coastal access for low-income youth across San Diego Wednesday.
For some of the youth, it was their first time visiting the beach.
"People don't realize how hard it is for intercity communities to have access to the beach," said Coronado City Councilmember Whitney Benzian.
Outdoor Outreach staff, instructors and Senator Ben Hueso met with participating youth at the Silver Strand State Beach by the Crown Cove Aquatic Center around 9 a.m. The group will host a few days of hands-on activities at the beach for 20 middle school youths from Imperial Valley.
An instructor for the program emphasized the importance of supporting Assembly Bill 250, which would help address the issue with affordable transportation and accommodation.
"It is more important than ever to make sure that all families in California have equal and affordable access to our coast," said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, in a statement.
A recent UCLA report showed that 62 percent of Californians said their lack of access to the coast and beaches is a problem, said spokesperson Refugio Mata. The lack of affordable options for parking as well as limited public transportation are huge barriers.
The situation is aggravated in San Diego County when you consider that more than 269,000 households are low income, said Mata. It's difficult for families to make it to the beach when they can't even cover basic expenses.
Collaborators with the program included the Boys and Girls Club of Imperial Valley, State Senator Ben Hueso's 40th District Office, California State Parks and the Parks Now coalition.
Hueso called attention to the need for more affordable transportation and lodging options to ensure that all California youth and families can access the coast.
He told the group that the coast belongs to everybody, and that means everyone is responsible for protecting it.
Activities included teaching the youth to kayak, Stand Up Paddleboard and how to use canoes.
Outdoor Outreach runs year-round programs for young people to address the community's critical needs, said Mata.