County of Marin - News Releases - Parks Community Grants

For Immediate Release
May 20, 2021

Parks Grants Available in Support of Mental Health

Especially during a pandemic, residents need access to recreation

San Rafael, CA – Marin County Parks has been on the front lines of the local COVID-19 response with most of its staff assigned as disaster service workers, handling wide-ranging assignments related to urgent service needs. However, as the region slowly emerges from the pandemic and outdoor recreation has fewer restrictions on gatherings, Marin County Parks is eager to reestablish programs that help welcome underserved communities and vulnerable populations to its beautiful facilities.

A woman pushed a wheelchair occupied by an elderly man who is waving as they roll on an unpaved pathway around the Civic Center Lagoon in San Rafael.Over the next few months, $100,000 will be awarded to community-based organizations who share commitments to recreation and mental health through public programs.
In recognition of the traumatic challenges faced in the community because of COVID-19, Marin County Parks has created a partnership with the Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Division of Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The two groups are focusing a new round of community grant funding on bringing existing programs into parks that help improve mental health in Marin. Over the next few months, $100,000 will be awarded to community-based organizations who share the same commitments through public programs. The maximum grant is $8,000 per applicant.

Established in 2014, Parks’ Breathe (Respira in Spanish) Community Grant Program is designed to break down barriers faced by some residents in visiting the County’s outdoor facilities. Over the next month, local community organizations are invited to complete an online form to apply for the competitive grants that facilitate more visits to local parks, introduces new residents to recreation via public outreach, and provides bridges to enjoying the outdoors.

“The reason we decided to focus on mental health in the community this time,” said Parks Director Max Korten, “is because our residents have suffered during the pandemic – social isolation, the loss of loved ones, job stress or job loss, displacement, emergency response work, balancing work and family care, and fear and anxiety from living through disasters. We will work with our teammates in Behavioral Health to identify residents who need the most support.”

Dr. Jei Africa, Director of Behavior Health and Recovery Services for Marin HHS, and his team have been providing both mental health and substance use support to the community throughout the pandemic.

“Studies and anecdotal information indicate children to seniors, especially from communities of color or those who have been playing emergency response roles, are struggling with increased stress, depression, and substance use,” Africa said. “Parks and outdoor activity have been shown to have a positive impact on mental health. Through this partnership, we can provide tools and resources that complement positive benefits of going outdoors and help with recovery from the pandemic as well as build resilience in preparation for future disasters.”

Parks will consider funding projects or programs that support an underserved community as long as that community is adequately characterized and described in relation to the Breathe/Respira program. Parks will continue to inquire with partners about equity issues and barriers to parks enjoyment regarding the lands and programs it offers.

Proposals will be reviewed after the June 17 application deadline, and grants will be awarded this July in partnership with the Parks and Open Space Commission. They will be announced following approval of grant agreements in August by the Marin County Board of Supervisors.

All qualifying criteria and funding restrictions, along with detailed information about the program and grant decision-making process, are available in the Breathe/Respira Measure A Community Grant Program Overview on the Measure A webpage.

Breathe/Respira is funded by Measure A, a countywide quarter-cent sales tax otherwise known as the Marin Parks, Open Space, and Farmland Preservation Transactions and Use Tax Ordinance of 2012. Parks and open space preserves across Marin are being cared for like never before thanks to Measure A. To find out more about the range of benefits this tax measure is bringing to your favorite outdoor places, check out the most recent Marin County Parks annual report at


Kevin Wright
Government Affairs Manager
Marin County Parks

Marin Civic Center
Suite 260
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-2129
Email: Kevin Wright
Marin County Parks website