Trust For Public Land Awarded Over $18 Million From Cal Fire To Build More Green Schoolyards In California

Cal Fire has funded $18.4 million to Trust for Public Land (TPL) as a part of the Governor’s Extreme Heat Action Plan to transform California schoolyards into safe, outdoor green spaces essential to protecting kids from dangerous extreme heat and promoting physical activity, mental health, and overall well being. These green schoolyards will be designed and developed in partnership with local schools and community members in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and El Monte City School District (EMCSD).

“We are grateful to the Governor and Cal Fire for this crucial funding,” said Guillermo Rodriguez, Trust for Public Land’s California State Director and Vice President for the Pacific region. “We’ve developed almost 300 green schoolyard projects to create much-needed green spaces across the nation, and we are excited to scale up this critical work in California, where extreme heat and flooding are impacting our communities. Schoolyards with asphalt lots and minimal shade absorb heat and pose a danger to students, especially during the hottest times of the year when surfaces can reach over 112 degrees. Green schoolyards are essential infrastructure as temperatures get hotter year after year, and this initial investment is just one piece of the puzzle to mitigating this crisis”.

As a part of the funding, $12.375 million was awarded to green schools in LAUSD in partnership with Community Coalition and Promesa Boyle Heights. These schools will be a part of TPL’s “28×28” Initiative, which aims to green 28 schools in Los Angeles by the 2028 Olympics. The first completed schoolyard in LAUSD was unveiled at Castellanos Elementary School on January 31, 2024. The project transformed an asphalt lot into a green space with an outdoor learning classroom, a grass field, and more than two dozen new native California trees.

“We live in a neighborhood where there’s so much concrete,” said Sheridan Elementary School Principal Rachel Saldana in Boyle Heights. ”To have our kids in a park-like setting type of school and having them be exposed to nature would allow them to have a different learning experience where we can bring the classroom outdoors. I’m very thankful to have this collaboration with Promesa Boyle Heights because they not only serve our students but they also put our families as a priority. A green yard would make Sheridan Street a space that the entire community can enjoy.”

In addition to the LAUSD schools, EMCSD received $6 million to fund green schoolyard projects in partnership with Trust for Public Land and Active San Gabriel Valley (ActiveSGV), and building off of TPL’s successful Oakland Green Schoolyard pilot, OUSD was awarded a $5 million Implementation grant for two campuses and a $2.8 million Planning grant for 14 schoolyards in partnership with TPL.

“We know there is not enough green space in most urban settings, and that is certainly true in Oakland,” said Oakland Unified Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “The work that the Trust for Public Land is doing at our schools, with this amazing support from Cal Fire, has been life-changing for our students. Thousands of young people have already benefited from greener schoolyards because of our new TPL playgrounds. And we know that the mission of greening our school yards will accelerate with this Cal Fire funding. We thank Cal Fire for supporting the children of Oakland by helping to bring healthier, shadier, and more exciting play spaces to our schools.”

Studies show that spending time outdoors in nature can reduce stress, strengthen the ability to concentrate, decrease negative social behaviors, and even improve test scores [Trust For Public Land reports on Oakland and Los Angeles]. Additionally, replacing asphalt with trees, soil, plants, and mulch helps schoolyards reduce air pollution and heat, and by extension improves student health and their ability to learn.

“Greening schoolyards is not just about adding trees; it’s about creating vibrant outdoor spaces that inspire learning, foster connectivity, and bring the community closer to nature,” said David Diaz, ActiveSGV Executive Director. “Every greening feature is a step towards a healthier, more sustainable future for our children and community. We’re excited to be part of this initiative and cannot wait for greener El Monte schools!”

“In addition to the $18 million in public funds, TPL’s private donors contributed more than $5 million in support of the critical community organizing, engagement, and planting of larger trees to provide more immediate shade in high-heat schools, critical funds that state grants do not cover. Public and private partnerships are how you deliver environmental justice and nature-based climate solutions to communities that need them most,” added Guillermo Rodriguez. TPL is working to bring green schoolyards to every corner of the state. Every child, regardless of their zipcode, but particularly in low-income and park-poor communities, should have access to green space.

About the Trust for Public Land

Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 4 million acres of public land, created more than 5,364 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $93 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected nearly 9.4 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit