Reviving Rivers as Hearts of Healthy Communities

By partnering with local communities, we give new life to rivers and create positive impacts that extend far beyond the river’s edge

We partner with a diverse range of stakeholders, including community organizers, farmers, scientists, NGOs, California Tribes, elected officials, and others to build healthier communities, stronger economies, and greater open-space access, especially for historically under-served communities.

Providing access to green space and nature has been shown to improve mental health and reduce stress, even helping people live longer and happier lives. Restoring natural vegetation along rivers also improves air and water quality, especially in farming regions where pollution and dust from heavy machinery is a public health concern.

Fast-growing forests along California’s degraded rivers are exactly what’s needed to make a difference during a decade that experts say is pivotal for the planet’s and our long-term health. New forests on degraded lands statewide also supports important conservation efforts like California’s 30X30 initiative, which aims to conserve 30% of the state’s land and coastal waters by 2030, and Outdoors for All initiative.

  • Rivers offer excellent outdoor recreation opportunities, yet not everyone in California has equal access. The San Joaquin Valley offers the fewest parks per capita of anywhere in California
  • Lack of access to the outdoors disproportionately affects historically under-served communities of color, who often live near river corridors
  • Communities in the San Joaquin Valley often experience higher rates of heart disease, obesity, and asthma compared to other regions with more access to parks
  • Reviving rivers can improve public health, build strong local economies, and help address inequities in natural resource and outdoor access
  • Restoring riverways will inject hundreds of millions of dollars into the sustainable restoration economy, benefiting local economies
  • Restoration projects can create hundreds of good-paying green jobs

Outdoors for Everyone

For many people living in California, it’s not difficult to find a nearby park or open space. However, that’s not the case for everyone.

For decades, the San Joaquin Valley has been overlooked when it comes to conservation and open space access. In fact, it offers the fewest parks per capita of anywhere in California. Lack of access to the outdoors disproportionately affects communities of color.

Access to parks and open space isn’t just a matter of convenience; it’s linked to important issues such as public health, equity, and economic prosperity. For example, communities in the San Joaquin Valley often experience higher rates of heart disease, obesity, and asthma compared to other regions in California.

By restoring riverways in partnership with local communities, we can improve access to recreational opportunities, promote equity, enhance public health, and create green jobs that boost economic prosperity.

Take the Grayson Riverbend Preserve, located next to the Latino farming community of Grayson in Stanislaus County. River Partners restored nearly 300 acres of flood-prone farmland into a thriving riverside forest.

Soon, the Preserve will become the newest addition to the nearby 7,500-acre San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge, expanding essential habitat for people, and wildlife, to enjoy.

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Empowering Communities through Multi-Benefit River Restoration

At our 2,100-acre Dos Rios Ranch Preserve located in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, we partnered with the California Indian Basketweavers Association and Tuolumne River Me-Wuk Indians to plant a Native Use Garden and obtain first-of-its-kind federal authorization that creates a new model for expanding indigenous access to restored landscapes. Access to these materials helps to preserve and pass down the knowledge and skills essential in keeping their traditions and way of life alive.

Over a decade of restoration at Dios Rios Ranch has also grown jobs and supported the local economy by channeling $40 million in competitive grants and revenue back into the local community. As with all of our restoration, reviving riverways also improves flood safety, water conservation, carbon storage, wildlife habitat, and more access to the outdoors.

In 2022, California State Parks chose Dos Rios Ranch to become California’s newest state park, the first in 13 years. This will dramatically expand recreational opportunities in the park-starved San Joaquin to be enjoyed by individuals and families for generations to come.

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