Victoria Ag Climate Education Experience
Growing Riverside's Future
VICTORIA AG AND CLIMATE EDUCATION EXPERIENCE (V-ACE)
CURE is proposing to coordinate with local growers and NGOs to lease and plant an interim urban forest with the potential for a student climate adaptation/farm demonstration project for work force development. This interim project aims to improve the natural beauty of historic Victoria Avenue at an iconic location across from Poly High, measure carbon capture, reduce ambient temperatures, and make the property itself economically productive. Working with RUSD, a curriculum would be developed for an ag and climate adaptation experience to provide RUSD students with after- school courses to increase job opportunities in agriculture, climate
resilience, irrigation training, and food sustainability.
Tree canopies reduce air pollution, ambient heat, and energy bills. COVID-19 further reinforced the need for sustainable and local agriculture for better health. According to the American Lung Association of California, Riverside has some of the worst air quality in the nation. Riverside however is blessed with ample water and excellent soils for urban farming. Capitalizing on these benefits, V-ACE would provide a demonstration project that could be replicated elsewhere in this region.
CURE has worked closely with the Riverside Public Utilities and the Office of Sustainability to set aside a percentage of affordable water for maintaining and for expanding tree canopies and urban agriculture. CURE has been a supporter of Grow Riverside and the Riverside Food System Alliance since their inception. The V-ACE demonstration project would measure the environmental and economic benefits of setting aside land and water for these purposes and would monetize the importance of investing long-term in climate resiliency while training our next generation.
Learn more about how you can support CURE’s efforts at www.curegroup.org. CURE is a 501(c) (3) located in Riverside, with a decades of experience championing balanced environmental and economic projects in the region.
Gov. Newsom advanced an executive order outlining a goal to conserve 30% of the state’s land and coastal water by 2030 to fight species loss and ecosystem destruction. CURE wants to help Riverside be one of the first cities to embrace the concept.
“We still have a sufficient amount of water and a desperate need for trees,” CURE Executive Director Malissa McKeith said. “Our first defense to climate change is the planting and defense of trees.”
CURE has also sponsored legal research to support litigation that will enforce parts of the government earmarking water for tree planting in an effort to reduce air pollution and heat. According to CURE, research links air pollution and respiratory disease to increased susceptibility to COVID-19 and planting trees can offset pollution, improve quality of life and protect public health.
A rendering of the proposed Victoria Urban Forest. Citizens United for Resources and the Environment (CURE) wants to build the project on a 10-acre parcel adjacent to Poly High School in Riverside, California.
Recently, CURE commissioned the design for its Victoria Urban Forest on a 10-acre parcel adjacent to Poly High School. CURE hopes to lease the parcel, owned by Riverside Unified School District, and transform it into an urban forest with 2,000 oak and pine trees planted on 7 acres of the parcel. Work on the forest will include experimenting with irrigation techniques, measuring carbon capture, soil replenishment and exploring innovative ideas to address climate change.
Working with the school district and Riverside Food Systems Alliance, CURE hopes to create an innovative after-school program that will introduce students to skills useful for jobs in climate-related fields including arboriculture, water management and agriculture.
“I think it’s an exciting time to be doing projects like this,” McKeith said. “If we can educate our youth in these careers, we could see normative change.”
CURE is primarily a volunteer-run organization and depends on contributions of time and funding to pursue its mission. Recently the organization received a grant from the Riverside County Nonprofit Assistance Fund through Inland Empire Community Foundation. The organization is poised to expand, is focused on capacity-building and will require more community support as it grows.
McKeith believes that conserving land has benefits beyond available open space and environmental protection. The organization also is committed to retaining Riverside’s 5,000-acre Greenbelt, which was zoned in the 1970s for agriculture. Urban agriculture can be used for job training, providing jobs to those in need, and addressing local food scarcity. Preserving and utilizing this open space can also create a buffer between home and wildlands, adding a layer of protection from floods and fires, McKeith said.
CURE is currently forwarding a proposal for leasing the property that would be home to the Victoria Urban Forest. For McKeith, this is one of the steps in ensuring that the city of Riverside will be a coveted place to live when California is facing climate change and higher temperatures.
“When people ask what I do, I say social engineering,” McKeith said. “When 25 years from now other places are barren and we are green, it’s going to make the city more desirable.”