Home & Garden Columns

East Bay Parks Have Designs on Your Time By MARTA YAMAMOTO Special to the Planet

Friday March 03, 2006

Who’s ready to try something new? Want to track wildlife, plant heirloom potatoes, cast your line in that perfect loop, team up with your favorite llama or discover the culture of the Tuibun Ohlone? Sound compelling? Read on. 

Our East Bay Regional Park District is an amazing resource. On offer are over 95,000-acres encompassing 65 regional parks, recreation areas, wilderness, shorelines and preserves and 1,150 miles of hiking trails. Within is habitat for a wealth of wildlife, a native botanic garden, 235 family campsites and 2,082 picnic tables. Eleven freshwater lakes for water sports and nine interpretive centers. Isn’t this enough? Apparently not. 

With spring weather beginning to tease our senses, the urge to spend time outdoors beckons. We can revisit our favorites and even venture somewhere new. Add to that the opportunity to learn—a new activity, more about our natural surroundings, a new craft—all through the sponsorship of the East Bay Regional Park District. Across all ability levels and all ages, there’s something for everyone. 

Water and fishing have universal appeal. Trout or bass? At Del Valle the Basics of Trout Fishing is offered while at Shadow Cliffs you can hone your fly-casting skills. Bass Basics instructs from rigging to fish behaviors. For aquatics without fish try kayaking, from beginning skills and a full moon kayak to a kayaking tour of Brooks Island. 

Ready to hit the trails? You can join a llama day hike at Redwood Park or a backpacker’s trek in Sunol. Those with appendages other than arms and legs, namely young ones in strollers, can get in shape with Stroller Strides at Temescal Park. If you’re connected by leash to your best friend, a vigorous hike awaits in Peak Meanderings with a Buddy at Mission Peak Park. 

Often the desire exists but needs a little push. Being part of a group hike can be your motivation. Wednesday Walks meets weekly, exploring a new East Bay Park on each hike of two to six miles. Hiking in a wonderful environment among like-minded individuals with the knowledge of an accompanying naturalist is too much to pass up. For women hesitant to hike alone, Women On Common Ground, is a series of multi-park adventures, chasing moonbeams, investigating wildflower lures and discovering dramatic rock-studded terrain. 

Listening, talking, sharing, you’ll take away more than visual memories of the trails you pass. You’ll have fun while learning about California’s native plants, spotting peregrine falcon, improving your nature photography skills, investigating wood-duck habitats or learning to make rope—the choices are rich. 

At our own Tilden Regional Park, 18 activities are scheduled during the next two months. Ilana Peterson, Senior Office Assistant in the Environmental Education Center, spoke of the popularity of Tilden Tots and Tilden Explorers, both outdoor adventure programs for kids. Sushi Basics, where preparation and sampling of seven types of sushi shares the stage with the cultural and natural history of this ancient treat, plays to a full house.  

Most activities here focus on the Little Farm, where the cow barn is nearing completion, and Jewel Lake, home to waterfowl, turtles and amphibians. While some classes are age specific, like Weather Whizzes, where kids make their own weather tools, others are open to all ages. Entire families can enjoy pond collection and identification and morning chores at the farm. 

From the hills to the bay. At Alameda’s Crab Cove, Bethany Facedini, park naturalist, has a mission reflected in the bilingual activities on offer. Her goal is to attract non-traditional groups to the park, starting with the young. School children, sent home with fun, ecological experiences and information bookmarks, often return with their multigenerational families. Only by making use of a natural resource can one learn to value its worth. Vengan a explorar la vida del estuario! 

By exploring animal habitats in mudflats and rocky shore; joining Sea Siblings, Sea Squirts and Sea Explorers; turning over rocks at low tide; and learning about watersheds, the future of our natural environment takes another positive step. 

Sunol Regional Park, south of Pleasanton, is off the beaten track, but well worth the trek. Weekends bring many visitors to this remote wilderness, home to Little Yosemite and high-rising escarpments, and many join drop-in activities. 

While strenuous hikes are on offer, other activities focus on the park’s animal inhabitants like newts, snakes and birds as well as Indian Joe Creek and Cave Rocks. 

Worth planning ahead for is Sunol’s Third Annual Wildflower Festival, set for Saturday, April 8. The Old Green Barn Visitor Center’s Jo Frisch numbered last year’s event at over three hundred participants. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., naturalists and volunteers lead wildflower hikes of varying lengths and present slide shows highlighting the area’s flora and butterflies. Planned crafts like pressed flower bookmarks and painted faces offer take home mementos. A day worthy of a mark on the calendar. 

Resources shouldn’t be wasted, by over-use or under-use. Sample what’s on offer by the East Bay Parks. Take a page from Bethany Facendini’s book—participate and become a steward of nature. 


Regional In Nature Activity Guides are published every two months. Copies can be picked at all park Interpretive Centers. Information is also available on line at www.ebparks.org. Some classes require registration and a fee.