Nature and Science in East Bay Regional Parks

Parks: Pack Out Your Trash

by Ned MacKay

In light of some recent experience, now is probably as good a time as any for my more or less annual sermon about reducing litter in the parks.

I realize that I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but if that’s the case, you can help spread the gospel.

I often walk at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch, and invariably return from the hike with a harvest of discarded glass and plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Lots of other parks have the same problem. This is discouraging, because it’s not hard to pack out what you’ve carried in.

Of course you can’t compact glass bottles. But aluminum cans crush easily. The compacting technique with plastic water bottles is to unscrew the cap, squash the bottle, roll it up from the bottom, then screw on the cap again. When you return from the hike, many trailheads have recycle bins where you can dispose of your haul.

Discarded citrus peels are another matter. Yes, they will biodegrade, but it takes a really long time, and meanwhile they create an unsightly mess. And the wildlife doesn’t like the taste of orange peels any more than we do. So please carry out the peels.

The plastic sleeves in which this paper is delivered during rainy weather make excellent trash bags. They can also be used in a pinch to pick up your dog’s business.

Enough said.

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Speaking of Black Diamond Mines, there’s a mushroom safari scheduled there from 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Jan. 21, guided by naturalist Eddie Willis.

What with the recent heavy rains, there should be lots to see. But there won’t be any collecting; harvesting plants (or animals) is against the rules in the regional parks.

For the mushroom walk, meet Eddie in the parking lot at the end of Somersville Road, 3½ miles south of Highway 4.

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Next door at Contra Loma Regional Park, naturalist Kevin Dixon will lead a bird-watching walk from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20. Contra Loma’s reservoir is home to a variety of birds, and there’s a nice, mostly flat trail around it. Binoculars will be available for loan.

Contra Loma is at the end of Frederickson Lane off Golf Course Road. There’s a parking fee of $5 per vehicle. Meet Kevin in the main parking lot.

For information on either the mushroom program or bird walk, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

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Plankton and water bugs are the focus of a program from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20 at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. The naturalists will help visitors collect some plankton and macroinvertebrates (bugs) from the Delta waters to learn about their role in wetland ecology.

Big Break is at 69 Big Break Road off Oakley’s Main Street. Call 888-327-2757, ext. 3050 for information.

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At Tilden Nature Area near Berkeley, interpretive student aide Jessica Brownell plans a sun catcher program from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20 in the Environmental Education Center.

The group will make plant-themed sun catchers to reflect the winter sun.

And lambs and rabbits are on the agenda for two programs next door at the Little Farm.

From 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 21, naturalist Jenna Scimeca will introduce visitors to the Little Farm’s sheep, then help make mini-sheep from their wool to take home. Meet at the red barn.

Then from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. the same day Jenna will host a meet and greet with the Little Farm rabbits.

The center and Little Farm are at the north end of Tilden’s Central Park Drive. For more information on these programs, call 510-544-2233.

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Squid dissection is on the program at Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 20 or 21.

It’s part of Family Nature Fun, which explores a different topic at the same time every weekend in January and February.

Crab Cove is at 1252 McKay Ave. off Alameda’s Central Avenue. Call 510-544-3187.

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At Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont, naturalist Francis Mendoza will lead a “water is life” hike from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Jan. 21.

This is a generally flat three-mile stroll around the marsh, while Francis discusses the importance of water in our environment.

The hike is for ages 15 and older. Bring sturdy shoes, water, and a snack, meet at the front door of the visitor center. Heavy rain cancels the program.

Coyote Hills is at the end of Patterson Ranch Road off Paseo Padre Parkway. Call 510-544-3220 for information.

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There are lots of other programs to enjoy in the regional parks. For a complete listing, visit the website,