Rotary Nature Center: Program Proposals Due April 30th.

If you’ve been by the Rotary Nature Center in the last year, you will have noticed that the Center has been closed. The building is undergoing inspection and assessment, and a planning process to reopen it. Animals and the bees have been relocated from the building.

Good News: The Oakland Parks, Recreation, & Youth Development department is accepting program proposals for a reopened Rotary Nature Center. The city held a meeting with the community to discuss this and other things April 7th, 2018. This meeting was led by facilitator Alan Briskin along with a small committee including CJ Hirschfield of Fairyland, Jennie Gerard of Weed Warriors, and James Robinson of LMI.

Proposals: More information about the proposals and background can be found hereProposals are due April 30th, 2018

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The Inside Cleanup Continues

One plus of the clean up, was a chance for a peak into the Nature Center and a look at what’s happening. After months of looking like nothing had happened, there is now a lot of things being moved around inside.

rnc - 1

Karis Griffin of OPRYD said in her last update, that “all taxidermy is being wrapped and boxes as recommended by a professional taxidermist–for safe keeping–except for the mountain lion, eagles, skeleton heads of small mammals and other taxidermy which were sealed under glass.”

There is not currently a date set for the end of cleaning, but she is hopeful she will know by the 27th of April, 2018.

She also provided this general info. There are:

  • 4 tables,
  • 30 chairs (which belong to the beekeeper)
  • 2 desks
  • 1 conference table

The Library is 22’x15′ (with 2 outlets)
The Office is 17’x12′ (with 4 outlets)
The Auditorium is 31′ x 27′ (with 2 outlets)
The Front Entry is 8’x27′
There is also a “modestly appointed” kitchen with 4 outlets. But shouldn’t be counted on as a space for use.
There is no storage available and no restrooms inside. (The restrooms were originally accessible from the inside, but the inner door was closed and the restrooms are only available from the outside).

They also provided a list of taxidermy from 2012, but have not yet tallied that to what they are cleaning up now.

Earth Day Clean Up

April 21st, 2018, we organized a clean up crew through Adopt a Spot. About 12 of us over the course of 3 hours — members of Community for Lake Merritt, City Staff, the Rotary, and others — worked to clean up the grounds of the Rotary Nature Center — in particular the Bee Garden.

rnc before IMG_0753

Some 30+ bags of garden waste later things were looking much better. There is still plenty of work to do, so we hope to organize more regular work on the grounds.

rnc after IMG_1075

We also planted some Dutchman’s Pipevine as well to hopefully provide a good spot for wandering Pipevine Swallowtails.

Cormorant April ‘18 Nesting Update

I’d noted earlier in the year that the cormorants had not returned to the nests on landside — the tree above the playground.

But after our big rain last week, I found that maybe half a dozen cormorants are nesting in the tree — and several in a new tree further to the east.

Last year, these nests did not seem to have any results, so it’ll be interesting to see if anything comes of it this year.

As I was watching I noted a fox squirrel climbing the one tree, and proceeded to roust upset cormorants from their nests to investigate.

Hard to tell if it found anything, whether it was looking for cached food or an egg or two. The cormorants barely made an effort to defend and the squirrel was only slightly wary.

Raccoons are on the islands as well, so maybe its surprising any eggs hatch on any of the trees.

Earthday Clean up – April 21st, 2018

FREE! Join us on Earth Day, Saturday April 21st, to help clean up the area around the Rotary Nature Center.

We’ll be doing weeding, and cleanup of trash and materials around the center. We might plant a little bit, and put down compost and enjoy the day, the birds, and what other nature goodies we come across.

We can share with you plans for the Rotary Nature Center. We hope to see it open soon.

April 7th Community Meeting

The April 7th community meeting brought together about 3 dozen people to meet with Oakland Parks, Recreation & Youth Development about the opening of the Rotary Nature Center and what that could look like. This was led by Alan Briskin, a facilitator hired by the city, Karis Griffin — the representative of OPRYD — and the RNC reopening committee, C.J. Hirschfield of Fairyland, James Robinson of Lake Merritt Institute, and Jennie Gerard of Weed Warriors. Nicholas Williams the director of OPRYD was unfortunately unable to come because of illness.

The agenda was as follows:

  • Introduction and Orientation by Alan Briskin
  • A few minutes talking to someone we didn’t know at the meeting
  • (The longest session) Initial framework, priorities, and big questions
    • These were items (retyped below – under creating a shared vision) that the committee brought, read to us, and were discussed by us
    • There was a lot of discussion around these items, in particular budget, and what is currently present at the center, the possibilities of reaching out beyond the walls of the center and engaging with younger people, kids, and their parents, and schools being an important piece of that.
  • Small team breakouts
    • Talking about who we are our vision, and concerns
  • Expectations for proposal submissions
  • Closing hand shaking ceremony

Attendees included: Community for Lake Merritt, LMI, Pollinator Posse, Insect Sciences Museum of CA, Wholly H20, Golden Gate Audubon, Fairyland, Rotary Club, Alameda Beekeepers, Lake Merritt Breakfast Club, Weed Warriors, Oakland Walking Tours, Feather River Camp, OPRYD, Public Works, OMCA, the OMCA Green Team, and a number of interested neighbors (and probably some others I missed)

Outcome – Program Proposals due 4/30/18

I’ve typed up details about the proposals and priorities, proposals are due April 30th, 2018 and should follow the RNC Template.

This is not a competition – OPRYD seeks to reinforce the value of cooperation and services as a means to achieve a greater good.

Some unknowns/Follow up

Karis Griffin said she would provide some insight on the following:

  • What budget exists for staffing and maintenance. There is no budget for programs, but the City has indicated there will be a naturalist on staff.
  • The current state of the Rotary Nature Center and its contents, particularly the taxidermy.

Meeting Documents

(The below statements and questions are retyped from handouts provided on the day of the meeting. They provided the guidance for the conversations we had through the morning)

Creating a shared vision for the Rotary Nature Center

Beauty * Wonder * A Jewel * Attractor * Incubator * Hub * Portal

“When a group is clear about a shared vision, an almost magnetic field develops that draws people in” — a comment shared during the core meeting.

An initial vision for a shared vision

  • We have the opportunity to re-connect the Rotary Nature Center to people, organizations, and agencies throughout the Bay Area and beyond.
  • We can be a learning center, information center, and hub for programs and activities that reach out to
    • Youth
    • Adults
    • Seniors
  • Our potential lies in how we reach beyond the Rotary Nature Center’s walls.
  • We should have the mindset of “connecting the dots:” being inclusive, always learning and evolving.

Initial priorities & opportunities

  • Developing programs and activities that reach out to all ages (youth, adults, seniors) and all areas of Oakland.
  • Developing synergies among various individuals, agencies, and institutions that serve Lake Merritt and the Rotary Nature Center (there is a treasure house of people, volunteers, institutions, community groups, funding agencies. etc, that can contribute to our success).
  • To become a symbol and attractor for what it means to become a good environmental citizen.
  • To become stewards & educators of Lake Merritt, the Wildlife Refuge, and the Pacific Flyway, a natural portal into the wonders of nature, wildlife, and science.
  • To be constructive partners with agencies supporting the health & vitality of Lake Merritt and advocates for the beauty, value, utility, and wonders of water & wildlife.
  • A resource to nurture STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) for all ages and demographic groups.
  • A hub for encouraging the relationships of art, music, and creativity alongside nature wildlife, and the outdoors.

Big Questions to Guide the Journey

  • How can the lake itself be a center for learning and education?
  • What are exceptional practices for exhibits, outreach, and nature education in the Bay Area and beyond.
  • How can we increasingly coordinate and communicate among all the agencies and community partners that are for and make use of Lake Merritt
  • How do we best connect and partner with universities, museums, schools, and other nature centers?
  • How do we ensure that we develop programs that reach our to all parts of Oakland and beyond?
  • How do we establish ourselves as an access point for children (and their families) to the joys and wonder of wildlife and nature?
  • How can we best showcase the beauty, science, and value of water, wildlife, birds, bugs, bees, etc?
  • What kinds of permanent or temporary exhibits might best enhance our mission of being a center that is welcoming, accessible, and educational?
  • How can we be a partner and incubator for funding worthwhile programs and initiatives?
  • What kind of field trips, curriculum, art, and science can we promote through the nature center?
  • What kinds of revenue generating initiatives are possible?
  • How can we keep learning and evolving as a nature center?

Things to keep in mind

  • There is currently no dedicated funding for programming. We believe it is possible to invite individuals, volunteers, and organizations to sponsor programs based on cost recovery, voluntary service, and creative funding initiatives.
  • We are fortunate to have an incredible network of people, organizations, and agencies committed to nature, conservation, wildlife, and the beauty and wonder of our environment. Let’s use these resources wisely and in the spirit of cooperation and respect.
  • Initial decisions on programming will be inspired by community input and vetted by the core team in consultation with relevant parties.

Key Cautions

  • We are respectful but not rigidly wed to what has been done in the past.
  • We remain vigilant that the variety of our programs and the geographical reach of our programs extend out to the diverse populations and all areas of Oakland.
  • We do not “overprogram” within the center itself — leaving open space and time for leisure, spontaneity, and emergence.
  • We respect that everyone is beyond busy — we must cultivate the quality of relationships and strategies that motivate us to stay connected and committed.

Next meeting, Sat, Apr 7, 2018: 9am-noon

My App Timehop noted a sad anniversary today: that of the closing of the Rotary Nature Center last year.

We’re finally coming to some concrete steps moving forward to a new and reinvigorated Center.

Todays’s update form Karis Griffin of OPRYD, brought to light her committee to govern and guide this effort, a fine crew of Lake Merritt stalwarts: C.J. Hirschfield (E.D. of Fairyland and involved with Rotary Club and many other things), Jennie Gerard (a veteran of city hall, and founder of Weed Warriors, and Lake Merritt Advocates), James Robinson (E.D. of Lake Merritt Institute), and the aforementioned Alan Briskin (the facilitator hired by the city).

The next public meeting is set for Saturday, April 7th, 2018 from 9am to noon. This meeting will be held at Studio One, 365 45th Street, in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland.

If you plan to attend, please RSVP to parksandrec@oaklandnet.com

The committee went together this past Thursday to the Berkeley Shorebird Park Nature Center, to visit a potential model for our Nature Center (well worth a visit if you have not been — they have a pretty amazing docent program too).

The agenda for this meeting is