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.

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