Cormorant Update 2018

The Double Crested Cormorant are back to the nesting tree. As of Feb 28th (the last time I checked) they have yet to reoccupy the tree they colonized last year above the playground next to the Rotary Nature Center.

You can get some close up time with the cormorants down on the channel, where they are often hunting on one tide or another.

They are wary of people and will often swim away, but sometimes if you are still enough, you’ll find them right beneath you — as in the photo below. Trailing bubbles as it searched the wall growth. It came up with a fish shortly after.

The prey was little silversides – one little school circling in the shallows, no doubt wary of the birds in the water nearby.

March 2nd update on the Rotary Nature Center

A couple of things happened this week.

One was an ad-hoc meeting organized by Katie Noonan and Stephen Cochrane (Wed 3/28/2018). We met at the Bellevue Club and talked about a range of issues, and identified a few things to look into, and talked about arranging visits to other Nature Centers in the area. We also had a little bit of heads up on the new below.

Friday’s update from Karis Griffin at OPRYD had some exiting news (3/2/2018):

Dear Community Partners,

I’m excited to update you on the progress we are making on the Rotary Nature Center.

We have retained the consulting services of Alan Briskin, a resident of Oakland and a facilitator of multi sector collaborative initiatives. To prepare Alan for the work ahead, he will be meeting with a core group, I will also be included in this group. Our task is to develop a process for a shared vision and an initial community gathering.

One of the key challenges and opportunities will be creating a Center that addresses diverse needs and interests from scratch. We must have a shared vision to do this.

Although 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 and creative funding initiatives.

This communication is sent on a weekly basis to keep you updated on the Rotary Nature Center project. We thank you for your continued patience and support.

We anticipate that we will need to move the community meeting towards the end of the month or the first week in April.

Again, thank you for your patience. We hope that all of you are as excited as we are.

Karis Griffin

Facilitator being engaged

The past couple weeks, the Oakland Parks, Recreation, and Youth Development Department (OPRYD) has been working to hire and contract with a facilitator to lead the process for the renewed Rotary Nature Center. An individual has been selected.
I don’t have the name of the individual on hand. Today’s update from OPYRD said: “little to report this week… still in the process of finalizing our contract with a facilitator.” They are also (in conjunction with some of our allies) “planning to visit a few nature sites in the area.”
This was a suggestion that came out of a meeting organized this past week at the Lake Chalet. The meeting was an ad hoc one meant to keep people talking and thinking on our hopes and dreams for the center. We were happy to have a couple representatives from the city attend, from OPRYD and Councilmember MacElhaney’s office.
Here’s the full update if you care to read:

A Center Piece of Lake Merritt

A follow up from the Jan 24th meeting, Karis Griffin from Oakland Parks, Recreation, and Youth Development details how they are currently moving forward. They are selecting someone to facilitate the process with a goal “to create a new Rotary Nature Center that is the center piece of Lake Merritt, the nature-oriented learning institution it was destined to be.”

Met and Greeted

January 24th, 2018, some 60+ people came out to the Lake Merritt Sailboat House on very rainy night to talk about the Rotary Nature Center and what it might become at an Oakland Parks, Recreation, and Youth Development (OPRYD) “Meet & Greet”.

OPRYD was represented by Nicholas Williams, Karis Griffin (along with others like Dianne Boyd, and some the remaining  staff of the Center, Leanne and Michelle) . The  audience represented a wide swath of neighbors and organizations working around the lake: eg The Rotary Club, The Lake Merritt Breakfast Club, Measure DD Committee, Lake Merritt Institute, Oakland Museum of California, our group, (Community for Lake Merritt), Alameda Beekeepers, Golden Gate Audubon, Oakland Beautification Council, Insect Sciences Museum of California, California Center for Natural History, and more There were scientists, illustrators, naturalists, interested neighbors, and a kid who got her momto come.

We’d been gathering our allies through our petition, social posts, and emails, to allied groups. C.J. Hirschfield of the Rotary Club, and Jennie Gerard of Weed Warriors and Lake Merritt Advocates in particular deserve much thanks for their efforts). A huge shoutout to our board member Katie Noonan for her efforts to get people interested and involved.

The meeting itself was simple, Nicholas and Karis opened and answered some questions about the closure and the base level plans. Jeri Martinez from Alameda Beekeepers talked about the state of the beehive from the Center  which currently resides in Jeri’s backyard, waiting for the right time to return to their queendom at the Center. Cindy Margulis from Golden Gate Audubon gave an update on the heron colony and plans to attract them back to the lake. She also gave an impassioned coda as to why the Center is so important.

From there we talked a little about the process… next step for the larger community, a meeting Saturday March 17th, 2018 for people to propose projects for the Rotary Nature Center. In between that time, the city will be hiring a facilitator and creating a committee to come up with a strategic framework.

Nicholas said he want-s to honor the original vision of the Center, to protect the tradition with a 2018 spin. When pressed he assured the crowd that it will always be a Nature Center

OPRYD seems interested in taking guidance from the community in planning the future of the Center. We hope we will see continued communication from staff on how things are progressing


  • There’s a lot of work to do.
  • Lots of challenges remain.
  • We have a community and staff who are ready and willing to be engaged.
  • Stay tuned for more about the March 17th meeting and how to keep involved!
  • Sign up to stay in touch!

The Channel

The Lake Merritt channel is not pristine land. it has over the years been subject to all sorts of development, and (as the picture at top shows) downright defilement.

Today, as of 2017, we are closer to its natural state then we have been for over 150 years. The end of the channel, near where the stadium is to be built is perhaps closest still to this picture of development and defilement. 880 runs overhead. A defunct poorly fenced bridge underneath that littered with trash. Train tracks further on run mere feet from the tide. A large pipeline crosses it, next to the tracks and the new Embarcadero bridge construction is beyond that.  Further towards the lake, a tide gate and pumping station sits underneath where East 8th meets 7th. BART runs somewhere beneath.

You might notice the garbage collecting on tide gate grills. Or the homeless regulars. If you’re up earlier you’ll find people doing Taichi or Qigong excercises. Parks and Peralta maintenance people buzz by. Cop cars sometimes congregate under 880. Fisherman stand patiently on the banks casting for Striped Bass. Gardners work the in the Laney community garden.

You might notice the birds. Gulls dropping shells on the pedestrian bridge by Peralta, a squad of cormorants working the channel, egrets stalking the sides. If you go there often, you might notice that their numbers change fluctuate, species come and go. A kingfisher chitters by; an osprey snags a branch for its nest; a raven bullies a hawk, crows bully the raven, a Mountain Bluebird peers out of a nesting box, a ground squirrel pops up from below, Buffleheads bob and weave, Coots squeak, Canada Geese lead their goslings, Goldeneyes dive.

If your lucky, you might peer into the water and see a bat ray grace its way through the water, or see a halibut darts by, or fins a school of anchovies wave back and forth at the tide gate, a snowy egret perching on the tide gate waiting to snag the unlucky.

In the winder birds dot the channel from its opening to the lake. It is the tide that carries them, and everything underneath them back and forth from Bay to Lake, Lake to Bay. I overhear people all the time around the lake wondering about the channel, surprised that our lake is not a lake, making fun of the lake birds for being plastic eating birds, or enjoying explaining that our lake is not a lake.

People peer over the bridges, stop to look. Or don’t, they keep talking to their friends, they keep running, walking, talking. The city has spent nearly $200 million dollars, in part, to make it a place that people want to come and spend time by it.