Rotary Nature Center Meeting Report: June 2nd 2018

5 proposals were presented and discussed at the June 2nd meeting at the Lake Merritt Garden Center.

Barcode the Lake – Damon Tighe of California Center for Natural History

Birds Are Natural Ambassadors for Nature, Science, Art, & Community – Cindy Margulis of Golden Gate Audubon

Knowing Nature Thru Art –  Jennifer Jastrab of Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants

Lake Merritt Observatory – Katie Noonan of Lake Merritt Institute (among other things!)

Exploring Urban Park Biodiversity – Donald Cooper (Eddie Dunbar presented at the meeting) of Insect Sciences Museum of California

The Core group is having follow up meetings with these groups & individuals to see what the next steps are. Karis Griffin indicated the Center would open sometime this summer, though no firm date was presented.

It was a little disappointing that we did not have the opportunity to present our own proposal due to a missed email.

Rotary Nature Center Update – June 1

From today’s update from OPRY&D tomorrow Saturday, June 2nd, we will hear five proposals for programs at the Rotary Nature Center.

June 2nd

9:00am – noon:30

Lakeside Park Garden Center

666 Bellevuey Ave

For each proposal, there will be about 10 minutes for a high level summary and 10 minutes for community questions and support. The five presentations will be the following:

  1.  Birds Are Natural Ambassadors for Nature, Science,  Art, & Community –Cindy Margulis
  2. Bar Code the Lake – Damon Tighe
  3. Learning to Know Nature Through the Senses – Jennifer Jastrab
  4. S.T.E.M. Projects for Youth at the Rotary Nature Center – Katie Noonan
  5. Taking Wing  –  Donald Cooper

May 26 Rotary Nature Center Update

As per Karis Griffin’s latest updates from OPR&YD:

  • The department plans top open the center in June or July
  • Cleaning is complete, and the center has passed air quality tests.
  • The June 2nd meeting is confirmed for 9am-noon at the Lakeside Park Garden Center, 666 Bellevue Ave.
    • Initial proposals will be reviewed. The city is excited about the proposals that have come int.
    • The community is invited to attend along with the individuals presenting.
    • They will continue seeking partnerships for other programs if/when they come forward.
    • These initial proposals (submitted as per these guidelines) helped them to clarify the emerging criteria and came up with answers to commonly asked questions (please see below)
    •  Please RSVP by Wednesday, May 30th, to Space is limited do they want to know how many to expect.
    • Presenters will have about 10 minutes to talk with another 10 minutes for questions and clarifications.
    • The core team will be present as fellow listeners but will not be there to approve or decline proposals.

Commonly Asked Questions

Questions Answers
What is the role of Oakland Public Works in support of RNC? RNC is a City facility and will be supported by Oakland Public Works.
How will maintenance of the RNC be provided? The City will continue providing custodial and maintenance coverage for RNC.
Can requests be made of specific taxidermy items when identified in proposals? Yes, we can make specific items available for use with programs at the Rotary Nature Center facility, assuming the items are in condition to be released.
Who will be the person in charge of the RNC? Karis Griffin, Recreation Supervisor, will be responsible for RNC.
What will be the days and hours of operation? Determination for operating hours has not been finalized, but we anticipate a regular schedule of daily hours during the weekdays.
Will there be staffing for night events and weekends? Staffing will be made available for night events and weekend programs as needed.
Will there be a naturalist associated with RNC activities, including being present at the RNC site, related areas and outreach? Yes, there will be staff trained as  naturalists operating alongside the Rotary Nature Center.  This may take the form of support for programs, outreach, and on-site activities.  We currently have 2 nearly full time positions and part time support as well.
Will there be staff always present during RNC operating hours? There will be staff present during RNC operating hours.
What about insurance? The RNC and its staff are insured by the City of Oakland.  Specific programs not associated with the City will need their own liability insurance.


What is the current status of clean up and air quality within the site? Cleanup of RNC has been completed.  We anticipate all safety measures, including air quality, will meet and exceed acceptable standards.
How large a group can fit comfortably in the RNC building? TBD.  We will be upgrading areas within the physical building, including the library area.

Criteria for Program Partnerships with the Rotary Nature Center

  • The primary purpose of the program must be about nature – and the diverse ways we understand and interact with the natural world.  This can include scientific investigation, knowing nature through our senses, eco-literacy, relevance to well being, expressive art, literature etc.
  • Programs must be inclusive.  We encourage existing communities and specific populations (i.e. at risk youth, underserved, veterans, seniors, etc.) to partner with the RNC, but as a City agency we hold to the principles of inclusiveness and equity.
  • Programs will be subject to agreed upon duration of time, such as use of the RNC every Saturday morning from 10 am to noon, Sept. 2018 through May 2019. Agreements can be extended with agreement from both parties.
  • Programs and related exhibits cannot be permanently housed at the Rotary Nature Center.  All permanent exhibits must be authorized by the Director of Oakland Parks, Recreation and Youth Development on behalf of the City.  However, temporary exhibits can be showcased on a case by case basis with permission from Karis Griffin,  OPR&YD supervisor for the Rotary Nature Center.  Please be aware that storage space, in general, is quite limited.
  • During the first year of operation, emphasis will be placed on learning what kinds of partnerships and programs are most beneficial.  A general framework has been developed with priorities and key questions that will guide the process.  Individual ideas for long term plans or specific ideas requiring significant planning, execution, cost, and staff resources will not be a priority during the first year.
  • Community groups wishing to support the priorities outlined in the framework document through volunteer efforts, networking, and fund raising will be encouraged and embraced.

The Swallows of Lake Merritt

One of my little markers of the season is the swallows. Sometime in April (maybe I’ll pin the exact date someday, I first saw them April 9th this year), swallows appear at the lake and begin nesting.

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The channel is where I first noted them: Northern Rough Winged Swallows nest in light fixtures and drains under 280, and now the 10th st bridge. They have a strange and unique chattering call. I watched as one sorted 3 inch sticks to carry up into the darkness of a drain.

Cliff swallows built these amazing little mud nests on Laney College buildings and on the 12th bridge (maybe they’ll start new ones on the 10th as well), this year in 2018 (and maybe previous years, if so I missed it) on the Oakland Auditorium building. Cliff swallows seem to get up high into the sky too, you might see then swirling high above Laney.

2018 - 1 (1)

Low tide you can sometimes see them come get the mud for their nests. Rough Wings seem to stick closer to the surface, zooming back and forth over the water, though you’ll see Cliff Swallows doing it as well. In fact, standing on the 12th street bridge (as of mid May) you get a pretty good view of them as they skim across the surface.

Violet Green Swallows also come to the lake but they are on the northside (cliff and northern rough wings can also be found in other places around the lake). If you find a large lawn like the ones over by the Bellevue Club you’ll can find them zooming about.

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Rotary Nature Center cleaning complete

Karis’s Griffin’s weekly email of May 11th, 2018 indicated that “the cleanup of the RNC is finally complete. The boxes [of taxidermy] are expected to be moved out of the building in the next two weeks.”

The next public meeting is confirmed for Saturday, June 2nd 9am to 12:30pm at the Lake Merritt Garden Center.

Attendees should come prepared to:

  • Review the proposals that have been submitted
  • Discuss and share ideas with each presenter

The proposal deadline is still March 21, 2018

Next Community Meeting, June 2, 2018

Karis Griffin, in her May 4th, 2018 update, reported a number of things.

  • The first level of clean up has been completed. Taxidermy has been boxed and stored (until further notice) as per advice from professionals.
  • Additional cleanup continues (with a hoped for opening over the summer).
  • The deadline for program proposals has been extended until May 21st, 2018.
  • The next community meeting has been scheduled for June 2, 2018, 9am-12:30pm to be held at the Lake Merritt Garden Center, 666 Bellevue Avenue, 94610, where programs will be presented by the community.

Let us know if you are coming here:

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.

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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.