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 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.

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

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

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

Rotary Nature Center: Opening This Fall (2018)

Updated – Jan 1st, 2019: the Center will have a grand opening Saturday February 16, 2019.

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 series of meeting with the community this spring and summer of 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.

11 proposals were submitted before the last meeting, and 5 were discussed at the meeting (and a 6th was accepted as well). The proposals were great and we look forward to helping to see them fulfilled. Karis Griffin said that the center would open sometime this summer.

Recent news (mid July) from the core committee tells us that the opening is now in the fall.

You can dig into the proposals here.

In the meantime, the Oakland Capital Improvement Program is an additional place we might be able to get funds. They are holding meetings in June to gather feedback on their process and priorities.

Sign up for our email to stay up to date