For a moment, this past Saturday, Feb 16th, 2019, it looked like it was going to be a miserable day. Volunteers had begun arriving to set up tables at 1130, and shortly after we’d gotten settled it began to pour with rain. We’d already had a good set of people stopping by, many people eager to have a look at the Center.
But the skies cleared, and people started arriving en mass. The Community for Lake Merritt board was out, helping dissect owl pellets, a game for looking at bird feet, looking at insects, and pollinators. Lake Merritt Observatory had an excellent “From the Bottom Up” table with things taken out of the lake, water testing, and someone helping interpret the new Mutual Air Bell (and air quality art project). Golden Gate Audubon was down by the water showing people the birds.
Inside, OPYRD Director Nicholas Williams started off the proceedings by unveiling a plaque in appreciation of the Core Team who have worked for the last year setting plans and policy into place. The group, which is disbanded as of the opening, has included Karis Griffin of OPRYD, Alan Briskin consultant, C.J. Hirschfield of Fairyland, James Robinson of the Lake Merritt Institute and community activist Jennie Girard. He went on to thank other groups who have contributed including Community for Lake Merritt which brought in the substantial donation which paid for the refurbishment, and the partner organizations.
Mayor Libby Schaaf then took the stage to thank everyone and honor Stephanie Benavides for her contributions to the RNC over the last 40 years. She shared her own childhood experiences at the RNC being mentored by Stephanie and shared the Patricia Polacco picture book, I Can Hear the Sun, written about Stephanie. Stephanie was also awarded a plaque to hang in the RNC and while local children held both ends she, together with the new lead naturalist, Angelina Manno, cut the ribbon officially reopening the RNC.
- Photos are courtesy of John Kirkmire. More of his excellent photos are at LakeMerritt.org
The Rotary Nature Center has been opened to its full hours since March 12, 2019 with our new Naturalist Program Director Joe Moore (since June 2019).
Hours are Tue, Thu, Fri, and Sat 10-4. Closed Mon, Wed, and Sun
Katie Noonan will be leading an Adopt-A-Spot cleanup Saturday January 5th, 2019 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Volunteers needed. Please join, help cleanup before the Feb 16th Grand Opening.
Check out the new paint job on the building and you might get a chance to peek inside (if the windows in the garden are not papered over at least.)
Exciting news from Golden Gate Audubon, they will be offering three courses at the Rotary Nature Center starting in January on into the Spring. Courses include:
- Introduction to the Wintering Birds of Lake Merritt
- Bird as Icon in Nature & Culture: Black-Crowned Night Heron
- Nature Journaling in the Heart of Oakland (Winter thru Spring)
- Discover Nesting Colonial Water Birds in Oakland
More info can be found on the GGAS website.
Karis Griffin announced a grand opening celebration for the Rotary Nature Center this coming February 16th, 2019. A Saturday from 1-3:30pm.
Join us – RSVP here on Facebook to let us know you are coming. (If you don’t do Facebook — which I can understand — please put it in your calendar! )
Over the past year, the city has been working to clean the facility up — with the guidance of Karis and her “core team” Alan Briskin, C.J. Hirschfield, Jennie Gerard, and James Robinson. If you’ve been by the building recently, you’ll notice it has a fresh coat of paint. On the inside, they’ve also repainted, and are laying out new floors. They are also building an interior restroom, and a door out to the butterfly garden, among other things.
Community for Lake Merritt has been biding its time, and this past December our board met with the Core group (plus Nicholas Williams the head of OPRYD, and Ken Lupoff head of OPF), to discuss how our group help the Rotary Nature Center once it has opened.
We at Community for Lake Merritt are excited that the Nature Center will be soon open again and are committed to helping any way we can to help its success — as well as the programs announced in 2018. We are hoping to also help facilitate the involvement of a much larger community.
There’s still plenty of things to be done, and open questions, but it’s very exciting to be at the stage where the Nature Center will soon be open and functioning again.
I have been going to the advisory committee meetings for Measure DD for a few years now. This is representatives of various groups and communities who meet with the Measure DD project manager to discuss the progress of various projects and to give advice and direction on what should or should not be pushed for.
One small project that had escaped my attention — that came up in the most recent of meetings — was the design of 6 interpretive signs. These would be distributed about the lake – but two were meant for the Rotary Nature Center area.
Members of the committee rightly pointed out that the signs ought to be multi-lingual, and that additional content could be placed on the web. Especially, if (as described to us) the intent was to help get across the message of not feeding the birds, and good more generally given the diversity of Oakland.
The lack of signs around the lake has always been a bit surprising, and Community at Lake Merritt had been looking at working on signs of our own, so it’s good to know this has been thought about.
It is nice to know a little bit of funding has ended up near the Rotary Nature Center — but I do wish I could rewind the clock to get the Center listed as one of the projects in Measure DD.
The project had been stalled because it lost both a designer and a project manager. It recently got a new project manager with a designer still needed to be found.
We are looking at participating in Oakland’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) June meetings.
The meetings are meant for gathering feedback on priorities and process: how to evaluate what projects should go forward. It’s a little unclear how the meetings are meant to work, and what feedback they are asking for. It does not seem like they want to hear about individual projects per se.
They are also seeking community input through an online survey for those who can’t attend. It is a short <5 minute survey.
Events are June 20th (eve) and on two Saturdays June 23 and 30th.
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.
From today’s update from OPRY&D tomorrow Saturday, June 2nd, we will hear five proposals for programs at the Rotary Nature Center.
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:
- Birds Are Natural Ambassadors for Nature, Science, Art, & Community –Cindy Margulis
- Bar Code the Lake – Damon Tighe
- Learning to Know Nature Through the Senses – Jennifer Jastrab
- S.T.E.M. Projects for Youth at the Rotary Nature Center – Katie Noonan
- Taking Wing – Donald Cooper