Lake Merritt Observatory Youth Activities -Winter/Spring 

Exciting news from Lake Merritt Observatory (STEM Activities for Youth), one of the projects approved by the Rotary Nature Center core committee, continuing activities in the spring:

  • Water quality testing
  • Exploring the Lake’s aquatic community with iNaturalist
  • Underwater robotic vehicle expeditions (with OpenROV)
  • Science careers in our community

Volunteer Cleanup Sat, Jan 5th

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.)

Audubon RNC Winter/Spring Classes

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.

Rotary Nature Center – opening soon!

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.

Measure DD: Interpretive Signs at the Lake

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.

Oakland Capital Improvement Program

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.


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.