Earthday Clean up – April 21st, 2018

FREE! Join us on Earth Day, Saturday April 21st, to help clean up the area around the Rotary Nature Center.

We’ll be doing weeding, and cleanup of trash and materials around the center. We might plant a little bit, and put down compost and enjoy the day, the birds, and what other nature goodies we come across.

We can share with you plans for the Rotary Nature Center. We hope to see it open soon.

April 7th Community Meeting

The April 7th community meeting brought together about 3 dozen people to meet with Oakland Parks, Recreation & Youth Development about the opening of the Rotary Nature Center and what that could look like. This was led by Alan Briskin, a facilitator hired by the city, Karis Griffin — the representative of OPRYD — and the RNC reopening committee, C.J. Hirschfield of Fairyland, James Robinson of Lake Merritt Institute, and Jennie Gerard of Weed Warriors. Nicholas Williams the director of OPRYD was unfortunately unable to come because of illness.

The agenda was as follows:

  • Introduction and Orientation by Alan Briskin
  • A few minutes talking to someone we didn’t know at the meeting
  • (The longest session) Initial framework, priorities, and big questions
    • These were items (retyped below – under creating a shared vision) that the committee brought, read to us, and were discussed by us
    • There was a lot of discussion around these items, in particular budget, and what is currently present at the center, the possibilities of reaching out beyond the walls of the center and engaging with younger people, kids, and their parents, and schools being an important piece of that.
  • Small team breakouts
    • Talking about who we are our vision, and concerns
  • Expectations for proposal submissions
  • Closing hand shaking ceremony

Attendees included: Community for Lake Merritt, LMI, Pollinator Posse, Insect Sciences Museum of CA, Wholly H20, Golden Gate Audubon, Fairyland, Rotary Club, Alameda Beekeepers, Lake Merritt Breakfast Club, Weed Warriors, Oakland Walking Tours, Feather River Camp, OPRYD, Public Works, OMCA, the OMCA Green Team, and a number of interested neighbors (and probably some others I missed)

Outcome – Program Proposals due 4/30/18

I’ve typed up details about the proposals and priorities, proposals are due April 30th, 2018 and should follow the RNC Template.

This is not a competition – OPRYD seeks to reinforce the value of cooperation and services as a means to achieve a greater good.

Some unknowns/Follow up

Karis Griffin said she would provide some insight on the following:

  • What budget exists for staffing and maintenance. There is no budget for programs, but the City has indicated there will be a naturalist on staff.
  • The current state of the Rotary Nature Center and its contents, particularly the taxidermy.

Meeting Documents

(The below statements and questions are retyped from handouts provided on the day of the meeting. They provided the guidance for the conversations we had through the morning)

Creating a shared vision for the Rotary Nature Center

Beauty * Wonder * A Jewel * Attractor * Incubator * Hub * Portal

“When a group is clear about a shared vision, an almost magnetic field develops that draws people in” — a comment shared during the core meeting.

An initial vision for a shared vision

  • We have the opportunity to re-connect the Rotary Nature Center to people, organizations, and agencies throughout the Bay Area and beyond.
  • We can be a learning center, information center, and hub for programs and activities that reach out to
    • Youth
    • Adults
    • Seniors
  • Our potential lies in how we reach beyond the Rotary Nature Center’s walls.
  • We should have the mindset of “connecting the dots:” being inclusive, always learning and evolving.

Initial priorities & opportunities

  • Developing programs and activities that reach out to all ages (youth, adults, seniors) and all areas of Oakland.
  • Developing synergies among various individuals, agencies, and institutions that serve Lake Merritt and the Rotary Nature Center (there is a treasure house of people, volunteers, institutions, community groups, funding agencies. etc, that can contribute to our success).
  • To become a symbol and attractor for what it means to become a good environmental citizen.
  • To become stewards & educators of Lake Merritt, the Wildlife Refuge, and the Pacific Flyway, a natural portal into the wonders of nature, wildlife, and science.
  • To be constructive partners with agencies supporting the health & vitality of Lake Merritt and advocates for the beauty, value, utility, and wonders of water & wildlife.
  • A resource to nurture STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) for all ages and demographic groups.
  • A hub for encouraging the relationships of art, music, and creativity alongside nature wildlife, and the outdoors.

Big Questions to Guide the Journey

  • How can the lake itself be a center for learning and education?
  • What are exceptional practices for exhibits, outreach, and nature education in the Bay Area and beyond.
  • How can we increasingly coordinate and communicate among all the agencies and community partners that are for and make use of Lake Merritt
  • How do we best connect and partner with universities, museums, schools, and other nature centers?
  • How do we ensure that we develop programs that reach our to all parts of Oakland and beyond?
  • How do we establish ourselves as an access point for children (and their families) to the joys and wonder of wildlife and nature?
  • How can we best showcase the beauty, science, and value of water, wildlife, birds, bugs, bees, etc?
  • What kinds of permanent or temporary exhibits might best enhance our mission of being a center that is welcoming, accessible, and educational?
  • How can we be a partner and incubator for funding worthwhile programs and initiatives?
  • What kind of field trips, curriculum, art, and science can we promote through the nature center?
  • What kinds of revenue generating initiatives are possible?
  • How can we keep learning and evolving as a nature center?

Things to keep in mind

  • 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, voluntary service, and creative funding initiatives.
  • We are fortunate to have an incredible network of people, organizations, and agencies committed to nature, conservation, wildlife, and the beauty and wonder of our environment. Let’s use these resources wisely and in the spirit of cooperation and respect.
  • Initial decisions on programming will be inspired by community input and vetted by the core team in consultation with relevant parties.

Key Cautions

  • We are respectful but not rigidly wed to what has been done in the past.
  • We remain vigilant that the variety of our programs and the geographical reach of our programs extend out to the diverse populations and all areas of Oakland.
  • We do not “overprogram” within the center itself — leaving open space and time for leisure, spontaneity, and emergence.
  • We respect that everyone is beyond busy — we must cultivate the quality of relationships and strategies that motivate us to stay connected and committed.

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

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