At the southern point of the lake, where the tide flows in and out, there is a pedestrian bridge. This is perhaps my favorite place on the lake.
The bridge is quite new—part of the 2002 Measure DD work—finished in 2012 after a century old culvert was ripped out and the water allowed to flow free. The water underneath connects the lake to the bay, the bay to the hills. The bridge connects people from East Oakland to the Lake Merritt Amphitheater, downtown and beyond.
The other night my wife and I were biking over, and stopped as usual to take in the view. Already there were a few people gathered, including an elderly couple and a young bicycle messenger. I pulled up to the latter and asked, “Striped bass?” (That was the big fish I’ve most commonly seen there.) “No!” he said. “Sturgeon, I think. Seven of them or so.” And there they were lurking, gliding in and out of deeper water. I’d never seen them before. We chatted a while, exchanging observations and information, waiting for another glimpse.
That’s what I love about this spot—that it has its aficionados. We stop and chat, comparing notes. “What do you see?” It might be a school of silversides, a bat ray flying through the water, a lumbering sea hare, or a diving grebe. Birds fly underneath the bridge. Swallows nest nearby. Brown pelicans circle, gulls dive for shells, a gulp of cormorants glides across the lake. A gondola passes. Sometimes there is nothing, the water opaque, the tide calm. But still there are the hills and the Town reflected in the lake—and fellow Oaklanders watching with you.
— Adrian Cotter
How the Rotary Nature Center Came To Be
Bugs (Brighton) C. Cain was a Stanford graduate in entomology who introduced many young boys to nature around California and particularly in Oakland. According to Paul Covel, the first salaried municipal park naturalist, “Boys flocked to this nature man who could, all in a day, introduce birds, botany, insects, astronomy, and informal lessons in philosophy and behavior.” Bugs, along with his best students, created the first list of the birds of Lake Merritt—138 species!
Cain was employed by The Boy Scouts but he also worked pro bono with school and church
groups. Eventually the superintendent of parks, Lee Kerfoot, decided that this man needed some official recognition and presented him with a tin star bearing the words: “Naturalist, Oakland Park Department”. No salary accompanied this honor. Cain worked out of the famous “Bug House” at Camp Dimond where he gave lessons, collected specimens, banded and fed birds.
This site was eventually sold by the Boy Scouts and Cain was moved to other duties. He died suddenly shortly thereafter in 1950 at the early age of 31. The Bug House collection and library was presented to the Oakland Park Department by his widow. Where to house this valuable collection? With money raised by the Cain Memorial Committee, the Oakland Rotary Club, and City of Oakland the Rotary Natural Science Center was born. A friendly contractor offered to build the structure and a fine job he did. In 1953 the Rotary Nature Center opened its doors, thus providing suitable accommodations for the first salaried municipal park naturalist.
Remarkably, one of Bug’s students is still alive today. L. Martin Griffin, now 96 years old, has posted the story of Bugs Cain on his website.
Source. “People are for the Birds” by Paul F. Covel 1978, Western Interpretive Press
Photo from L. Martin Griffin’s website
This festival is a celebration of the nation’s first wildlife refuge & the biodiversity in the heart of the Oakland. Come meet & enjoy dozens of environmental organizations, wildlife rescue groups, live animals, local merchants, and nature artists for an afternoon of fun & education for the whole city!
We’ll be out tabling as well, and look forward to meeting you.
The event is a joint production between the Rotary Nature Center and the Wildlife Society, looking to raise some money for both of their endeavors.
The Rotary Nature Center is the overseeing body of the Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge, and has provided conservation and natural history education for this Oakland landmark since 1945. This festival is a fundraiser for things such as binoculars for public use, museum display upgrades, and other educational equipment.
The Wildlife Society (TWS) was founded in 1937 as an international non-profit scientific and educational association dedicated to excellence in wildlife stewardship through science and education. The SF Bay Chapter of TWS is working to raise funds to support their college mentorship program, ethnic and gender diversity initiative, and events and workshops for professional development. It will receive proceeds from the silent auction from this event for their help promoting, organizing, and providing volunteers & programs for the fair.