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

A Center Piece of Lake Merritt

A follow up from the Jan 24th meeting, Karis Griffin from Oakland Parks, Recreation, and Youth Development details how they are currently moving forward. They are selecting someone to facilitate the process with a goal “to create a new Rotary Nature Center that is the center piece of Lake Merritt, the nature-oriented learning institution it was destined to be.”

Rotary Nature Center Next Meeting: April 7th 2018

If you’ve been by the Rotary Nature Center of late, you may have noticed that the Center has been closed. The building is undergoing inspection and assessment, and is slated at the very least to getting a thorough cleaning. Animals and the bees have been relocated from the building.

Good News: The Oakland Parks, Recreation, & Youth Development department is starting a discussion with the community about the reopening of the center. As of March 8th, the City was has contracted a facilitator, Alan Briskin. He met with a small group of community partners the week of March 12th and they set a tentative date of April 7th for the next larger group meeting. Details hopefully next week. Sign up for our email to stay up to date

Bugs Cain — The Nature Man

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