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
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.
One plus of the clean up, was a chance for a peak into the Nature Center and a look at what’s happening. After months of looking like nothing had happened, there is now a lot of things being moved around inside.
Karis Griffin of OPRYD said in her last update, that “all taxidermy is being wrapped and boxes as recommended by a professional taxidermist–for safe keeping–except for the mountain lion, eagles, skeleton heads of small mammals and other taxidermy which were sealed under glass.”
There is not currently a date set for the end of cleaning, but she is hopeful she will know by the 27th of April, 2018.
She also provided this general info. There are:
- 4 tables,
- 30 chairs (which belong to the beekeeper)
- 2 desks
- 1 conference table
The Library is 22’x15′ (with 2 outlets)
The Office is 17’x12′ (with 4 outlets)
The Auditorium is 31′ x 27′ (with 2 outlets)
The Front Entry is 8’x27′
There is also a “modestly appointed” kitchen with 4 outlets. But shouldn’t be counted on as a space for use.
There is no storage available and no restrooms inside. (The restrooms were originally accessible from the inside, but the inner door was closed and the restrooms are only available from the outside).
They also provided a list of taxidermy from 2012, but have not yet tallied that to what they are cleaning up now.
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 email@example.com
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
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.
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.”
Updated – Jan 1st, 2019: the Center will have a grand opening Saturday February 16, 2019.
If you’ve been by the Rotary Nature Center in the last year, you will have noticed that the Center has been closed. The building is undergoing inspection and assessment, and a planning process to reopen it. Animals and the bees have been relocated from the building.
Good News: The Oakland Parks, Recreation, & Youth Development department is accepting program proposals for a reopened Rotary Nature Center. The city held a series of meeting with the community this spring and summer of 2018. This meeting was led by facilitator Alan Briskin along with a small committee including CJ Hirschfield of Fairyland, Jennie Gerard of Weed Warriors, and James Robinson of LMI.
11 proposals were submitted before the last meeting, and 5 were discussed at the meeting (and a 6th was accepted as well). The proposals were great and we look forward to helping to see them fulfilled. Karis Griffin said that the center would open sometime this summer.
Recent news (mid July) from the core committee tells us that the opening is now in the fall.
You can dig into the proposals here.
In the meantime, the Oakland Capital Improvement Program is an additional place we might be able to get funds. They are holding meetings in June to gather feedback on their process and priorities.
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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