RNC Open Fridays and Saturdays

The Rotary Nature Center is now open to the public from 11am to 4pm on Fridays and Saturdays (it may actually be open as early as 10, but am following what I saw on the sign!).

The Center had its first open house — a soft opening — on Saturday, December 10th, and followed that up on the 17th with a Winter Craft Fair.

There are some new displays in the Center, one on the history of the lake, one on pollinators (from Pollinator Posse), one from Golden Gate Audubon on birds, a display on the 2022 red tide and fish kill (Community for Lake Merritt), and a couple on insects (Insect Science Museum of California). With others on Owls to come, and with the start of a plan for the future. Some hands on activities are present, as well as some of the original taxidermy displays (birds around the Lake, a cougar, and some owls).

The inside bathroom was redone as well. The bathrooms have been awaiting improvement for a long time!

This coming year, in 2023, look for events around Earth Day, and in the Fall for an event for the Centers’ 70th anniversary.

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.

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 kgriffin@oaklandnet.com. 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.

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 parksandrec@oaklandnet.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

Oct 2, 2016 Oakland Nature Festival

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.

Get full details and schedule on the event.

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.