"Get to Know Your Wild Neighbors" is the theme of a nationwide creativity contest for youths, now underway, in which the East Bay Regional Park District is participating.

Canadian artist and naturalist Robert Bateman created the Get to Know program in an effort to encourage stronger connections between young people and nature.

The idea is for youths age 19 and under to get outdoors, enjoy the world of plants and animals, then submit art, writing, video, photography or music inspired by the experience. Entries should be about nature; pets and farm animals are not eligible subjects.

Entries can be submitted online at www.GetToKnow.ca. There's no entry fee, and you may enter as many times as you like. Submit your entry by 5 p.m. May 6 to be considered for display in a preview at the Healthy Parks Healthy People Festival on June 22 at Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area in Fremont.

For teachers and community organizations the GetToKnow web site has all kinds of resources, lesson plans and activity guides designed to complement science and art curricula at all grade levels.

For more information on the contest you can also visit the park district web site, www.ebparks.org and click on the Get To Know Contest icon on the right side of the home page.

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    The Tilden Regional Park Golf Course in the Berkeley hills has been designated a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, and is now certified in chemical use reduction and safety and water quality management. It's the 67th golf course in California and the 1,009th in the world to receive the designation.

    "Golf course operators and Regional Parks staff set up projects to enhance wildlife habitat, achieve sensitive maintenance practices, and inform people of our commitment to environmental quality," said Park District General Manager Robert E. Doyle.

    "This certification demonstrates our Park District's leadership, commitment, and high standards of environmental management. This achievement is possible because of the dedication and commitment of our Park District staff and American Golf (the concessionaire)," Doyle said.

    Work completed that contributed to achieving this certification included the Wildcat Creek Restoration project, establishing California native plants around the golf course, and documentation of ongoing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies and practices.

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    It's not at the golf course, but Tilden has an unusual program coming up on April 28: "From Fur to Felt," featuring the Tilden Little Farm sheep.

    From 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. participants will learn how to turn wool into a pouch made of felt, the earliest known fabric. They will also visit the sheep and learn about life on the farm, all shepherded by naturalist Trail Gail Broesder.

    The program is for ages 10 and older. Registration is required, and there is a fee of $10 per person ($12 for non-district residents).

    For information and registration, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program 1702.

    Contact Ned MacKay at nedmackay@comcast.net.

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    Wildflower viewing is the goal of a 2 ½-mile hike from 2 to 4:30 p.m. April 20 at Briones Regional Park, led by naturalist Trent Pearce.

    Although this hasn't been a spectacular wildflower year, Briones Park has some really pretty displays.

    The hike is free of charge and registration is not necessary. Meet Trent at the park's Bear Creek staging area, which is on Bear Creek Road about five miles east of San Pablo Dam Road in Orinda. There's a parking fee of $5 when the kiosk is attended. Bring water and a snack. For information, call 510-544-2233.

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    Dogs will be especially welcome on a hike through Wildcat Canyon from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 21, led by naturalist Trail Gail and her own canine pal, Nara.

    Bring water and treats (a dog companion is not required). The hike will go, rain or shine. Meet at the Alvarado Staging Area. It's on Park Avenue off McBryde Avenue in Richmond. For information, call 510-544-2233.

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    At Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch, the naturalist staff will lead a walk to show the ages-long cycle during which mountains erode to sand and mud and then rise again.

    It's from 10 a.m. to noon on April 20.

    During the same time frame on April 21, naturalist Eddie Willis will lead a hilly, two-mile hike to view spring wildflowers. There are lots of them to see at Black Diamond this year.

    Both hikes are free, designed for ages seven and older; both cancel if it's raining. Meet at the parking lot at the end of Somersville Road, five miles south of Highway 4. Black Diamond Mines has a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when the kiosk is attended.

    For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

    Ned MacKay writes about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.

    Contact Ned MacKay at nedmackay@comcast.net.