New Year's Day 2014 has come and gone, but newly made resolutions, many revolving around getting healthier, should still be fresh in our minds. Makes sense, with this year's unusually dry weather and 65 regional parks at hand, to focus on outdoor physical activity to move those resolutions forward.
This resolve fits right in with the East Bay Regional Park District's 2012 mandate of "Healthy Parks, Healthy People," an attempt to raise awareness about the symbiotic value of health and parks. In keeping with this, the district has created organized activities, hikes and volunteer projects that encourage a connection with nature through physical activity and social connection.
So for 2014, why not tweak that "get healthier" resolution to include participating and playing in the open spaces of the East Bay Regional Park District. Make sure this resolution involves all ages. You're never too young or too old to play outdoors.
In East County, Big Break Regional Shoreline and Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve have a full array of hikes and activities scheduled for January and February, while Contra Loma Regional Park has a volunteer project that is ideal for the whole family.
Big Break Regional Shoreline Visitor Center: The interpretive staff at Big Break Visitor Center has activities planned for each weekend throughout January and February. Each Saturday and Sunday visitors can join in on Delta Discoveries, dropping in to discover the wonders of the Delta using arts and crafts activities, with each weekend focusing on a different wetland topic. Another repeated activity is Testing the Waters, where water quality will be tested for different factors that can affect the Delta ecosystem.
Learning is best accomplished by doing and there are seven activities planned to delve into the Delta, from bugs and fish to plankton and plants. Bugging out in the Delta is set for Jan. 12, a chance to get your hands dirty and learn about the Delta's wetland bugs.
On Jan. 18, Delta detectives search for clues, impressions in the dirt and chewed branches, to discover the wetland's animal inhabitants.
The focus shifts to sponges on Jan. 26 as participants absorb information about the qualities that balance this ecosystem's water.
On Feb. 1 fishing lines are tossed out to play a Finicky Delta Fish game, in which participants learn how to identify different types.
Magnifying glasses come into use Feb. 9 when the subject is plankton and how they form the bottom of the energy pyramid.
Soggy Footed Plants come alive Feb. 23 when interpretive staff leads in the exploration of cottonwood bark, popping seed pods and cattail seeds.
Kayaks take to the Delta on Feb. 23 for a Winter Delta Kayak trip to experience wonders and treasures on a winter day.
Joining in on volunteer projects is a two-way benefit, working toward both healthy bodies and healthy parks. The park district faces many challenges maintaining nearly 113,000 acres of open spaces, one of the greatest of which is the threat of invasive plants. Volunteers help the district remove these plants from the parks before they get established.
On Jan. 19, a day of service that includes cutting, digging and bagging plants has been scheduled to help restore native wetlands by removing invasive plants.
Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve: For its winter activities, Black Diamond Mines has scheduled events around exploring and hiking.
On Jan. 18 a survey of Somersville's Botanical History can be discovered by a stroll through the town site tracing the natural and man-made botanical patterns on the landscape.
Snakes are the subject Jan. 25 when Black Diamond's staff shares its reptilian knowledge and a midwinter snack.
A Feb. 8 talk focuses on light, how miners coped within their deep, dark workplaces and the development of mine lighting over the years.
Three hiking activities promise to provide exercise and new park discoveries. Dead of Winter is the theme Jan. 19 as visitors join in on a cool, rugged chaparral hike to discover how winter breathes new life into the hills.
On Jan. 26 a 2-mile Hazel-Atlas History Hike teaches about the region's ancient and modern roots, following the journey of the area's rocks from seaside to hilltop to tabletop.
Searching for Little Apples rounds out the trio of hikes on Feb. 15, as visitors search for the blossoms and fruit of manzanita, one of the most attractive plants in the park.
Contra Loma Regional Park: Join Doc Quack by volunteering for the Quail Rangers on Feb. 15. Bring the family to improve Contra Loma's habitat for California's state bird by planting and creating safe places for quail to eat, rest and nest, and receive a "Covey Conservation" patch for your efforts.
More information about all these activities can be found in the January-February edition of Regional in Nature Activity Guide: http://www.ebparks.org/features/rin.
For registration: www.ebparksonline.org, 1-888-327-2757, option 2.