There's still plenty of time to enter "Get to Know Your Wild Neighbors," a nationwide creativity contest for youth, in which the East Bay Regional Park District is participating.

Canadian artist and naturalist Robert Bateman created the Get to Know program as a way to encourage stronger connections between young people and nature.

The idea is for youth 19 and younger to get outdoors, enjoy the world of plants and animals, and 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.org. There's no entry fee, and you may enter as many times as you like. The contest runs through Nov. 1. Winners receive prizes such as art supplies, cameras, camcorders, books and outdoor gear.

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

For contest details, you can also visit the park district website at www.ebparks.org and click on the Get To Know Contest icon on the right side of the home page.


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HIKING TILDEN: If you'd like to get to know Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley, naturalist "Trail Gail" Broesder has just the program for you. It's a vigorous 10-mile hike, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, designed for ages 12 and older.

Along the way, Gail and the gang will visit the nature area, carousel, steam train and botanic garden, while learning about the park's history.

Meet at Tilden's Environmental Education Center at the north end of Central Park Drive. Bring lunch and wear sturdy hiking shoes.

For a less strenuous but equally enjoyable program, join interpretive student aide Morgan Rani Evans at the center from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Sundaywhile she shows how to turn old milk cartons into bird feeders.

This program is for ages 6 and older. Most materials are provided, but you can bring along decorative items to give your bird feeder a personal touch.

For more information, call the center at 510-544-2233. The programs are free.

HIKE FOR A CAUSE: Another get-to-know opportunity is the East Bay Hills Ridge Trail benefit hike, scheduled from Wednesday, Aug. 28 through Sunday, Sept. 1.

This is a fundraiser to benefit East Bay trails, including the Ridge Trail, that will eventually encircle San Francisco Bay. Sponsors are the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, Tilden-Wildcat Horsemen, the Metropolitan Horsemen's Association and Volunteers for Outdoor California.

If you walk the whole thing, it's 55 miles from Orinda to Hayward, sharing camps with the East Bay Hills Trails Benefit Equestrian Ride. Overnight camps are at Tilden, Joaquin Miller and Anthony Chabot parks. You'll traverse some of the East Bay's most scenic locales along the way.

The trek is fully supported, including all meals, evening entertainment, and BART shuttle service on the first and last day.

Cost is $55 per day. You can register for one, more, or all of the days. For registration and more information, visit the Bay Area Ridge Trail website at www.RidgeTrail.org and click on "Events."

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