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 of encouraging 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, outdoor gear and more.
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 more information on the contest, 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.
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, July 20, 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 Sunday, July 21, while 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 on Gail's hike or Morgan's bird feeder workshop, call the center at 510-544-2233. Both programs are free.
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."
Speaking of hikes, the Tuesday Twilight series continues with a free hike from 6:30 to 9 p.m. July 23, at Wildcat Canyon Regional Park in Richmond. It's a climb to the top of San Pablo Ridge, led by naturalist Trent Pearce, to see the sun set over the Golden Gate.
The route is somewhat strenuous, so it's for ages 10 and older. Meet at the Wildcat Canyon staging area on Park Avenue off McBride Avenue in Richmond. For information, call 510-544-3257.
Then on July 24, the Wednesday Walkers will take a hilly four-mile walk through shady redwood groves. Meet at 9:30 a.m. at Roberts Regional Recreation Area. It's on Skyline Boulevard in Oakland, about a mile up the hill from the intersection with Joaquin Miller Road. For information call 510-544-3282 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you miss Trent's hike, Trail Gail is leading another Wildcat Canyon hike from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, July 26. It's a 10-miler, with lots of hills, for ages 12 and older. Bring hiking shoes, water and a snack to share. Meet at the same place as Trent's hike. For information, call 510-544-2233.
Survival in the hot, dry hills is the theme of a program from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, July 20, at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch, led by naturalist Bob Kanagaki.
This isn't about people; it's about plants and how they make it through the arid summer months.
The free program is for ages 7 and older. Meet Bob at the parking lot at the end of Somersville Road, five miles south of Highway 4.
After Bob's program, you can cool off by checking out the park's Greathouse Visitor Center. It's underground, where the temperature is always in the mid 50s. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.
The park district's Healthy Parks Healthy People campaign continues with lots of activities in August to encourage regular use and enjoyment of the regional parks.
On Saturday, Aug. 3, there's a hike from 9 to 11:30 a.m. for adults and 1 to 2:30 p.m. for kids, both at Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline in Oakland. Meet at the Tidewater Boating Center. For information, call 510-544-2553.
Also on Aug. 3 there's a hike for ages 12 and older from noon to 2:30 p.m. at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont. For information, call 510-544-3220.
Or you can explore historic Rose Hill Cemetery at Black Diamond Mines in Antioch in a program from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 3, led by naturalist Bob Kanagaki. It's for ages 7 and older.
Meet at the cemetery, which is a 15-minute walk up the Nortonville Trail from the parking lot at the end of Somersville Road. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.
Ned MacKay writes about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at email@example.com.