Three of the East Bay Regional Parks are planning special events to celebrate Independence Day: Ardenwood Historic Farm and Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont, and Crab Cove Visitor Center at Crown Beach in Alameda.

Ardenwood will stage its annual 1900s-style Independence Day extravaganza from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday. Attractions will include patriotic music on the Patterson House lawn, fiddling in the farmyard and games, contests and races all day long. Test your skills at nail driving, tug-of-war, egg toss and the ever-popular watermelon seed spitting for distance and accuracy. Food will be available for sale, or you can bring your own picnic and make a day of it.

Ardenwood is located at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd. just north of Highway 84 in Fremont. The event fee is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 62 and older, $5 for children ages 4 through 17 and free for kids 3 and younger. Parking is free. For information, call 510-544-2797.

Coyote Hills will hold its open house in and around its visitor center from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 2:30 p.m. Friday, with stories, games and activities for all ages to celebrate our cultural and natural heritage. Coyote Hills is at 8000 Patterson Ranch Road off Paseo Padre Parkway. The open house is free. Parking is $5 per vehicle. For information, call 510-544-3220.


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Crab Cove Visitor Center will enroll its mobile visitor center in the Alameda Fourth of July parade from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday. Everyone is welcome to join the Crab Cove contingent for part of or all of the route. Then from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Friday the visitor center will hold an open house with lots of family-friendly activities.

Crab Cove is at 1252 McKay Ave. off Central Avenue in Alameda. On-site parking is limited, but there's lots of parking at Crown Beach, the entrance to which is at Otis and Westline drives. From there it's a short walk to the center. For more information, call 510-544-3187.

All the regional parks will be open Friday. It's usually one of the busiest days of the year in the parks, so it's advisable to arrive early. All picnic tables will be available on a first-come-first-served basis, or you can set up a blanket picnic on a lawn. Portable barbecues are allowed on lawn areas but absolutely not on dry grasslands. Please dispose of coals only in the concrete bins designed specifically for that purpose, not in the regular trash barrels.

Especially this year, wildfires are a major concern, so please be careful. No fireworks of any kind are allowed in the regional parks.

Oakland hills: There's a naturalist-led Sunday Stroll from 10 a.m. to noon on this weekend at Leona Canyon in the Oakland hills. Families and dogs are welcome. Native American plant uses will be the theme during a 2.5-mile shady walk.

Meet at the trailhead on Canyon Oaks Drive off Keller Avenue. Note: there are no toilets in the park. For information, call 510-544-3187.

TILDEN: At Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley, naturalist Trent Pearce has three programs scheduled during the July Fourth Weekend.

He plans the first program in a series on field sketching from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. Bring a sketch pad with heavy paper and drawing instruments. He'll lead sketching safaris at the same time at Briones on July 12, Crockett Hills on July 19 and back to Tilden on July 26.

And Trent will lead the first in a series of family-friendly morning nature walks from 11 a.m. to noon Sunday. The other walks will be at the same time on July 13 and July 20.

Later on Sunday, Trent will lead a walk in search of insects from 2 to 3 p.m. It's a short stroll, and all ages are welcome.

For all three July Fourth Weekend programs, meet Trent at Tilden's Environmental Education Center. The center is at the north end of Central Park Drive. A construction project there should be completed by Friday, in which case you can park at the end of Central Park Drive. If construction is still underway, park at the end of Lone Oak Road off Central Park Drive, walk through a gate and follow the signs to the center. For information, call 510-544-2233.

For a fourth program, Trent moves to Briones Regional Park. He's leading an evening stroll there from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday. It's an easy walk in search of animals as day turn into night.

Meet Trent at Briones' Bear Creek staging area. It's on Bear Creek Road about 5 miles east of San Pablo Dam Road in Orinda. For information, call 510-544-2233. Trent will lead another evening stroll at the same time on July 19 at Tilden Nature Area.

Black Diamond: Oak apples and other strange fruits will be hunted during a nature walk from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Sunday at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch, led by naturalist Eddie Willis. It's an easy stroll, designed for ages 6 and older.

Meet Eddie in the uppermost parking lot at the south end of Somersville Road in Antioch. Because of continuing construction on a section of Somersville Road, you have to detour to reach Black Diamond Mines. Exit Highway 4 at Contra Costa Boulevard. Drive south to James Donlon Boulevard, turn right on James Donlon, then left in several miles onto Somersville Road. Somersville Road is gravel-surfaced at the park entrance but paved again in a short distance.

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

Big Break: Bugs in particular and Delta science in general will be the focus this weekend at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley.

From 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday, the interpretive staff will offer a program about wetland bugs in the Delta. It's hands-on, so prepare to get your digits muddy.

Then from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, naturalist Kevin Damstra will talk about current scientific research and what it is revealing about the state of the Delta environment. Big Break is located at 69 Big Break Road off Main Street in Oakley. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 3050.

a final word: However you spend it, have a safe and happy Fourth of July Weekend in the regional parks or elsewhere. And remember, no fireworks of any kind are allowed in the parklands.

Email Ned MacKay at nedmackay@comcast.net.