The Fourth of July, our nation's birthday, will be celebrated with appropriate festivities at several of the East Bay Regional Parks.

Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont will stage a 1900s-style community festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 4. On the program is patriotic music; games and contests such as nail driving, egg tossing, and the ever-popular watermelon seed spitting; a bucket brigade; and a tug-of-war. Other attractions include the barnyard animals, Ardenwood's unique horse-drawn railroad, and tours of the historic Patterson House.

Visitors can bring their own picnics or buy food at the Farmyard Café. Ardenwood is located at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., just north of Highway 84. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors 62 and older, $5 for children ages 4 through 17, and free for kids younger than 4. Parking is free. For information, call 510-544-2797.

Coyote Hills: Nor will the Fourth pass unnoticed at nearby Coyote Hills Regional Park, which will hold an open house from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday and Wednesday.

Stories, old-fashioned games and activities for all ages will help celebrate our cultural and environmental heritage. Coyote Hills is at 8000 Patterson Ranch Road, off Paseo Padre Parkway in Fremont.


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There's a parking fee of $5 per vehicle. For details, call 510-544-3220.

TILDEN PARK: And there's more -- an open house IS planned from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 4 at the Environmental Education Center in Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley. The center is located at the north end of Central Park Drive.

Farm activities, crafts, nature exploration and homemade ice cream are all part of the family-friendly day. For information, call 510-544-2233.

In general, all the regional parks will be open July Fourth. Picnic areas tend to be crowded that day, especially at parks with swim beaches, and no reservations are taken, so come early if you want a choice of sites.

If all tables are taken, visitors can spread blankets and picnics on lawn areas. Portable barbecues are allowed on the lawns but not in the tall, dry grasses. Please dispose of coals only in the concrete receptacles designed for that purpose, not in the regular trash cans.

Be advised also that no fireworks of any kind are allowed in the regional parks.

SHORELINE STROLL: The colorful history of the Martinez waterfront will be showcased during a shoreline stroll from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday led by naturalist Bob Kanagaki. The walk is free of charge, designed for ages seven and up. Meet Bob at the Granger's Wharf staging area at the end of Berrellessa Street. For information call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

Naturalist programs: Kids ages 5 through 12 with their parents will enjoy a series of programs called "Nature's Afternoons" scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. every Thursday in July at Contra Loma Regional Park in Antioch, hosted by naturalist Kevin Damstra.

Kevin will talk about birds at the Thursday program. The topic is bugs on July 12, mammals on July 19, and nature nearby on July 26.

Contra Loma is located at the end of Frederickson Lane, off Golf Course Road. The programs are free of charge; there's a parking fee of $5 per vehicle.

Kevin also plans a series of three First Friday campfire programs this summer at Bay Point Regional Shoreline, located at the end of McAvoy Road.

All are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. At the first one, on July 6, Kevin will recount the history of Bay Point and Port Chicago. Bring a lawn chair, relax by the fire and watch the sun set.

The programs are free of charge. For information on either of Kevin's program series, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

Park manager's art collection: Roger Epperson was a modern day Renaissance man. From 1986 until his untimely death in 2008, Roger was the supervisor for Black Diamond Mines, Round Valley and Morgan Territory regional parklands. And he was a tireless advocate on behalf of environmental causes.

It turns out Roger was also an avid, self-taught art collector with an expert's eye for quality. Over a period of 30 years, he visited antique stores, art galleries, garage sales and online sources to obtain more than 300 beautiful works of art depicting California landscapes.

Ninety works from Roger's collection of paintings, etchings and woodblock prints will be on display at the St. Mary's College Museum of Art in Moraga from July 8 through Sept. 16. It's entitled "The Nature of Collecting: The Early 20th Century Fine Art Collection of Roger Epperson." Artists represented include Maynard Dixon, Maurice Braun, Percy Gray, and others.

Museum hours are from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults, free for youths. On opening day, July 8, there will be a panel discussion at 2 p.m. on how to form an art collection, and a reception at 3 p.m.

For information, you can check out the website, www.stmarys-ca.edu/saint-marys-college-museum-of-art.

Email Ned MacKay at nedmackay@comcast.net.