17th Annual Wildlife Festival

WADE BARRETT The creek at Wagner Ranch Nature Area provides a shady spot for play and exploration.

17th Annual Wildlife Festival Hosts Bay Area Visitors


Contributing Writer

More than 1,500 people of all ages streamed into the Wildlife Festival at the Wagner Ranch Nature Area on Sunday, April 22, to celebrate Earth Day. Over100 volunteers and 50 presenters joined forces for the day. Organizations playing a big role included scout programs, Others First at Orinda Intermediate School, Miramonte High School, Orinda Juniorettes, the National Charity League and Boys Team Charities.

Orinda Mayor Amy Worth and Vice Mayor Inga Miller presented the Friends of the Nature Area with a Certificate of Recognition for the Wildlife Earth Day Festival. Toris Jaeger honored the 2018 Nature Area Champions: Chester Miner and Esther Rice, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Education at California State University, East Bay. Chester Miner, Elder of the Cherokee Nation, led the Blessing of the Nature Area before he and friends from Manteca gathered under a giant oak to honor this special area with singing and drumming.  

Attending families came from 34 Bay Area cities. Participants chose from a number of activities such as “Nature Tattoos” with Coyote Brush Studio and “Garden Wonders” with Cynthia Brian. Children caught water boatman bugs in the pond with dip nets while others painted ceramic tiles to take home. “Chemistry Magic” with Dan Phillips fascinated children. One seasoned volunteer commented that she hadn’t seen so many strollers and toddlers at past Wildlife Festivals. 

For 17 years, the Friends of the Wagner Ranch Nature Area have invited the community to enjoy the wisdom of local environmental groups like Friends of Orinda Creeks, Parents for a Safer Environment, Sustainable Contra Costa, and EBMUD while celebrating Earth Day. This year, young artists made nature rubbings, created science art with James Strickler, and showed off their painted faces compliments of the Orinda Juniorettes. Solar-cooked muffins were available from Wendy Helms’ Solarvore oven. Columnist Joan Morris invited visitors to ask questions about wildlife and to identify camouflaged animals in nature photos.

Students have been installing conservation projects in the 18-acre Nature Area, owned by the Orinda Union School District, for 30 years. Toris thanked seven students for their Eagle Scout Projects: Jack Anthenien, Wood Duck Boxes; Evan Draeger, Bridge over Wagner Creek; Logan Krumholtz, California Quail Project; Kevin Pease, Adobe Brick Frame Boxes; Andrew Patten, Rebuild of Pond Fence; Chinmai Srinivas, South Bridge Ramp; and Max Tom, North Bridge Ramp. In the garden, the O.I.S. Green Team was teaching children eco-projects, and children were hunting for toy critters hidden in the lush grape vines and herbs.

Weary participants were revived by massage artist, Derry Calay, or with lovely music played by students of ALMA, the Academy of Language Arts and Music. Other energetic souls joined John Helms for tours of the Nature Area, visiting the old ruins of the Wagner homestead. Theodore Wagner was California’s first surveyor general, and as an early Orindan, he helped build the first school house and won prizes for his olive oil at the Martinez County Faire in the late 1800s. Terry Murphy, president, and Kay Norman, of the Orinda Historical Society displayed artifacts from the historical site and photographs of the elegant three-story home before it burned down in the 1920s. Teresa Long of Friends of the Moraga Adobe and architect James Wright, restorer of the Old Yellow House, shared their insights about local

For more details about the Friends of the Nature Area, visit the group’s website: www.fwrna.org.

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