Do you feel wonder when you stare at an iPhone screen? Is there a sense of awe when you conquer the next level of a video game? Do you go to bed feeling gloriously exhausted, but immensely fulfilled and hopeful at the end of your day? When you’re a kid, shouldn’t all those feelings be part of your daily existence? Requirements, really.
I know I couldn’t greet each day with a smile — without looking forward to the wonder, awe, and a sense of fulfillment and hope I get from my time in nature. And I’m not even hard core. Some days my nature is spotting a white egret flying across the bluest sky. Sometimes my nature is sitting on the grass in the sunshine for a few moments. Other days it’s taking the kids to the creek and letting them get their shoes wet. Or spending hours with them collecting just the perfect rocks at the beach – and then leaving them there for the next child to discover.
My kids don’t need screens in their day. It’s not a necessity for their well-being. But time outdoors? That’s necessary. Nature is a bigger and better playground than anything humans can create to entertain us.
There is plenty of time in their lives to catch up on technology. But childhood? They only get one shot at that!
I want their childhood to be full of WONDER, AWE, FULFILLMENT AND HOPE to set a foundation for the rest of their lives.
*The Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
*The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
The California State Parks Foundation (CSPF) is hosting 19 environmental improvement projects at parks statewide on Saturday, April 14 as part of its 15th Annual Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup. Volunteers are encouraged to help maintain the beauty of California’s treasured state parks.
This year, in celebration of this milestone anniversary, CSPF is providing grants up to $15,000 (a combination of cash grants and in-kind donations) to parks, allowing for the completion of larger projects that would otherwise be placed on the state’s maintenance backlog. With park closures and continued budget cuts looming for state parks this year, volunteers are more important than ever to keep the parks clean and safe for all to visit and enjoy.
“For 15 years, the Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup has brought communities together to beautify and preserve California’s state parks,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation. “We value and thank PG&E, Edison International and all the sponsors and volunteers that support Earth Day this year and in the past. We could not do this without their contributions. Our treasured state parks need this yearly cleanup, especially at a time when environmental improvement and maintenance projects are significantly delayed or eliminated due to continued budget challenges.”
With these large grants, thousands of volunteers statewide will make overdue repairs and renovations including trail maintenance, building and installing railing and walls, historic water wheel restoration and campfire center improvements. In addition, volunteers will plant native trees and community gardens, restore wildlife habitat, update interpretative displays and remove trash from beaches and parklands.
Since 1998, CSPF’s Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup program has had a tremendous impact: More than 76,000 participants have contributed over 318,000 volunteer hours worth nearly $6.1 million for park maintenance and improvements. More than $4 million has been raised for the Earth Day program throughout California.
Projects: San Mateo Trail Improvements, the trail is 1.5 miles.
1. Drainage improvements including building culverts and grading the road
2. Remove non-native Mustard and Tree Tobacco plants and replant with natives Coastal Sage Scrub
3. Build stairs from the parking lot to the amphitheater/interpretive display
Check-in time: 8:30 a.m. – 9 a.m.
Project time: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Location: 830 Christianitos Road, San Clemente, CA 92672. Park near the amphitheater at the San Mateo campground.
To volunteer on Earth Day, call the Earth Day hotline at 1-888-98-PARKS or visit calparks.org/earthday to register or for a complete list of project sites statewide. Space is limited, so registration is required. Parking fees are waived for Earth Day volunteers.
Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup sponsors in Southern California include: Edison International, Chevron, Oracle, KCAL/CBS2 and KLST-FM. Local organizations supporting Earth Day include: Malibu Creek Docents Association and North East Trees.
Rules, rules, rules. They’re everywhere. Rules to protect nature are easily broken and hard to enforce. I see signs posted everywhere and then I often see people standing in front of the signs breaking the rules.
Crime: Feeding the ducks Why it’s discouraged: Bread is not their natural diet and feeding in groups encourages unnatural feeding patterns and outbreaks of botulism. Waterfowl have died in mass outbreaks at the lakes in Huntington Beach Central Park and Lake Forest. Here’s a brochure from Oregon and a video from North Carolina about why it’s not encouraged.
What can you do instead? Bring a nature journal or a camera to the park. Start a photo collection of nature.
Crime: Walking off trail Why it’s discouraged: The trails are there to bridge people into nature. They provide access to otherwise protected areas. When you walk off trail, you degrade the natural areas by stomping on animals and plants and adding to erosion.
What can you do instead? Go on guided hikes where the access to protected areas are controlled and effects minimized. Find areas that aren’t protected — like wide expanses of lawn at our regional parks — and run wild there. Familiarize yourself and your family with Leave No Trace principles.
Crime: Collecting treasures Why it’s discouraged: Removing rocks and shells from the beach or picking flowers from the trail disturbs the natural habitat. That hermit crab might not be able to find its next shell and those rocks or flowers won’t be there for the next visitor to enjoy. Just because we love it, doesn’t mean we have to own it. Read the good tidepooler rules here: http://www.ocmarineprotection.org/index.php
What can you do instead? If you must “own” it — take a photograph. I love our collection of photos from all the treasures we’ve found – and with smart phones it’s easy to capture them forever. If you still feel the need to pick something up, collecting trash can actually benefit the environment. I also find sticks are a great thing to collect from local parks. They’ve fallen from trees already and the landscapers are just going to dispose of them when they clean up the leaves.
Get out there and play and observe and get dirty — just know the rules and help protect the places you enjoy by setting a good example for others.
I’m was a “boat kid,” so I’m very comfortable out on the water as an adult. In fact, I wish I could be out there more. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to go on a two hour whale watching trip. I got to find out over the holiday weekend. I never get seasick, but my 6 year old hasn’t gotten her sea legs yet. We started our morning at the bagel shop in the harbor and gave her a dose of Dramamine with breakfast.
The Dana Pride is a nice wide boat with plenty of room for spectating. We reserved our place by calling and putting our names on the list. Then we checked in a half hour before it was time to leave and got in line to board.
We decided to stand the whole time and picked a spot along the starboard (right) rail for a view of the harbor going out. We came upon a whale footprint almost immediately. See the slick spot in the water?
We trailed along with this slow gray whale that stayed just under the surface. Our captain told us about how this is called “snorkeling.” There was hardly a vapor plume when the whale came up for a breath and all we could see was the rostrum and the barnacles on its back. Apparently, a gray whale is the only whale with barnacles and the larvae are passed to calves at birth. No harm comes to the whale from the barnacles.
This was the only whale we spotted on our trip. We headed out to meet up with some playful bottlenose dolphins.
My daughter’s favorite part was when we headed back in and the whole dolphin pod surfed our wake! Very entertaining!
-The earlier you go in the day, the calmer it will be.
-Bring jackets – it may be 80 degrees on shore, but once you get out on the ocean it can be considerably cooler. We dressed in layers.
-Bring a camera and/or binoculars.
-Wear sunscreen since there’s an extra chance of sunburn from the reflection on the water.
-The boat rides really well and takes the swell without much bounce. It didn’t feel “rocky” to me at all. My daughter didn’t get seasick!
The Irvine Ranch Conservancy runs some amazing outdoor programs for a range of interests and ages. One of their latest offerings peaked my interest because it’s specifically for the 3 to 6 year old set. It’s a new program called “Sounds of the Season” and right now families will explore the landscape and wildlife from “Winter to Spring.”
Join the Irvine Ranch Conservancy on a fun filled adventure to discover the unique ways animals and birds in Round Canyon adapt their life cycle to the changing seasons. Families will take a short and easy nature walk, stopping several times to make fun nature sounds and wiggle like a real Round Canyon resident! Be ready for their fun outdoor adventure by wearing comfortable clothes and closed-toe shoes. Off-road strollers are welcome!
This program is perfect for the whole family, including off-road strollers! Parents and children will have an opportunity to take a little stroll through Round Canyon, nothing too challenging for little ones. While exploring the canyon, kids will discover what life is like for Acorn Woodpeckers, how the rain affects life in the canyon, and how flowers grow up nice and strong! In addition to hiking, children will create a fun craft to take home and enjoy! This program is geared for kids ages 3 – 6 years of age, but wee little ones are welcome as well. All children need to be accompanied by an adult or guardian.
You must register for the event, but it’s FREE. The Conservancy plans to offer this as a series, keeping Sounds of the Season but rolling through Winter to Spring, Spring to Summer, Summer to Fall and ending the year with Fall to Winter — so keep your eyes on the IRLandmarks.org website.
I remember being allowed to wander through botanic gardens on my own. I guess my mom was probably watching, but my eyes were facing forward and I was an explorer in a new world! What was around the next bend? What exotic plants made up this new landscape? There are places in Orange County that I bring my kids for those same experiences of wonder.
Fullerton Arboretum has community gardens to see, along with fruit-bearing trees and hidden paths.
Sherman Library and Gardens in Corona Del Mar is very small, but their Discovery Garden is a highlight for kids to smell and touch plants.
Centennial Farms in Costa Mesa has lots of animals, but how about the farm? It’s set up in a whimsical way where kids can learn their vegetables and see what they look like on the plant.
What to Do:
*Lay out any rules before you even go in. We use “eyes only” to prevent any picking from the gardens.
*Let your child take the lead. Where do they want to go? What do they want to see? Let them go at their own pace and show you around.
*Don’t forget to look up into the trees. Look at things from close-up and from far away.
*Make sure you have plenty of time to explore so you don’t feel rushed.
*Make your garden trip a “color walk” and have your child point out all the colors they see. We even did this at the Getty Center gardens up in LA. You can photograph them and make a special book of your day.
I wanted to sign up right away!! The good news is that Earthroots is offering even more community and family programs. There’s a very special campout opportunity coming up February 3rd through 5th.
Friday: Arrive at or after 2:00pm to set up camp and explore the land. There will be a simple potluck for dinner Friday 5:00pm (bring a homemade soup or homemade bread) followed by a puppet show for the little ones. Teens & adventurous parents will explore their nocturnal senses on a night hike without flashlights, guided by Earthroots Instructors. Evening campfires bring everyone together for music and food. Saturday and Sunday will include making your own fire by friction tools, exploring the land and practicing survival skills.
Come for all the camping — or you even have the reduced price option to just participate in all the day/evening activities and sleep at home.
The California State Parks Foundation is adopting a battle cry to “Defend Whats Yours.”Saving our California State Parks is a topic I’ve written about ever since June 2009 and as recently as August 2011 (“The Danger of Closing a Park“). I would argue that California’s State Parks are unlike any other line item on the state budget’s chopping block: once we lose them, we can never get them back in their same protected and pristine condition. The investment is SMALL, but the payoff is BIG.
Years of budget reductions to California state parks have forced partial closures and severe service reductions across the 278-unit park system. Cuts enacted in the Fiscal Year 2011-12 state budget include an $11 million cut that was increased to a $22 million cut starting in Fiscal Year 2012-13 and will continue through future budget years.
These cuts enacted by Gov. Brown and the Legislature are forcing the state to close 70 out of 278 California state parks by July 1, 2012, at the height of the summer season. Additionally, his 2012-13 state budget could eliminate all seasonal lifeguards and 20 percent of ranger positions in state parks, if Californians don’t pass the governor’s proposed revenue package slated for the November ballot.
Don’t like this reality? Then, DO something!
Defend What’s Yours is asking Californians to get involved by visiting calparks.org/defend and following these simple steps:
• Be a Defender
• Spread the word
• Volunteer in parks
• Join CSPF to support solutions to keep parks open
I’m an excellent wildlife spotter and I owe it all to my parents who must have taught me some keen powers of observation when I was young. My kids are quickly surpassing my abilities with my son spotting desert bighorn and my daughter with her deer and bobcat sightings. You can be good at it, too!
Whether you are on a walk or sitting on a bench, start by scanning your general surroundings.
#1 – Look for color
Most things in your Southern California environment will be brown and green right now. Do you think you could spot a Snowy Egret (black bill and yellow feet) or Great Egret (yellow bill and black feet)?
Easy, huh? Those guys really stand out!
#2 – Look for movement and listen for sounds
As I’m scanning, I’m looking for something that moves and listening in the bushes for sounds. Do you see anything?
Luckily, this guy moved and I spotted him.
It’s a Black-crowned Night Heron.
And you may even see a bird of prey hunting. First they glide over vacant lots, streams and ponds or other open space. Then they do a classic flapping motion before dropping in to get their prey.
#3 – Look for shapes where they don’t belong
Round shapes don’t belong in spiky trees. I can almost always spot nests and “round” birds by scanning trees for some shape that doesn’t fit.
Being excellent at spotting doesn’t mean I’m any good at identification, but there are books and rangers to help me with that! I hope this inspires you to go for a walk or find a bench to see what you can see! We are especially lucky to have this beautiful January weather to go out and explore.
As a blogger, I have no shortage of photographs. iPhoto reports my current count is at 25,000+. Probably nothing compared to professional photographers, but mind-boggling for me. So how come this one always catches my eye?
Maybe because I remember the day?
The kids led me on an exploration of Cedar Grove Park in Tustin around the time the sun was setting. It’s their favorite park. On the back path, beyond the cedar grove, we found these daisies standing out against the green carpet of grass. They posed for me. Lined up all brightly and hopeful. It was almost like they were saying “Pick me! Pick me!” Of course, we didn’t pick any of them.
We just played and adventured on the edges and through all the playgrounds. It was a lazy, imaginative day.
Over by the playground the daisies danced in the wind.
I’m feeling brightly and hopeful about 2012.
I have big outdoor wishes for you and your kids:
*I hope you discover your own magical corner of nature.
*I hope you let your kids lead the way.
*I hope you listen and feel and let go — the way you should on your outdoor adventures.