MARTINEZ -- A segment of Martinez' wetlands will soon be teeming with life, along with its myriad microorganisms, lush foliage and robust array of fowl and creatures that are already present.
The public will once again gather Saturday, Aug. 2, to celebrate an ever-expanding family of beavers who play a key role in creating such diversity -- from one end of the food chain to the other -- at the seventh annual Beaver Festival, featuring live music, wildlife exhibits from throughout the world, children's activities and tours of the beavers' environs.
Heidi Perryman, founder and president of Worth A Dam, the festival sponsor, describes the current seven-member, four-legged family dynamic: one new kit in the mix, three teens born in 2013, minus an adolescent "who'd gone off to seek his future" in 2012, the "remarried" patriarch, and a supportive uncle.
The Martinez resident quickly segues from cute descriptions to basic science, always lobbying for the beavers that play a key role in creating the overall health of the ecosystem.
"The beavers are changing the invertebrate community; they're forming nooks and crannies; and constantly moving mud," says Perryman, noting that different insects flourish at different elevations of the terrain, and thus account for an ensuing "fish bloom," and a greater diversity of birds.
"They're a family unit. They all work together," says Cheryl Reynolds, a Worth A Dam board member, describing the beavers' lodge-dwelling digs, vegetarian diet, and their average 35-pound size.
The beavers' two-block long natural habitat also has softened the look of a man-made, flood mitigating flow device, where green herons perch in search of fish, and Western pond turtles sun themselves.
This year, an Amtrak train car of folks will be part of the coterie of beaver fans, as a retired curator of aquatic biology at the Oakland Museum of California -- and self-proclaimed "chief creek snooper" at Flow Back in Time -- helps to open their respective eyes about the eco-vibrancy of creek life.
Christopher Richards will lead the group out to Alhambra Creek's inlet to put into context just how an industrious group of sleek-coated beavers have stabilized creek banks, decreased flooding risks through fostering the growth of the natural riparian vegetation, and assisted in restoring the natural function and hydrology of the stream.
"(Beavers) are the productivity, the agriculture for the critters in the creek," he says, citing the beavers' habitat as an illustration of how "we can manage, neglect or restore creeks in the urban Bay Area landscape."
Deidre Martin, a San Francisco resident and volunteer natural sciences docent at the Oakland Museum, is among those beaver enthusiasts who will board the Wetlands Express, already championing the sanctity of this native animal.
"We need to dispel the notion of beavers as pests ... They're a keystone species. They create habitat for other animals," she says.
And, Pleasant Hill resident and artist Frogard Butler will once again facilitate a hands-on, experiential learning opportunity for the younger set.
Young artists will be making leather, textured, crisscross-patterned beaver tails in three sizes -- adult, yearling and kit -- and decorating them. Some participants have been known to return to the festival, sporting attached beavers tails they've made in the past.
"They're (often) learning without knowing it," Butler says. "They'll be learning what benefit the beavers are in the community."
WHAT: Worth A Dam's seventh annual Beaver Festival
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2
WHERE: Beaver Park (corner of Marina Vista and Castro streets), Martinez
COST: Free admission
INFORMATION: Visit www.martinezbeavers.org