Those interested in keeping our waterways and shorelines litter-free are reminded of the annual California Coastal Cleanup Day from 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 15, at creeks and shoreline parks throughout Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

Volunteers will venture forth to pick up all kinds of litter and recyclable items. For safety reasons, volunteers must be 6 or older.

If you'd like to join the effort at the regional shorelines, registration is required. Visit www.ebparksonline.org or call 888-327-2757, option 2, for more information.

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    Activities culminating in a pinata smash will celebrate Mexican Independence Day on Sunday, Sept. 16, at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont.

    Not to be confused with Cinco de Mayo, Mexican Independence Day commemorates "El Grito de Dolores," a public gathering on Sept. 16, 1810, at which Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla exhorted his parishioners to rise against their Spanish colonial rulers. His speech is considered the starting point of a 10-year fight for independence.

    Cinco de Mayo celebrates a different event -- the victory of Mexican forces over a French army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

    The fiesta at Ardenwood will start at 11 a.m. with spinning demonstrations and Ojo de Dios yarn craft making. At noon there will be salsa tasting and a hot chili challenge. Andt 1 p.m. there's a bean relay and mini pinata-making clinic. The pinata smash is at 2 p.m. It's all coordinated by naturalist Chris Garcia.


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    Ardenwood is located at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., just north of Highway 84 in Fremont. Entry costs $6 for ages 18 and older, $5 for seniors 62 and older, $4 for children ages 4-7, and free for ages 3 and under. Parking is free. For more information, call 510-544-2797.

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    Naturalist Katie Colbert will lead one of her Women on Common Ground hikes from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, at Sunol Regional Wilderness in southern Alameda County.

    This one is an up-the-creek experience -- literally -- so wear shoes and pants that can get wet.

    Katie's Common Ground hikes are designed for women who enjoy the outdoors, but have concerns for personal safety. The hikes are free, but registration is required.

    For registration or more information on the Sunol hike, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2, and refer to program 30266.

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    Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley is a parkland where you can see an amazing variety of wildlife, and kayaking is a great way to do it.

    Naturalists Mike Moran and Kevin Damstra are ready to help. The two are leading a day of kayak trips around Big Break on Saturday, Oct. 6. There's a trip from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and another from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Each trip starts with dry land instruction, then a shoreline paddle on rented craft.

    Participants must be 8 or older. There's a fee of $30 for adults and seniors, $25 for youngsters 8-16 ($35 and $30 respectively for nondistrict residents).

    Reservations are required. Call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program 30279 for the early trip or 30280 for the later one.

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    If you're looking for an easy, scenic walk with a chance to view lots of birds, I recommend taking a stroll around the reservoir at Contra Loma Regional Park in Antioch. It's only a couple of miles, it's almost completely flat, and the surrounding hills make for a pleasing backdrop.

    On a recent walk there, I spotted two pelicans, an egret and a couple of cormorants, all no doubt hoping to dine on the fish that are stocked in the reservoir. If you're a fisherman yourself, anglers 16 and older need a state license and a park district daily fishing access permit.

    You can pick up the trail at the water's edge by the grassy area next to the swim lagoon. From there, go either clockwise or counterclockwise, following the signs for the West Shore Trail or East Shore Trail. No water contact please, the reservoir stores future drinking water.

    Where the trail crosses the dam, stay within the fenced right of way. There are picnic tables and drinking fountains along the way, mostly in the shade. So all in all, it's a great place to relax.

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    A genteel day of fairy tales and tea sampling is planned for Sunday, Sept. 16, at Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley.

    Naturalist James Wilson will lead a short hike from 10:30 a.m. to noon while he recounts fairy tales inspired by nature. Then from 2 to 3:30 p.m., James and the other interpreters will host a tea-tasting session featuring both wild and classic brews. The tea party is for ages 9 and older. Bring your own cup and saucer.

    For either program, meet at Tilden's Environmental Education Center, located at the north end of Central Park Drive. For information, call 510-544-2233.

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    While you're at the center, check out the latest art exhibit, featuring works by Barbara Lewis, Linda Oppen and Anne Poley. Each has interpreted regional park district open spaces and shorelines in strikingly different ways.

    Center hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays. The exhibit will be up through October. And there's a reception to meet the artists from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, at the center.

    Ned MacKay writes about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.