OAKLEY -- After nearly 20 years as a naturalist, Michael Moran has come to represent the face of the East Bay Regional Park District. Working in east Contra Costa County and credited with developing and implementing programs and establishing important community relationships, Moran was recently recognized as one of two 2012 Master Front-Line Interpreters by the National Association for Interpretation.
In a sense, Moran could also be credited as the voice of the park district, after his college plans to work as a radio sports announcer veered off track because of one general education class in recreation.
"The class covered everything from land preservation to stewardship, and it hit me like a ton of bricks," Moran said. "That class propelled me in this direction."
After working at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, the Oakland resident now serves as acting supervising naturalist at Big Break Regional Shoreline, and he couldn't be happier about his location and the people he shares it with. With Big Break coming into development after 20 years within the park district, Moran sees his role as a spokesman for the Delta.
"Our idea is to get people out there to appreciate and know their Delta," he said. "It's the most important chunk of real estate in California as far as the things it concerns, so we really need to get an informed citizenry, and that's our big key."
Phased development at Big Break has resulted in one corner of the park furnished with a large-scale model of the Delta, a walkout over the pier, a big amphitheater right on the water and a recently completed Visitor Center. Though only open on weekends, the park is now a big draw, and people are happy to see it.
Bringing people out is exactly what Moran and the district want. Aside from all the nuts-and-bolts reasons for the importance of the Delta, the bottom line is what is actually out there. "It's a great place to go and have fun and see things many people probably thought were gone from California -- beautiful wetlands, migratory birds and even Chinook salmon running through Marsh Creek," Moran said. "My bottom line is that when people leave a program I'm doing, I want them to have had a good time."
Moran's enthusiasm and dedication go a long way toward his success as a leader in developing important collaborations within the community. He credits teachers ready to guinea-pig new programs in their classrooms; the Delta Science Center, soon to interpret some of the scientific research collected surrounding the Delta; and Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed, who recently installed a fish ladder. Moran describes all as a "ready and willing bunch of people."
As a representative of both the park district and his craft, Moran describes all naturalists as the face of the district because of the job they do as interpreters, facilitating and making the connection between parks and people. "We want people to understand their parks but also to really get a feel for stewardship," Moran said. "That this is their park."
Humbled by receiving the 2012 Master Front-Line Interpreter Award, Moran sees this more as a reflection on the business of interpretation rather than a personal recognition. He feels so lucky to have the system of interpretation set up and strongly supported by the East Bay Regional Park District and the people of the East Bay.
"If it weren't for that system, there would be no reason to have an award," he said.
Though hugely pleased with the public response to Big Break Regional Shoreline, Moran continues to work toward the district's mission of making a connection with everyone in the East Bay, and it is here that his skill as an interpreter shines through.
"Interpretation is the connections, not the programs. You've got to make whatever you're talking about or sharing part of the experience of each person, or else it's sterile," Moran said. "That connection is the key."