The East Bay Regional Park District is now a member of the national Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

Leave No Trace is a private nonprofit based in Boulder, Colorado, that promotes an ethic emphasizing outdoor recreation with minimal impact on the environment. According to Leave No Trace, 85 percent of all recreation is based in what the organization calls "frontcountry" -- areas easily accessible by car and used mostly by day visitors. That describes most of the East Bay regional parks.

Leave No Trace advocates seven principles for everyone who visits the great outdoors: plan ahead and prepare; travel and camp on durable surfaces; dispose of waste properly; leave what you find; minimize campfire impacts; respect wildlife; and be considerate of other visitors. That all sounds reasonable to me. For more information about the park district's participation in Leave No Trace, go to

Dog etiquette: Disposing of waste properly includes disposing of dog waste. People who walk dogs in the regional parks are required to scoop up their dog's deposits and drop them in trash cans.


Most dogs seem to conduct their business at the start of their walks, close to trailheads and trash barrels. So it's not hard to pick up after them at that point. The same is true on paved interpark trails like the Iron Horse Trail in central Contra Costa, where there are trash barrels at regular intervals.

While hiking farther into the parks, I sometimes see plastic bags left by the trailside. Giving the benefit of the doubt, I hope that the pet owners are planning to pick up the bags on their way out. Please do so: it shouldn't be left to other park visitors or park staff to clean up after someone else's dog.

Antioch: The Underground Mining Museum tour season at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch begins with a mine open house from noon to 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Park visitors will be able to take free self-guided tours through the 1930s era Hazel-Atlas silica sand mine, with park staff and volunteers stationed along the way to point out interesting features. For safety reasons, sand mine access is restricted to ages 7 and older. However, all ages are welcome at the nearby underground Greathouse Visitor Center, where dogs are welcome, too.

After Saturday, guided tours of the Hazel-Atlas mine are available for a fee on weekends through November by advance reservation and on a first-come/first-served basis. Entry to Greathouse is always free. For more information on the mine tours, call 888-327-2757 and select option 2.

Aboveground at Black Diamond Mines, naturalist Eddie Willis will lead a 3-mile hike in search of wildflowers from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. next Sunday. Wildflowers are appearing in profusion at the park right now, especially on the Manhattan Canyon Trail.

For the wildflower walk, meet Eddie at the park's uppermost parking lot on Somersville Road, 3½ miles south of Highway 4. Heavy rain cancels the hike. For more information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

Oakley: At Big Break Regional Shoreline, the Delta Discoveries program offers nature-themed arts and crafts activities from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. And you can help the staff test the Delta water from 9 to 10 a.m. the same two days.

Spiders and spider activity games are on the agenda at Big Break from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday. And there are special programs for kids ages 1 to 5 from 10 to 11 a.m. March 7 and again on April 4. Parent or caregiver participation is required. Big Break is at 69 Big Break Road, off Oakley's Main Street. For more information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 3050.

Berkeley: At Tilden Nature Area, it's meet-the-snakes time from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday and on March 19 and April 3. You can meet the resident reptiles and learn the difference between a gopher snake and a rattlesnake. Good to know. It all takes place at Tilden's Environmental Education Center, located at the north end of Central Park Drive. For more information, call 510-544-2233.

Alameda: Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda has a family nature fun hour from 2 to 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, followed by fish feeding time from 3 to 3:30 p.m. at the center's aquarium. Next Saturday and Sunday, the family fun theme will be mammals, the species including us humans. Crab Cove is at 1252 McKay Ave. off Central Avenue. Call 510-544-3187.

Oakland: Saturday and Sunday Strolls are a series of family-friendly naturalist-led walks in various regional parks. There's a 3-mile stroll from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Leona Canyon in Oakland in search of flowers, birds and other park wildlife. Meet the naturalist at the trailhead on Canyon Oaks Drive off Keller Avenue. For more information, call 510-544-3187.

Fremont: Basic bird identification for kids ages 7 and older is the theme of a program from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Coyote Hills led by naturalist Kristina Parkison.

And snakes will star in a program from 10 a.m. to noon and again from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. next Sunday at Coyote Hills, led by naturalist Dino Labiste. The group will create a spiral snake craft to take home. Coyote Hills is at 8000 Patterson Ranch Road, off Paseo Padre Parkway. Call 510-544-3220. For both programs, meet at the visitor center.

Closure: The Brickyard Cove area of McLaughlin Eastshore State Park in Berkeley is closed for several months while the East Bay Regional Park District begins work on renovating the area, which contains a 53-foot pile of dirt.

The dirt will pile be lowered about 15 feet and spread around the parkland between the cove and Seabreeze Market. Long-term plans include trails, a picnic area, debris removal, native plant seeding and shoreline restoration. The dirt pile is from contractors' excavation projects around the Bay Area, including the sports fields at El Cerrito High School and UC Berkeley's Memorial Stadium. Wildlife biologists have surveyed the area and determined that it contains no nesting birds.

McLaughlin Eastshore State Park extends for 8.5 miles along the bay shoreline from the Bay Bridge to Richmond. It's named in honor of Sylvia McLaughlin, a founder of Save San Francisco Bay. The park district manages the park on behalf of the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at