The East Bay Regional Park District marks its 80th anniversary this year, and you can help celebrate by joining the 2014 Trails Challenge.
Now in its 21st year, the Trails Challenge is a program encouraging health, fitness and fun in the regional parks. It's sponsored by the park district, Regional Parks Foundation, and Kaiser Permanente health maintenance organization.
Here's how it works. Beginning Jan. 15, visit the foundation website at www.regionalparksfoundation.org, click on the Trails Challenge logo, and register online.
Once registered, you can download a guidebook listing 20 trails throughout the regional parks. There are also instructions on how to obtain a free Trails Challenge T-shirt while supplies last.
Travel any five of the trails, or complete 26.2 miles, send in the log that comes with the guide, and you'll receive a commemorative pin, while supplies last.
Regional parks where challenge trails are located include Big Break/Marsh Creek in east Contra Costa, Briones Regional Park in central Contra Costa, Kennedy Grove in El Sobrante, Sycamore Valley in Danville, and Lake Temescal in Oakland.
You don't have to hike. Any nonmotorized mode of transport is OK, including horse and bicycle. There are trails accessible to wheelchair users, too.
The 20 trails are located throughout the district, and vary in difficulty so that all levels of fitness can participate. It's a great way to explore new parklands and discover hidden treasures of an agency that has served the public since 1934.
Although it may seem early to be thinking about spring and summer, the park district will soon be offering seasonal full- and part-time positions for youth ages 16 and older.
Jobs include lifeguards, recreation leaders, gate attendants and student laborers. The district also has two training programs for student aides to work year-round at visitor centers or in the Public Safety Department.
In a previous column, I mentioned that you could see clusters of overwintering ladybugs at Redwood Regional Park in Oakland. Well, there's a good opportunity on Saturday, Jan. 11, during a naturalist-led walk from 10 a.m. to noon. It's part of the Saturday and Sunday Strolls series.
This one's a moderate three-mile loop on the East Ridge, Prince and Stream trails. Meet at the park's Skyline Gate, which is on Skyline Boulevard a bit south of the intersection with Shepherd Canyon and Pinehurst Roads.
For information, call 510-544-3187.
There are two hikes from which to choose this weekend in Richmond. The first is from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, at Pt. Pinole Regional Shoreline, led by naturalist "Trail Gail" Broesder.
It's an exploration of life beneath the waters of San Pablo Bay, so be prepared for wet hands and feet. Pt. Pinole Regional Shoreline is on Giant Highway off Richmond Parkway.
The second hike is from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday, Jan. 12, at Sobrante Ridge Regional Preserve, led by naturalist Anthony Fisher. Sobrante Ridge has beautiful views, and is home to the rare and endangered pallid manzanita.
This is one of Anthony's "Tracking the Urban Edge" series, looking for signs of wildlife that lives close to our homes. Meet at the trailhead near the end of Heavenly Ridge Lane in Richmond.
Both programs are free, though Pt. Pinole has a parking fee of $5 per vehicle. For information on either program, call 510-544-2233.
Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley will host several nature walks and talks in coming days.
Fungi will be the focus of a program from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12, at the Environmental Education Center, led by interpretive student aide Morgan Rani Evans. You can learn about distinguishing traits of the major groups and which ones grow in the nature area.
To reach the center, park at the end of Tilden's Lone Oak Road off Central Park Drive, then follow the signs on foot.
And bird watchers will enjoy a walk that Anthony is leading from 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Jan. 13, from the end of Lone Oak Road through the eucalyptus groves in search of our feathered friends.
All three programs are free.
For information, call 510-544-2233.
Ned MacKay writes about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at email@example.com.
Art created by youngsters who participated in the "Get to Know" contest is on display at the center through January and February.
Canadian naturalist and artist Robert Bateman conceived the contest in an effort to connect youngsters to nature. Center hours are from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Wetland bugs will be featured in a hands-on program from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12, at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. The idea is to see what the little guys can tell us about the Delta ecosystem.
It's free. Big Break is located on Big Break Road off Main Street. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 3050.Ned MacKay writes about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.