Earth Day weekend will be a triple celebration for nature and the environment.

Visitors of all ages are invited to join the free festival of inspirational conservationist John Muir's 176th birthday, the 44th anniversary of Earth Day, and the 50th anniversary of the John Muir National Historic Site.

A schedule of events is packed with entertainment, guest speakers, youth activities and self-guided tours.

There will be a photo opportunity with "John Muir," portrayed by National Park Ranger Frank Helling, awards, Junior Ranger projects, silent auctions, stories of Muir's life and a chance to win a National Park Pass. It is a real birthday party with cake.

Muir walked the wilderness, chronicling nature in Scotland, the United States and pre-statehood Alaska. His passion for nature and conservation efforts led to the establishment of the National Park system, and birth of the Sierra Club.

Gates at the John Muir National Historic Site open at 10 a.m. with music by the Piedmont Highlanders Pipe and Drum Band and a welcome from local naturalist Igor Skaredoff and "John Muir."

Celebrated author and wildlife expert Gary Bogue will be there with his insights about suburban wildlife, and Bruce Hamilton, deputy executive director of the Sierra Club, is the keynote speaker.


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One of the most intriguing presentations is about a 130-year-old giant sequoia tree at the historic site. Muir collected a sequoia seed in Yosemite in the 1880s, walked back and planted it in Martinez. Now, his 75-foot-tall tree is suffering from two apparently fatal regional fungal diseases, even though in healthy conditions, a sequoia can live for thousands of years.

Keith Park, the historic site's horticulturist and preservation arborist will tell how Archangel Ancient Tree Archive (historic botany specialist) was able to clone the tree from cuttings at their propagation facility in Copemish, Mich.

Park climbed the sequoia, collecting 400 cuttings to ensure that Muir's tree can live on through new seedlings.

Also at the celebration, visitors can collect a stamp and learn about the Martinez Beavers at the Worth a Dam booth, the Solar Universe exhibit from Diablo Valley College, and others to be eligible to enter a drawing for a one-year pass to national parks (an $80 value).

Anyone who has not seen the Recycled Fashion Show will not want to miss the John Swett Elementary show on stage at 12:30 p.m.

A stop at the Friends of Alhambra Creek and California Native Plant Society booths includes a chance for kids to make a "wildflower bomb," in which seeds are rolled up into a mud ball, dried and saved for fall when it is thrown in the garden, exploding into a patch of spring flowers after winter rains.

Volunteer Shirley Skaredoff said, "Maybe youngsters would like to participate in a 'twelve-inch hike.' They are given a 12-inch ring to put down anywhere they like. Together, we identify all of the natural things we find in the circle and list them on a board."

Skaredoff said it is amazing how much can be found by the end of the day, and kids leave with note paper and pencil, so they can continue identifying, just as Muir did.

In some ways, the celebration is a sneak peek at the John Muir Mountain Day Camp.

"(The camp) has become a gathering place where camper and parent alike come to awaken their John Muir spirits year after year," said camp director Jill Harke.

The day camp booth is one of nearly 50 exhibitors, including Martinez Oral History Soundbite, Alhambra Hills Open Space, East Bay Scottish Association, International Bird Rescue, Bay Ridge Trail Council, and East Bay Regional Parks.

Musical performances, silent auctions and presentations, including the 2013 John Muir Conservation Awards for business and public agencies, environmental and youth are programmed throughout the day.

"They (award winners) come from all over," said Sherida Bush, a John Muir Association board member. "One award recipient is from as far away as Dubai."

It has been 100 years since John Muir's death, and the perpetuation of his legacy began. That gives the 2013 John Muir Conservationist of the Year and Legacy Conservation Award ceremony scheduled for 2:45 p.m. a special significance.

The city of Martinez, Shell Martinez Refinery, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 302 and Allied Waste are listed among the celebration sponsors.

Contact Dana Guzzetti about Martinez news at dguzzetti10@gmail.com.

or call 925-202-9292.

If you go
WHAT: 2014 John Muir Birthday-Earth Day Celebration, rain or shine
WHEN: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, April 26
WHERE: John Muir National Historic Site, 4202 Alhambra Ave. at Highway 4, Martinez
COST/PARKING: Free admission and parking; additional parking at Alhambra Avenue and F Street with shuttles to festival site; food and beverages available for purchase
INFORMATION: Visit www.nps.gov/jomu or www.johnmuirassociation.org or call 925-228-8860