Friends of Albany Parks is encouraging the community to take a direct role in the care and maintenance of neighborhood recreation spaces in town and is holding an event next week focused on the city's oldest and most central park.

The Friends of Memorial Park Gala will be held at 7 p.m. April 3 in the Child Care Building, 1325 Portland Ave.

According to Liam Kelly of the city's Recreation Department, the gala is part of a series being held at Albany parks to "provide social gatherings geared toward developing ideas for park improvement, specific maintenance tasks and getting residents involved with community projects. The galas will also help foster a better sense of community and build social capital as neighbors meet and work with one another."

The Memorial Park event will be followed by a cleanup on April 19.

Galas are also scheduled at Terrace Park on May 1, followed by a cleanup on May 17; and Ocean View Park on June 5, with a cleanup set for June 14.

Participants at each cleanup will receive an official Friends of Albany Parks T-shirt.

For more details contact Kelly at lkelly@albanyca.org.

  • El Cerrito, meanwhile, got students from Portola Middle School involved at neighboring Cerrito Vista Park.

    Students in teacher Michael Kuntz's seventh grade science class participated in the planting of eight native coast live oak trees in the park at the Arbor Week planting event on March 12. The oaks replaced non-native Monterey pines that were nearing the end of their life and had been removed.


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    Bonnie MacKenzie of the El Cerrito Garden Club discussed the historic significance of coast live oaks to Native Americans in California and city arborist Stephen Prée gave a planting demonstration at the event, co-hosted by the Public Works Department and the city's Tree Committee.

    WEST COUNTY NOTES: The performing arts program at St. Mary's High School will present the musical "The Wiz," with performances at 7 p.m. April 4, 5, 11, and 12 in the auditorium of the school, 1334 Albina Ave. on the Albany-Berkeley border.

    Tickets are $10 adults, $8 students and youths at the door.

    A special wine reception hosted by the St. Mary's Alumni Association on campus at the Shea Center at 5:45 p.m. April 11 is available, with the $20 covering the reception and admission to the evening's show. Tickets for the reception and performance should be reserved online at www.saintmaryschs.org by April 4.

  • Mugg Muggles & His Sizzling Syncopators play a free in-store concert at 2 p.m. March 29 at Down Home Music, 10341 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito. "Simply accompanied by his pulsing acoustic guitar (or 1-stringed Gutbucket Bass) and impressive homemade kazoo, Mugg evokes distant eras of prohibition speak-easies, minstrel shows, juke joints, house rent parties, barn dances and sock hops."

  • Berkeley Playhouse presents the Tony Award-winning musical comedy "The 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee," opening April 5 and continuing through May 4 at the Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave. in Berkeley.

    Performances are at 7 p.m. Fridays, 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturdays and noon and 5 p.m. Sundays, along with special 7 p.m. Thursday stagings on selected dates. Kimberley Dooley directs.

    The company is partnering with the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library and is offering a 10 percent discount on tickets to patrons who pledge to donate used books.

    For tickets and details visit www.berkeleyplayhouse.org or call 510-845-8542, ext. 351.

  • Donors are needed for the annual blood drive at Saint Mary's High School gymnasium from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 10 and sponsored by Blood Centers of the Pacific. Register online at www.bloodheroes.com. Click on "Donate Blood" and enter the sponsor code SMCHIGH to schedule an appointment.

    Contact Chris Treadway at 510-262-2784 or ctreadway@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/christreadway. Stay up-to-date on West Contra Costa news at IBABuzz.com/westcounty.