Long hours of daylight and warmer temperatures make summer and the outdoors natural partners. Throw in a look toward good health, and it just makes sense to turn to the 65 East Bay Regional Parks within Alameda and Contra Costa County for recreation and fun.
Since its formation 80 years ago, the park district has worked to get residents in touch with the natural world, sharing knowledge about the lands the parks occupy, their former use and their cultural and natural history.
In the past few years, the park district has taken a leadership role in the Healthy Parks Healthy People initiative, adding health and wellness to the district master plan.
While activities are scheduled year-round, June has become the month to kick the program into high gear.
"The concept of Get Outdoors Month started several years ago when we were partnering with the U.S. Forest Service and held a one-day, one-park event called Healthy Parks Healthy People.
We had health care providers and local nonprofit organizations showcasing their involvement with topics such as recycling, ecology, sustainability and things of that sort," said Carol Johnson, the park district's general manager for public affairs.
"The event was so successful that we were asked to take it into other areas because it had such value for the community, so we decided to create a full monthlong series of events in all of our visitor centers."
East County residents can turn to Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley and Contra Loma Regional Park and Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch to participate in Get Outdoors events.
On Sunday, Big Break hosts Delta Living, a Healthy Parks Healthy People event to discover the culture, adventures and natural world around the park with games, activities and nature walks to areas not typically open to visitors. Different community organizations, including the Delta Science Center and Oakley and Brentwood Parks and Recreation, among others, will set up tables with information and activities.
"June 8 is also the kickoff for our summer campfire series, so we'll have s'mores and campfire activities and games," said Kevin Damstra, Big Break naturalist.
Big Break has a number of different activities scheduled for weekends throughout June, and several tie-in with the Get Outdoors theme.
On June 15, Father's Day, a five-mile kayak trip will explore Dutch Slough on the far side of the park, while on June 21, two shorter kayak trips will head toward the islands, only accessible by boat.
The best part is that the park supplies all the equipment needed.
Other June activities include Track like a Wild Man on June 15, Tule World on June 21 and Delta Fish on June 29, each one geared toward exploring a different aspect of the Delta, be it the wetlands or plant and animal life.
A Citizen Science program on Thursday, June 26 goes out to observe Delta raptors.
"We use June to kick off our summer series and shift toward summer camps and community events and activities connecting people to our resources," Damstra said.
"We try to focus on ways people can connect with the park that they can't do on their own, like kayaking and having a campfire right on the water."
Contra Loma Regional Park jumps into summer with its June 21 HPHP program titled "Contra Loma Past and Present."
"We want to shine a light on the history of the most popular swimming spot in Antioch. It's a rich, multilayered history, so we're working on a scrapbook-type memory book so people can flip through on their own to explore the park's history," said Kate Collins, supervising naturalist.
"We'll have docents and naturalist-led walks, and we're hoping people will come join us and then go for a swim."
Other June activities at Contra Loma include a family kayak discovery trip on June 22 as well as recreation department-sponsored swim lessons and junior lifeguard training, both beginning in June.
Nearby at Black Diamond Mines, a Father's Day program titled "Fathers of the Coal Field," wanders through historic Somersville to Rose Hill cemetery, where the naturalist will talk about family life and fathers in the old days who helped shape local history.
The park district serves close to 2.5 million residents, working to help them use the natural world to enrich their lives.
One way is through the Healthy Parks Healthy People, a global initiative that now stretches from Australia to Alaska and beyond.
"This is a global movement that highlights the value of public lands in the context of human health, physical, emotional and mental," Collins said.
"The idea is that nature is the very best medicine, exercise being a part, but not the only part."
Contra Loma Regional Park: 1200 Frederickson Ln, Antioch, 888-327-2757, www.ebparks.org/parks/contra_loma. For information on swim lessons and junior lifeguard sessions: www.eblifeguard.org, Katy Hornbeck 510-690-6625.
For more information on activities described in this story, go to the Regional in Nature guide at ww.ebparks.org/Assets/Features/RIN/RIN+May-June+2014.pdf.