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April 16, 2013 > Beyond Earth Day

Beyond Earth Day

By Steve Taylor

Picking up a few empty bottles or planting some trees Earth Day morning has become regular duty for any Bay Area resident with a conscience. The trio below just kept going after "E Day" and shows how average people can make a big difference in our place by the Bay.

Steve Haas started volunteering with Save the Bay about four years ago. Save The Bay is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving San Francisco Bay and has been doing it for over 50 years. The management consulting and software development professional retired about two years ago and spends more and more of his free time with Save the Bay and other environmental organizations, getting out once or twice a month to assist projects at Eden Landing in Hayward and other locations on the Peninsula. The projects involve removing invasive plants, planting native species, mulching, and watering. Haas says he enjoys all of these, but especially removing the invasive plants.

At the end of each three-hour project, scheduled most Saturday mornings and involving manually pulling out the undesirable species like fennel and mustard, Haas looks back at what he has done with pride. "When you get back to the same site over a period of months and years, you can see the seedlings turning into big plants and spreading. That's especially gratifying," says Haas.

Haas volunteers for all the common reasons, being close to nature, feeling like he's making difference and meeting other volunteers but really loves it when folks out for a walk stop and ask what they're doing, then thank them for the work.

The High family would make John Muir feel like a slacker. The family of four is led by parents Howard and Carin who have made volunteering with the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) a generational endeavor. According to matriarch Carin, the family "first started doing volunteer work with the EBRPD when our son Sam was five or six. We took him to Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont to participate in an outdoor activity led by naturalist Doctor Quack - Dave Riensche." It was a small group of youngsters and Dave had them learn about the natural world by singing silly songs, exploring mysteries, and solving problems. Daughter Kate starting attending activities as a baby and grew up in the program. Sam and Kate grew up expecting to see something wonderful every time they visited a park - a golden eagle soaring over the hills, a muskrat carrying cattails to its den, beautiful displays of California poppies, and all the while, Doctor Quack would be filling their heads with new knowledge about the plants and animals they were seeing. Kate is studying Marine Biology at San Jose State University and interning at San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory.

The Highs work as a family now, planting oaks on the hillsides of the park, willows along the edges of the creek channels and along the edges of open water to provide habitat for wildlife within the park. "The work could sometimes be hard, but we had so much fun working with Doctor Quack and the other volunteers, the time would pass quickly and we would always be happy to have participated at the end of the day," says Howard.

Darcey Forbes, 36, said she found Save the Bay over five years ago when she was looking for a team project for her marketing group. Using the volunteer experience as a team building exercise Forbes found she enjoyed working outdoors and how projects like this help bring individuals together. Her group's replanting and restoration projects along the Faber Tract site and the Palo Alto Baylands have each taught her something new about the Save the Bay's background, efforts, and how it operates. The marketing professional now speaks fluently of "restoring the natural filtration system of our baylands" and "protecting endangered animals like the California Clapper Rail and Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse," environmental causes she now champions and learned through hours of pulling weeds.

Forbes ticked off a list of names of fellow volunteers she now counts as friends and how their commitment and passion rubbed off on her. "It's truly amazing when you can get a group of people together, roll up their sleeves to make a difference and help support (an organization) that relies on our participation," she says. Save the Bay benefits from her participation and Forbes says she gains a better understanding of our impact on the environment. A few hours out of her day makes a difference on her sense of well-being and makes Forbes feel like she's part of something that is bigger than her, she adds.

Friendship. Business contacts and team building. Exercise and connection. Earth Day can be lead to more than just a tidy Bay, these three seem to say. If you let it.

To start your own beyond Earth Day commitment, come out to these weekend events:

Washington Hospital and the City of Fremont are observing Earth Day by a staging an education expo to raise environmental awareness and share eco-friendly ideas with people in our district on Saturday, April 20. The "Let's Go Green Together!" event will feature a farmers market, gardening tips from experts, and an E-Waste drop-off and disposal service.

Let's Go Green Together!
Saturday, Apr 20
11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium
2500 Mowry Ave. (Washington West), Fremont
(510) 797-1111
Learn how to make changes to protect and sustain our planet at Coyote Hills. Create a litter bug craft, enjoy a puppet show (11:40 a.m. and 3:40 p.m.) and play recycling games. There is no fee and no registration is required. Parking $5.

Earth Day: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Saturday, Apr 20
10 a.m. - noon, and 1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Coyote Hills Regional Park
8000 Patterson Ranch Rd., Fremont
(510) 544-3220
Parking: $5

Docent Jane Moss will lead you on a 1-mile walk through the ever-changing panoramas surrounding a former commercial salt pond. Welcome the return of nesting shorebirds and learn about the exciting ways this area is being reshaped as wildlife habitat. Trail is easy and level. All ages and abilities welcome. For information and reservations, call (408) 262-5513 ext. 106.

"The Rebirth of a Former Salt Pond - An Earth Day Gift"
Saturday, Apr 20
1 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Ravenswood Unit (SF2), Menlo Park
(408) 262-5513 ext. 106

Help protect wildlife! Join the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Save the Bay for our annual Earth Day Service Day. For more information, call (408) 262-5513 ext. 106. Reservations are required. Please reserve your spot through Minors must be accompanied by an adult.

Earth Day Service Day
Saturday, Apr 20
9 a.m. - noon
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Ravenswood Point, East Palo Alto
(408) 262-5513 ext. 106

Photo Caption: Volunteer Steve Haas

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