East Bay regional parks have it all – from native Coulters to beeswax

Fun activities in East Bay Parks for Labor Day weekend

Fun activities in East Bay Parks for Labor Day weekend
From left: Ardenwood Historic Farm, Chicken party at Berkeley’s Tilden Nature Area, and the Crab Cove visitor center in Alameda. (Pete Cruz photos)

[UPDATE: EBRPD has announced that most of its inland parks will close on Sunday and Labor Day Monday due to extreme temperatures and fire danger. To read more and see which parks will remain open, click here.]

SAN FRANCISCO EAST BAY AREA, CA (Sept. 2, 2022) — Whatever your leisure time interests, Labor Day weekend will bring a great variety of activities for your enjoyment in the East Bay Regional Parks.

For instance, the Rail Fair will return to Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont after several years’ absence due to COVID.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday through Monday, Sept. 3 through 5, the fair will offer attractions including train rides, model trains, historic railroad equipment displays, live music and tours of the historic Patterson House. You can bring your own picnic lunch or purchase food at the Farmyard Café.

The Rail Fair is sponsored by the park district and the Society for Preservation of Carter Railroad Resources. Admission is $12 per adult 18 and older, $10 for seniors, $9 for children, and free for kids three and under. Parking is free. Advance tickets can be purchased at http://apm.activecommunities.com/ebparks/Activity_Search/45890.

And there’s something new at Ardenwood. Besides its historic features, the park has always included a modern-day working farm. Now, in partnership with the park district, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and nonprofit Dig Deep Farms are establishing a Dig Deep Farms Regenerative Farming Project there.

The goal is to create living wage jobs and training opportunities for youth and justice-involved residents, through farm operations, while boosting regenerative food production, and supporting the local farming community. The project also addresses the issue of food insecurity, which is seen as a frequent contributor to criminal activity.

Ardenwood is at 34600 Ardenwood Boulevard, just north of Highway 84. For general information, call 510-544-2797.

Del Valle

Elsewhere in the park district, the visitor center at Del Valle Regional Park south of Livermore will be open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. all three Labor Day weekend days. While swimming and picnicking, stop by to share a sweet treat with the staff and learn how the park plants and animals prepare for the changes in season.

Del Valle is on Del Valle Road off Mines Road about nine miles south of Livermore. There’s a parking fee of $6 per vehicle. Allow extra time for long lines at the kiosk; the park is very popular on holiday weekends and sometimes reaches capacity.

Mining town

Geology and history are the themes of a naturalist-led Somersville townsite walk from 10 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3 at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch.

Now deserted, Somersville was once one of Contra Costa County’s most populous communities. The short walk will lead to mining ruins, building sites, and hidden history of the park’s coal mining days.

Then from 9 to 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 4, naturalist Kevin Dixon will lead a hike in search of tarweed, that aromatic yellow flower that blooms at the driest time of year.

For either program, meet in the parking lot at the upper end of Somersville Road, 3½ miles south of Highway 4. The hike is free, but the park has a $5 per vehicle parking fee when the kiosk is attended.

Big Break

Nature-based arts and crafts are on tap in a program from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 in the visitor center at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. Then from 2 to 3 p.m., learn all about hummingbirds and their importance.

The center will be open every day on Labor Day weekend, with exhibits and activities relating to the Delta’s natural and cultural history.

When inside the center, everyone older than age two is asked to wear a face covering at all times, due to COVID protocols.

Big Break is at 69 Big Break Road off Oakley’s Main Street. For information, call 510-544-3050.

Tilden Nature Area Chickens and Rabbits

“Chicken Party and Rabbit Fest” is the title of a program from 10 to 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 4 in the Little Farm at Tilden Nature Area near Berkeley.

Naturalist Anthony Fisher will show how to interact with the Little Farm’s residents. Meet at the bird pen.

And from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Anthony will lead an exploration of the Tilden Nature Area, emphasizing use of your senses to understand the natural world. Meet in the visitor center.

The Little Farm and Environmental Education Center are both at the north end of Tilden’s Central Park Drive, accessible from Canon Drive down from Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Berkeley. For information, call 510-544-2233.

Crab Cove

The Doug Siden Visitor Center at Crab Cove in Alameda will hold open house all day on Labor Day, Sept. 5.

Storytime is at 10:30 a.m., beach cleanup at 11:30 a.m., meet the reptiles at 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m., family nature fun is at 3 p.m., and craft making will be all day long.

The center is at 1252 McKay Ave. off Alameda’s Central Avenue. For information, call 510-544-3187.

Expect crowds

This is just a sample of Labor Day weekend programs. For the full list of activities, visit www.ebparks.org.

On Labor Day weekend, especially Labor Day itself, the regional parks tend to be crowded, especially those with swim facilities. So it’s best to arrive early to secure a picnic table.

Please be careful with fire while barbecuing, supervise your children, and cooperate with any instructions from rangers, police, firefighters, lifeguards and other park staff. And have a safe, enjoyable holiday.

Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.