Leaping into March at East Bay Regional Parks

Leap Day (Feb. 29) only comes around once every four years, so it seems worth special notice. Several regional parks have planned programs acknowledging the calendar curiosity.

There’s a Leap Day hiking poles class planned from 9 a.m.to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29 at Black Diamond Mines Regional Park in Antioch. It’s open to all skill levels.

Reservations are required and there’s a fee of $65 per person ($73 for non-District residents). To register, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program number 27577.

“Legendary Leapers” is the theme of Family Nature Fun from 2 to 3 p.m. on Feb. 29 at Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda. The staff will talk about animals with epic leaping power on this extra day of the year. Crab Cove is at 1252 McKay Ave. off Alameda’s Central Avenue. Call 510-544-3187.

And there’s a Leap Day trek from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 29 at Sunol Regional Wilderness in southern Alameda County. This is a family-friendly hike with some leaps across local streams. So wear shoes that can get wet. Sunol Wilderness is at the end of Geary Road off Calaveras Road about five miles south of I-680 and the town of Sunol. There’s a parking fee of $5 per vehicle; the program is free. Call 510-544-3249.

Black Diamond Mines adventures

So what else is going on in the regional parks? Well, back at Black Diamond Mines, a variety of programs are offered from March through November that highlight the mining history of the park.

First of all, the underground Greathouse Visitor Center will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekends beginning March 7. The center has displays, photos and artifacts from the mining era. Entry is free and all ages are welcome.

Tours of the Hazel-Atlas silica sand mine are also available at various times on weekends, starting March 7. It’s a 75-minute exploration of the restored sand mine, ending with a descent down a staircase to the new coal mine exhibit.

Reservations are offered at 10 a.m. (for groups of 10 to 15 people), 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. First-come, first-served tours may be available when demand is high and staffing permits. The fee is $5 per person; participants must be seven or older.

There’s also a 30-minute coal mine experience tour offered at various times on weekends, featuring the new coal mine exhibit with sights and sounds of the mining era. Again, it’s for ages seven and older; there’s a fee of $3.

Reservations for the sand mine and coal mine tours can be made online at www.ebparks.org, or by calling 888-327-2757.

Black Diamond Mines is at the end of Somersville Road, 3½ miles south of Highway 4. There’s a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when the kiosk is attended. For general information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

Talk to the animals (and birds and bugs) at Tilden Nature area

At Tilden Nature Area near Berkeley, a whole series of programs are available at the Environmental Education Center and Little Farm.

Naturalist Anthony Fisher will lead a bird census program from 9 to 11 a.m. every Sunday in March, to count and record all species by sight or sound. Come to one or all of the sessions and improve your birding skills. Meet in front of the center.

The Tilden naturalists also plan “Talk With the Animals” sessions from 11 to 11:30 a.m. every Sunday in March and April. Meet at the Little Farm classroom to learn about a different animal each week.

Anthony also plans a talk about ticks and other bugs from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 1. The group will search for these unloved creatures and view them under a microscope.

Small children will enjoy “Farm Chores for Littles,” from 10:30 to 11 a.m. every Saturday in March and April. Meet at the Little Farm rabbit hutch for a variety of age-appropriate activities.

The center and Little Farm are located at the north end of Tilden’s Central Park Drive, accessible from Berkeley via Canon Drive from Grizzly Peak Boulevard. For information, call 510-544-2233.


Beer is on tap at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont – homebrewing, that is. Naturalist and brewmaster Ira Bletz will conduct a three-session class from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, March 7, 14 and 28. The group will brew and bottle a special batch of Ardenwood ale to take home (adults).

Registration is required, and there’s a fee of $40 per person ($45 for non-district residents). Call 888-327-2757 and refer to program number 28573.

Spring brings a flowering of programs for all ages in the regional parks. For full information, visit the website, www.ebparks.org.

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