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April 14, 2010 > Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

By Suzanne Ortt

Have you wandered through a marsh lately? If not, meander through Stivers Lagoon, a 40-acre wetlands jewel in Fremont. Next door neighbor, Lake Elizabeth is a recreational area, yet within a few steps, Stivers Lagoon is an urban wilderness. Park your car or bikes near the Water Park; go to the south side of the parking lot, continue across the footbridge, and prepared to be enthralled.

The Stivers Lagoon Nature Area is open to the public. On your own, follow the trail. Look for the five science stations with information about the Laguna Creek watershed and fresh water area. Bird life is profuse; watch for swallows, warblers, towhees, bushtits, different species of swallows, finches, and varied raptors. As spring is here, search for bird nests.

Occasionally a gopher snake - nonpoisonous - may emerge from the grasses. In Muskrat Creek, raccoons, foxes, squirrels, and even muskrats may come to play and search for water. Trees provide shade for explorers and wildlife. Varieties of trees are Fremont cottonwood, arroyo and polished willow, and California black walnut.

The City of Fremont's clean water education program offers free two-hour field trips. The program is open to Fremont public, private, or home-schooled students/teachers. The instructor is Park Ranger Sandy Ferreira, "aka" Ranger Sandy. Student activities meet third grade state standards for physical and life sciences, investigation, and experimentation. Class size is limited to 25 students and one teacher/parent is required for each five students.

During the two-hour field trip, Ranger Sandy (a dynamo of a park ranger), focuses on the classes learning about wetlands, watersheds, ecology, and the effects of water pollution on the environment and biodiversity. Her goal is "to paint a visual picture for kids to see." She emphasizes using the senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing, and occasionally taste. In season, leaders pick blackberries for the children to sample. On the trail, the children survey the creek, collect water samples, look for aquatic insects, and collect leaves for making plant guides.

Another valuable lesson, out on the trail, is to watch out for poison oak. This verse helps: "Leaves of three let it be. If it's hairy, it's a berry." Poison oak is quite prolific in the area. Native California blackberries populate the area near the poison oak.

Ranger Sandy stresses caring for the environment. She states, "Don't litter, don't put chemicals down storm drains, especially cleansers used when washing cars, clean up after pets, and save water. Ranger Sandy explains how to avoid wasting water when showering and brushing teeth. She imparts details about litter, such as bananas take two years to decay and styrofoam never breaks down. The group learns this motto: "Be a solution to pollution."

The last thirty minutes of the field trip is in the well-equipped classroom. Students use microscopes in assessments and inventories. In the classroom, they examine their water samples under the microscopes and identify what is living in the water. They create plant guides. Also students can observe the animals preserved by taxidermy and displayed in the classroom. Ranger Sandy continues motivating them to connect with and explore nature.

Youth and community volunteers, including Boy Scouts, help maintain the trail, do creek and habitat restoration, and keep the Lagoon area in "tiptop" shape.

Spring is a perfect season to investigate Stivers Lagoon. Remember, "Leaves of three, let it be. If it's hairy, it's a berry." And, do not touch the poison oak!

Stivers Lagoon/Lake Elizabeth
40500 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont
For details on fieldtrips, volunteering, and general information contact:
Barbara Silva, Program Coordinator (510) 494-4575 or Ranger Sandy (510) 790-5541.

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