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August 4, 2015 > Park It

Park It

If youÕve been to any of the East BayÕs wilder parks lately, especially at dusk, thereÕs a good chance youÕve spotted a big-eared, 40-pound canine trotting across a hillside: A coyote.

Coyote populations in the Bay Area have been rebounding the past few decades as hunting regulations have tightened, public attitudes have changed and these highly intelligent, adaptable creatures have become more adept at living near cities and suburbs. In recent years coyotes have been spotted in San Francisco and even New York City.

In the East Bay Regional Park District, coyotes live in almost everywhere except for Brooks Island and Browns Island. TheyÕre most common, though, in the larger parks east of the Caldecott Tunnel. Briones, Black Diamond Mines, Contra Loma, Sunol, Round Valley and Brushy Peak are all ideal places to catch a glimpse of these beautiful animals, especially around dawn or early evening.

Coyotes are important predators in our parkland ecosystems, eating large numbers of mice, rabbits, gophers and squirrels. But theyÕre also very resourceful, and in cities may eat garbage, cats or small dogs.

Here are a few tips to help the public learn to live with coyotes:
* Keep cats and dogs indoors at night
* DonÕt leave pet food outside
* If youÕre on a hike and see a coyote, put your dog on a leash
* If a coyote approaches you or your pet, shoo it away by throwing small rocks, yelling or waving your arms
* Never feed a coyote.

These days, as the drought intensifies, coyotes might be more visible than usual. TheyÕre likely to be drawn to creeks and ponds in search of water, and also following prey who are trying to survive these hot, dry months.

ItÕs a treat to observe these handsome, resilient animals. Just give them plenty of space so they can remain wild.

Help plan the East BayÕs newest park, a 2,540-acre expanse of grassy hills and oak woodlands at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station.

The Park District is seeking the publicÕs help in transforming longtime military operation into a regional hub for trails and open space. Whether itÕs hiking, mountain biking, camping, educational programs or historic preservation, the District wants to know what you want.

The property, which comprises about half of the former base, lies south of Highway 4 and straddles the hills between Concord and Pittsburg. It will provide links in several regional trail systems, including the Contra Costa Canal Trail and De Anza National Historic Trail, as well as trails in Mt. Diablo State Park, Black Diamond Mines State Park and beyond.

The new park will also include a visitor center focusing on the Port Chicago disaster of 1944, in which more than 300 mostly African American sailors died in a munitions explosion while loading ships. The tragedy, ensuing mutiny and public protests, led to the desegregation of the military and was an early milestone in the Civil Rights Movement. The center, a partnership with the National Park Service, will also feature exhibits on the role of the Naval Weapons Station in four wars, the contributions of veterans, and the rich history of Concord and the Diablo Valley.

Another important aspect of the new park is that itÕs close to a BART station. Linking regional parks and trails to public transit is a priority for the District board, and hopefully will be a boon for bicyclists and hikers throughout the East Bay.

The publicÕs help is also needed to pick a name for the park. ItÕs currently called Concord Hills Regional Park, but planners hope to replace the name with something more dynamic. A few suggestions so far: Todos Santos, after the original name for Concord; Los Medanos, after the official name of the hills east of Concord; and Rancho del Diablo, after one of the Spanish-era land grants in the area.

To learn more about the project and contribute your ideas, please go to:

Looking for a fun and challenging hike with like-minded souls? Join the naturalists at Tilden Regional Park for a hike to Wildcat Peak on Aug. 9. Hikers will meet at the Tilden Nature Area at 10 a.m., ascend the peak, hike down through Laurel Canyon and return by noon. Learn about the parkÕs bountiful flora and fauna on the way, make new friends, and get a good workout. Bring a snack and water. No registration needed.

Another great hike scheduled for August is at Crockett Hills. Learn about the areaÕs history, its wildlife and plants, and take in some fantastic views from the ridge tops. Crockett Hills is one of the less-visited parks in the District, but is well worth exploring. The 1,900-acre park, between the towns of Crockett and Port Costa, has gorgeous views of the Carquinez Strait and ample wildlife, including golden eagles, CooperÕs hawks and gray foxes.

A great trail network makes this park a perfect destination for hikers, dog walkers and bicyclists, and anyone else seeking some quiet and solitude in a beautiful natural setting. This naturalist-led hike leaves from the staging area at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 14. The staging area is on Crockett Boulevard, just south of Pomona Street in Crockett.

If those hikes sound too vigorous for you, try an easy, relaxing stroll along the Hayward area shoreline Aug. 15. The flat, 3-mile walk next to Oro Loma Marsh and San Francisco Bay will be a great outing for kids and seniors, bird watchers and anyone else seeking fresh bay breezes and picturesque scenery. The walk is from 10 a.m. to noon and begins at the Grant Avenue staging area at the Hayward Regional Shoreline. The staging area is at the foot of Grant Avenue in San Lorenzo.

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