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Theme: Giving Back to the Parks

The Edgewood Preserve Docent Training Program

Docents: Sharing Nature with the Bay Area Community

Meeting the Land at Fairfield Osborne Preserve

Other Features

A Brief History of Bay Area Parks and Open Space
   Pt. 2: From the 1960s through the Present Day

Names on the Land
   Pt. 2, Santa Cruz County

Education Stations "Smooth" the Trails

"Dish" Argument Continues on New Terrain

Sudden Oak Death: New Victims


Letter from the Trail Center

Park News

Trail Center Notes

Upcoming Events

The Trail Companion

Winter 2001

Theme: Giving Back to the Parks

The Edgewood Preserve Docent Training Program.

By Pat Oren.

My husband Tim and I signed up for the Edgewood docent training program with a variety of motivations. We thought we might enjoy leading hikes and passing along our enthusiasm for Mother Nature's beauty. We're wildflower enthusiasts, so we wanted to learn to identify more species of flowers, as well as trees, shrubs, and grasses. We were interested in the history of the park. And because we owned property less than a mile from the park, we wanted to glean information about soils and plants that we could use for native landscaping.
      Edgewood Park - more precisely, Edgewood County Preserve - is a unique place. It was designated as a natural preserve in 1993, and remains the only natural preserve in San Mateo County. Its 467 acres support over 500 plant species (75 percent of them native), including four species federally listed as endangered or threatened. It's also home for the endangered Bag Checkerspot Butterfly and a variety of larger species (including more than 70 kinds of birds). The preserve contains a wide variety of soil types, and hosts an especially fine community of flowers and plants on the serpentine grassland.
      The unique ecosystems now protected in the preserve almost didn't survive to the present day. Starting in the early 1960's, development options were proposed. At various times, the land nearly became a housing subdivision, a state college campus, a recreational complex, a solar energy facility, and an 18-hole golf course. It took a tremendous grassroots effort, by people who educated themselves on everything from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), to Stanford University field studies on endangered species, to stop the push toward development and ensure that this remnant of California native prairie would remain for future generations to enjoy.
      The people who came together to save Edgewood formed the nucleus for a formal organization, the Friends of Edgewood Natural Pre-serve (FoE for short). FoE is a non-profit volunteer group that works with San Mateo County through its Division of Parks and Recreation for the benefit of the preserve. We discovered the organization through a kiosk sign at the preserve. Once we received their newsletter, we learned about various opportunities to volunteer, including the docent program.
      The Edgewood docents lead 3-hour guided walks through the park, during the peak of the wildflower season (March through June) on Saturday, Sunday, and holiday Monday mornings. Docents typically walk their planned route a few days ahead, find out what's blooming, and plan parts of a talk. They also answer questions on park rules, possible hazards such as poison oak and ticks, park history, flower names, plant uses, soil types, invasive non-native plants like yellow star thistle, the mowing experiment, 30-year-old off-road vehicle scars, and other topics that come up during the hikes. Occasionally experts lead special-topic hikes in a particular subject, such as geology, birds, or grasses.
      Docent training runs from October through April. There are 6 weeknight classroom lectures (each about 2.5 hours) and 6 Saturday morning hikes (each about 3 hours). Each of the classroom lectures covers a different subject, such as geology, park history, or the serpentine grassland plant community. The hikes then center on the classroom discussion topics. New docents are encouraged to lead a hike in the season that immediately follows their graduation. (In our case, Tim and I knew we would be moving in March, so we decided to wait for the 2001 season before leading any hikes).
      What did I gain from the docent training experience? I did learn to identify more plants. I can some-times recognize what soil type I'm on by the plants I see, and which plants to expect if I know the soil type. I realized that simply telling people the names of a few flowers wouldn't be enough to ensure they have an enjoyable hike. Through the spring special-topic 'grasses' hike I discovered that grasses are a complex subject requiring patient study!
      If leading hikes doesn't appeal to you, there are other volunteer opportunities with both the Friends of Edgewood and the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation staff. You can lead field trips for students, run a hospitality table, help clean up an adopted stretch of highway, or patrol the trails. You can weed out non-native plants, help with fence and sign maintenance, or work toward habitat restoration by growing or planting native plants. For opportunities to work with FoE, call our FoE line at (650) 361-1218, or check our web site. For opportunities to work with the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation department, call Nick Ramirez at (650) 699-1306.