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Earth Day at Wagner Ranch

Indulge your wild side at Wagner Ranch Nature Area’s annual Earth Day celebration.


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Photo by Cali Godley

Nestled in the foothills of Orinda, the Wagner Ranch Nature Area has enchanted schoolchildren on field trips since the 1970s. Aside from students (and their teachers), though, few people have experienced this magical place firsthand: It’s closed to the general public 363 days a year. Fortunately, the secluded property’s gates open to the community twice in 2018—and the annual Wildlife Festival on April 22 is one of those rare occasions.

An Earth Day extravaganza, the Wildlife Festival features music, face painting, crafts, games, and hands-on activities that encourage families to become one with nature. Kids and grown-ups alike can investigate tadpoles and turtles in the pond, befriend visiting parrots and goats, or learn about the site’s gardens and greenhouses from resident naturalist Toris Jaeger.

“It’s designed for families, so it’s very family-friendly,” says Kathy Barrett, secretary of the Friends of the Wagner Ranch ​Nature Area board of directors, who estimates that more than a thousand visitors will attend this year’s event. “Our goal is to captivate children and turn them on to nature.”

Wagner Ranch has deep roots in East Bay history. The ​land was once owned by Alice Marsh Camron, the woman who named the region Orinda. In the 1880s, it passed on to Theodore Wagner, who helped build Orinda’s first school and planted the olive orchards and pear trees that stand on the property today. The Wildlife Festival’s guided nature hikes offer visitors a chance to see some of the preserve’s historic landmarks.

Today, Wagner Ranch Nature Area is a carefully maintained hub of history, science, and ecology. A haven for native turtles and butterflies, the vast outdoor-education space inspires guests to explore, learn, and cultivate a love of nature. As Barrett puts it: “It’s an amazing place.”

Wagner Ranch Nature Area’s Wildlife Festival takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on April 22. Admission is free. fwrna.org.

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