Archive for the ‘Festival’ Category

Wondrously familiar

Posted by heidi08 On September - 28 - 2014Comments Off

This is what two mostly damp beaver advocates look like at a Utah festival, On the left is Mary Obrien of the Grand Canyon trust, and on the right is me looking dazed to be sitting at the first booth at the Utah festival where a bright young college student tells you to take a treasure hunt and find the 5 ways that beavers help wildlife. Then come back wih your card filled out, paint a tail, and decorate a beaver-shaped gingerbread cookie!

It was raining the first time I gave my talk indoors at the nature center. So there were lots of folks who wanted to be dry and listen. Thank goodness it stopped soon and folks turned up anyway.  At one point I sat by the pond and gave an interview to their tech crew about our experience, the student asking the questions was actually from Danville! Later we went down to the festival proper where we heard about one little boy who had had gotten the notice at school but his mom said “I’m sure it was probably cancelled with the storm”. He convinced her when he somberly said, “But we have to go check“.

Just in case you think I was exaggerating about the storm, the big empty stone-lined waterway around the nature center was RUSHING with muddy water that day. We were told that it probably rains 2 days a year in St. George and that summer temperatures commonly reach 115.

One great idea we want to try at home was a beaver lodge the children made – with the orignal frame of a dome tent covered with willow that kids added branches to to make a beaver house. They were running in and out hiding from ‘otters’ later in the day. Mary had also boldly invited the trappers association who displayed pelts for the children to feel. One surprising trapper commented, “People just don’t realize how good beavers are for streams and wildlife”. Which might have blown my mind if I was not already through the looking glass.

I gave the talk again in the afternoon and then came back to the hotel while they cleaned up. That night Mary picked us up and brought us to their camp sight in Sand Hallow where 15 tents circled their giant field station horse trailer-with-sattrlite dish. The cooking crew made us an awesome dinner of jumbalaya which we ate in a giant circle under the stars. The looming clouds were on the opposite bank and kindly stayed away from us.


After dinner there was a single darting bat, a crescent moon, and looming stars overhead. The great arc of 21 young students of semester in the west introduced where they were from and their majors, then said the favorite part of their day. It was amazing to hear their stories and did you even know there were political majors like environmental politics or environmental humanities? Then  Mary asked me to say a little about the research we did on the historic prevalence papers. A huge gust of wind made my teeth chatter too much to talk anymore and fortunately caused the pages of ‘data’ to blow away so that everyone scrambled to retrieve it. Then we said our goodnights and thank you’s and dashed back to the car where Phil brought us back to the hotel.

This morning, Mary picks us up and brings us back to Cedar Springs, from where we will fly home tomorrow morning. The Whitman crew will head off for North for a 5 hour drive to their final camp, where they will end their journey and take finals before heading back to Walla Walla.

Dinner under the stars with tomorrows smart, talented environmental advocates was definitely the best part of the journey. But the woman who introduced herself at my talk as a docent from Yellowstone who does the beaver talks there was definitely a close second.

Then there was the child who explained he knew why beavers were important because (and I quote) “they make honey” 

And in the end, the beavers you save, is equal to the beavers you have

Posted by heidi08 On September - 26 - 2014Comments Off

Southern Utah beaver festival enlightens public about the creatures.

Beaver Festival Brings Awareness To Community

A festival meant to create awareness about beavers and the important role they play in the ecosystem is scheduled to take place in southern Utah on Sept. 27.

Lynn Chamberlain with the Division of Wildlife Resources said the Leave it to Beavers festival seeks to debunk some myths about the industrious critters. Contrary to popular belief, Chamberlain said beaver habitats extend far beyond the mountains and he says they are not merely destructive creatures.

“They slow down flood waters—we’ve certainly seen some of that this year with some of the heavy rains that we’ve had—and they filter out a lot of the sediment that would be going down the flood waters also,” said Chamberlain. “So, they slow it down and help to build meadows, they build habitat for other wildlife species—not only aquatic ones but those that live around the riparian area, around the pond.”

The festival is the second of its kind in Utah. Chamberlain said it is moving this year to the Tonaquint Nature Center in St. George to reach a different audience.

The Beaver festival in St. George is 200 miles away from the 2012 one in Escalante. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for us to move the next festival to Redding or Fresno. I guess if you are partnering with Fish and Wildlife their reach can help span the distance. But it’s hard to imagine what it would take to pull that off. Of course those areas both NEED beaver festivals. But they’re going to have to generate their own. I’m tapped.

(I sure wish WE had ever gotten a headline like that on public radio.)

Oh and guess what happens tonight? The beaver dam jam in Idaho. That’s right, it’s an entire beaver weekend in the western states.

10382725_804717179573295_3153313975239790248_nBeaver Dam Jam–A Music event to support beaver conservation in Idaho

10647022_817296904981989_2965568295390226904_nOur good friend Mike Settell has been working round the clock with our friends at The Watershed Guardians to pull this off. He’s got public transportation bringing folks to the event, and will use the bus ride to educate en route. This is rough and tumble country where folks like their firearms and their hunting and trapping. Mike is trying to get folks to pay attention to the impact beavers have on wildlife populations. Attendees purchase a ‘beaver bead’ from near by stores and wear it to enter. How cool is that?

I know everyone will think saving beavers once upon a time was easy for us because we’re in liberal tree-huggin California. But at last count there are 482 municipalities in the golden state. And exactly one of them  has saved beavers.

This is the first weekend in the history of the world that will host TWO BEAVER CONSERVATION EVENTS in two different states. And either of them may not have ever happened in the first place if it hadn’t been for Martinez.  I don’t know about you but that makes me a little dizzy. Something to ponder with awe as I’m hurling across the sky in a metal box to the first one.

And on a personal note, I was feeling worried about messing up in Utah, when I thought of this amazing song from Quidam. Remember what they say: fortes fortuna adiuvat.

Everything’s coming up ‘beavers’

Posted by heidi08 On September - 2 - 2014Comments Off

12. “Worth A Dam – Beaver Safari in Martinez” 6:00PM – 7:30PM Martinez

 Date: September 6, 2014

Worth A Dam – “Beaver Safari in Martinez” – 6:00PM – 7:30PM – Meet Heidi & Jon @ Martinez AmTrak Parking Lot, 601 Marina Vista Ave, Martinez

 Visit the active beaver family in Martinez with the guides who know them best. You will almost certainly see the beavers – as well as turtles, herons and maybe an otter or two. The gentle stroll through an urban creek is ADA accessible and some of the best beaver viewing in the State. Get ready for a dam good time.

So Tom Russert is helping Steve Dunsky coodinate this massive statewide event (of which one part is centered in Vallejo), and I thought what the heck? Why not include some beavers? So I dutifully pitched my idea and made sure Jon was off. The sign-up list languished for a number of days and I honestly thought no one would show. Now its FULL. I got an email from another couple who wanted to add this morning so get ready for a real beaver Safari!

CaptureIf I were the person in charge of the Wilderness Act Implementation, I would surely want as many beavers as possible working for me in the state of California. Wouldn’t you?

September is a PACKED beaver month, because we have the safari this Saturday, I give a talk at Sulpher Creek Nature Center in Hayward next Saturday, and Sunday we’re displaying at the Nature and Optics fair again at Cornerstone in Sonoma. Then we get a weekend off to get ready for Utah!

I spent the long weekend pulling together my presentations for the events so honestly if I open my mouth and anything but beaver information comes out today I’ll be very surprised.

Art for beaver’s sake

Posted by heidi08 On August - 26 - 2014Comments Off

The beaver world is oddly quiet today. I would have nothing to write about but as it happens I spent yesterday working on a grant for next year’s art project and wrote a nice profile of the amazing artist you always see working frantically at the festival. If you’ve never actually seen HER you’ve seen sign of her in the beautiful banners, the giant painted beaver, the ceramic tiles, the mural or any of our other myriad art-ifacts that are her handiwork. This is a fine place to share the column so, enjoy!

fro working

FloFROgard Butler is the owner and manager of aRt Cottage in Concord, CA, which displays collections from artists all over the state. She teaches classes and workshops to adults and children in various mediums. She is the winner of the 2011 Arts Recognition Award for Contra Costa County and the 2010 outreach coordinator of the CA watercolor association. She has supported Worth A Dam since its inception and helped hundreds of Martinez children understand nature through clay, watercolors, and acrylic paint.

P1070876In addition to her training as an artist, FRO has an extensive background in early childhood education, and especially enjoys helping children represent their own way of seeing the world through art. FRO has generously pledged to support the Keystone Species Archway Canvas project at the 8th beaver festival, and will treat the cloth, pre-paint the archway, and coordinate the young artists on the day. Her services will be offered as an in kind donation, and easily represent 20 hours of work.

paintingbeaverFormer FRO-directed festival efforts have been on display in public offices (tryptch Mural 2010), adorn the Escobar bridge (ceramic tiles 2008) and blanket virtually every Worth A Dam display (Banner 2009). The colorful and inviting profile of children’s artwork has made Martinez stand out in public displays and sets this city apart as a community who cares.

 fro earthdayA word to all the nonprofits in the world who are trying to generate enough community support to get attention for their important cause: find an amazingly creative artist who loves working with children. Add water and pigment, stand back, and watch what happens.


Posted by heidi08 On August - 6 - 2014Comments Off

It’s been a week of treasures and it’s only Wednesday. Yesterday I received this email from a family we met at the dam two weeks ago. They were from Long Beach and eager to see the famous Martinez beavers. Of course our mascots did not disappoint. Since our visitors were so delighted with the show I suggested they might write the mayor and let them know how pleased they were.

Yesterday Michelle sent  the  entire city council this:

Dear Mr Mayor,

My name is Michelle Lee and I live in Southern California with my family. We’ve done a couple of great American Road Trips in the last twenty years, but this year, we were privileged to witness one of the most emblemic of all Northern American wildlife: the hardworking, family-oriented and stoical Martinez Beaver.

Prior to setting out on our trip this summer, a few weeks ago, we had only ever seen American beavers on film in movies. There is apparently one homed in the Singapore River Safari theme park, but knowing beavers to be highly social animals, we were disappointed but not surprised when we failed to spot it in its enclosure during our visit last year. Imagine how thrilled we were, then, to discover, while researching for our summer trip,, the Worth a Dam web site put up by Heidi Perryman. We have beavers, thriving in their natural environment, right here, in our own backyard!

Martinez was immediately included on our itinerary. Your location was perfect, for us visiting college towns like Stanford, Berkeley and Davis. You have one of the best Thai restaurants in all of California, north through south: the Lemongrass Bistro. Muir Lodge, which provided us with a most tastefully decorated and comfortable room, was just what we needed for our layover. Sal’s Family Kitchen was the perfect breakfast wake-up in the morning.

And you have the beavers. And they were wonderful. We waited at the secondary dam right by the Amtrak station on 14 July 2014, around 6:30pm, and managed to see three beavers, including the kit. Not knowing as much as we could about the habits of these nocturnal mammals, though, we were pretty bummed we didn’t stay till 8 :-( That said, the beavers we saw kept us entranced for a good hour or so, just swimming about, nibbling in the rushes, doing generally beaverly things.

Now that we’re home, and able to more fully process our summer vacation, which included visits to the Carlsbad Caverns and the Grand Canyon, we can honestly count the Martinez Beavers as one of our most satisfying wildlife experiences. We in Southern California are used to the arid desert, even in this ongoing drought, with our well-watered landscaped city and suburban lawns, so it was quite distressing to see how devastated the land around us was while driving through NorCal. Those tenacious beavers, as corny as it sounds, gave us hope that this drought will eventually pass. Our only regret was we were not able to spend longer in your lovely town than one night. Now, our true regret is having missed this year’s Beaver Festival!

The fact that Martinez has a Beaver Festival indicates that many people do share our fascination with these enchanting animals. However, we were a little surprised, that, of the people we talked to in town, only one person was able to point us in the right direction to the beaver dams, because you have a real treasure in the beavers, and in Worth a Dam. This is such a unique situation you have in Martinez that people are able to observe outside of the artificial and expensive set up of a zoo. We are hopeful that continued education and increased appreciation for the Martinez Beavers will be encouraged to perpetuate and grow. We cannot thank Worth a Dam enough for their information-packed web site. We came from Long Beach just to see this happy beaver family!!

Thanks for taking the time to read this!
Michelle Lee, with Kevin Traster and Loyalty Traster-Lee
Long Beach, California
5 August 2014

Now tell me that wasn’t the best letter you EVER read! Not only did it remind the mayor that the beavers and Worth A Dam are an asset, it must have made those little dollar signs appear in his eyes like on cartoons. She did such a good job that I told her to share it with the local papers so I’m hoping we see it again very soon.

The only part that kind of bugged me was that only one person in town could tell her where the dam was. But when I thought about it I realized that’s actually wonderful. In 2007 when every shop owner on main street was terrified of being flooded every, Susie, Stacey or Sam could have told them. Now the fact that the story isn’t news anymore means that the beavers are no longer a threat and that’s just what we wanted to happen. I thought of Carl Sandburg,

 Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
I am the grass; I cover all.
 And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?
I am the grass.
Let me work.

Carl Sandburg

Well, I suppose the grass has worked in Martinez. Even I can barely remember the injuries of a city who wanted to destroy its treasures. Now I simply bask in the glow of a job well done and a chapter well written.

And this delightful epilogue about “Joe” made me smile.

Martinez Beaver Festival celebrates beaver family living in downtown creek since 2006

Dam fun

 Children parade to the strains of Bruce Maxwell’s bagpipe, above, at the start of the seventh annual Beaver Festival on Saturday, in Martinez, that celebrates the beaver family that has been living in Alhambra Creek since 2006. The event, sponsored by Worth A Dam, attracted visitors from everywhere for activities, music and tours of the beavers’ environment by Joe Ridler, right center.

 They don’t show the photo on line, but something tells me I’ve seen Joe before.

People Powered – Solar Powered – Beaver Powered

Posted by heidi08 On August - 3 - 2014Comments Off

Is it possible to summarize yesterday’s tidal wave of good energy and appreciation? I’m still at a loss for words – (in fact I find I have no voice at all this morning). I’ll let Cheryl’s amazing photos speak for me for now and try to percolate the thoughts that finally coalesce tomorrow. In the mean time thank you SO MUCH to everyone who helped, Hank, Rusty, Bob, Marlene, Paula, my sister Beverly, Erika, Pam, Jeanette, Carla, Estelle, Deidre, Martha, Safari West Junior Keepers, John Koss, Cassy, the incredible musicians and our unbelievably hard working Worth A Dam team: Cheryl, Jon, Lory, Jean and FRo. You pulled off a hugely positive and educational event with massive complications in a postage stamp of space and the greater beaver world is in awe of what you accomplished.

awesome solar power

The amazing portable solar panel ran the amplification. Thank you D.C. Solar!

Beaver celebration

painting collage

silent auction labor

jr keeper

beaver tours

fro's tail

The artists awesome tail

And I can’t forget the most engineeringly creative part of the entire day:


And the man behind the beaver curtain enjoying his awesome, tail slapping  power.

bob being sneaky

Countdown and Good will

Posted by heidi08 On August - 1 - 2014Comments Off

Today is the day we pick up the U-haul and get the stage from the John Muir Historic site, and then Jon loads the pile of everything into the truck to be ready for tomorrow.


It’s a long day for Jon (especially since he had to meet the restroom delivery at 7:00) but honestly I can’t help but feel relieved it’s finally here. Everyone works terribly hard the day of the beaver festival. The entire day is practically a blur and everyone’s exhausted by the end, but my personal, 6 month trial will be mostly over before the day even begins. All the planning, promoting, wheedling, scheming, arranging and rearranging will be finished. Once I make sure that every item on my many lists gets into that truck, and gets unloaded to approximately the right places tomorrow, my work is pretty much finished. Every single one of my arrows, such as they are, will be fired. Now it will be everyone else’s job to get the baton across the finish line.

I just have to sit in the shade and talk about beavers all day. How hard is that?

So let’s celebrate my impending emancipation with this lovely article. It ran in the Martinez Gazette yesterday and I was surprised to see it because we already got our ‘official’ plug. Vivian Roubal’s inviting writing style makes the entire column a must read, but her finishing paragraphs brought tears to my eyes.

Take a walk on the wild side

A Beaver Festival? By golly, there’s always something going on in Martinez! A day in Martinez can be a wild adventure! A wildlife adventure, that is.

One particularly fine morning in March at about 6 a.m., I stopped on Marina Vista Avenue near Castro Street to check out the beaver dam. Sometimes I get lucky and see the famous Martinez beavers swimming or walking along the creekside, but that morning the waters were fairly calm; a water skeeter-bug here or there and that was it. I was about to continue my walk when I heard a small splashing sound. It seemed to come from right under me, so I got up on tippy-toes and leaned over the chest-high railing on the bridge. I looked straight down, hoping to catch sight of a beaver or whatever made the splash.

Plunk! My brand new glasses (with rhinestones!) fell right off my head and dropped straight down into the creek. A small brown cloud swallowed them up whole. Son of a gun.

Don’t worry her daughter and husband manage to get those glasses back, (with the help of a kind stranger) and the entire operation makes for excellent story-telling. (And explains some footprints!) But this was obviously my favorite part. It starts by recounting the beaver history and then launches into the prose of our good friend Rick Lanman (Rickipedia).

 According to my friend Wikipedia, “Now protected, the beaver have transformed Alhambra Creek from a trickle into multiple dams and beaver ponds, which in turn, led to the return of steelhead and North American river otter in 2008 and mink in 2009. The Martinez beavers probably originated from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta which once held the largest concentration of beaver in North America.”

And the “Worth a Dam” website ( says, “Beaver experts from across the country have come to Martinez to appreciate this unique setting and learn about our community response. The beavers have become a unifying symbol for an expanding town that can often be uncertain of its center. This represents a unique opportunity to demonstrate humane environmentalism in the home town of John Muir.”

Jeff and I enjoyed the Beaver Festival last year. There were lots of wildlife informational booths, many activities for children, and guided tours of the beaver habitat. It was a joyful place to be.

 So do something out of the ordinary. Come to the 7th annual Beaver Festival on Saturday, Aug. 2, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Beaver Park (corner of Marina Vista and Castro streets). There will be live music, wildlife exhibits from seven counties, children’s activities and beaver tours. The first 100 children can earn a charm necklace.

 Go ahead. Walk on the wild side! Don’t be square, see you there!

How sweet is that? Honestly I was all kinds of touched. It really is a joyful place to be. And this year I feel the benevolence more strongly than any other except maybe the first. The beaver festival seems to unlock generosity  in people. I feel like I keep getting lovely surprises that were not at all the result of my planning. Like Deidre Martin organizing the Wetland Express from Oakland, or a volunteer from Auburn contacting me out of the blue to help with two of her relatives, or this email from Faith of the Beavers Rowing Team at Mare Island;

Hi, my name is Faith and I am a member of The Straits of Mare Island Rowing Association. I row for a mixed team that we proudly call The Beavers. This year our youngest team mate was told she has stage 3 breast cancer. In an effort to help her with expenses we has a fundraiser selling green silicon bracelets with the phrase Beaver Believer with beaver prints on each side. We where able to raise $1300.00 for our dear friend, but have quite a few bracelet left over. As a team we decided we would like to donate the remaining bracelets to a great beaver cause. Let me know if you are interested.

So do you think I was interested? The next morning she dropped off about 200 of these at my house.

DSC_5209 brace


Those are front and rear foot prints, just so you know. Everyone who volunteers and everyone who picks up at least a 10 dollar item from membership will take one home.Thanks so much Faith and your generous team, I hope your youngest member is doing excellent and sticks around until she becomes your oldest member!

Oh and the truant in me loves the idea that she invites us all to the beaver festival and adds “as long as you have a parking place, you might check out the peddler’s faire.”

And as long as you’ve already found a parking space, might as well enjoy the Peddlers Faire on Main Street where you’ll find plenty to choose from. There will be a huge variety of antiques and collectibles, from glassware to pottery and furniture to Native American wares and much more. Enjoy the downtown stores and the over 50 local craft vendors. Then treat yourself to a fabulous lunch in any one of our great restaurants.

Considering the beaver festival has always been the red-headed step child of the peddler’s faire, once expressly advised to stay clear and now with a greater attendance, TV promotion and better press than it’s  patron, I think we’re doing okay. Good will is on our side.

beaver army