Archive for the ‘Festival’ Category

Dam kind words

Posted by heidi08 On April - 17 - 2016Comments Off on Dam kind words

David Scholz of the Martinez Tribune gave Worth A Dam and beavers a very nice article yesterday. The John Muir Earth day celebration is quickly approaching, and we will be there with volunteer help making the RIGHT kind of beaver hats with the kids.

‘Worth A Dam’ to be honored by Muir Association

MARTINEZ, Calif. – More than eight years after one woman spearheaded an effort to address the plight of one fury creature from demise in Alhambra Creek, that effort subsequently generated national interest and has given more attention to the health and welfare of beavers everywhere.

Worth A Dam founder Heidi Perryman. (HEIDI TAING / Courtesy)

Worth A Dam founder Heidi Perryman. (HEIDI TAING / Courtesy)

This Earth Day, April 23, at the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, Heidi Perryman and the organization Worth A Dam will be honored with the Environmental Education Award from the John Muir Association.

TRIBUNE: When was your organization founded and how many members are currently part of it?

PERRYMAN: Worth A Dam was founded in March of 2008. And our core membership is eight. But we have several folks that play an important role and are helpful to our projects.

TRIBUNE: What was your reaction to receiving the honor?

PERRYMAN: Delighted that Worth A Dam could be recognized for showing how and why cities can learn to live with beavers. California needs more “water savers,” not less!

TRIBUNE: How has the perception of beavers changed through the years as a result of the attention your group has given to their plight?

PERRYMAN: The national publicity of the Martinez Beavers showed countless other cities about beaver benefits and how conflicts could be managed. Back when Martinez was first facing this issue there were three websites on the entire Internet about humane solutions.
That was part of the motivation for our website, which had very broad readership. With our help it is much easier to find information about why to live with beavers and how you can.

TRIBUNE: How might the health of beavers be a barometer for the health of the Martinez area creek system?

PERRYMAN: Beavers are one of the hardiest species in the creek. They can manage in places where plenty of other species can’t. The amazing thing is they improve those places to make it more habitable for others.

Founded in 2008 by Perryman, Worth A Dam is a nonprofit, educational organization dedicated to the value, importance and contributions of beavers in the ecosystem. Perryman, through Worth A Dam, focuses her educational approach on the fact that co-existing with beavers ensures the strength of the overall ecosystems of creeks and surrounding areas. Worth A Dam’s co-existence model has been adopted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and, most recently, Napa has adopted the model. Perryman has co-authored numerous published articles regarding beavers. Worth A Dam founded the Martinez Beaver Festival, now in its eighth year, with a wide breadth of wildlife and conservation groups, which helps raise awareness of protecting wildlife and preserving healthy environments and ecosystems.

Well, to be honest when I heard we won my first thought was ‘Sheesh! About dam time’.  And if we’re being honest, Fish and Wildlife has never done anything I wanted except grudgingly send a stack of depredation permits to a FOIA request, not to mention that two articles hardly count as ‘numerous’ but the festival is in its NINTH year so some things he exaggerated and undersold some others, right?

Honestly, this article makes Worth A Dam sound so influential and the recognition of beaver importance so universal that I’m proud to be a part of it all! It makes us seem way more successful than we actually have been.  Of course people are still killing beavers ignorantly and lying about their being no other way all the time. But I take comfort from the thought that –  if we haven’t been able to make things as easy for the ‘good guys’ as we’d like –   we’ve at least made things a little harder for the ‘bad guys’.

And that’s something!

New multi necklace, and this one with a secret message just for California that makes me very happy.IMG_0852IMG_0854



It’s in the bag!

Posted by heidi08 On September - 28 - 2015Comments Off on It’s in the bag!

Suzi at workOhhh it’s so nice to be back on the HUGE familiar pc screen where everything is still broken in the usual ways. You might have to hear more from me as a result, I’m sorry to say. I thought I’d share some photos from the beaver art project taken by Suzi Eszterhas. Other photos taken that day might make it to the Ranger Rick story but she said I could share these and they’re a great introduction to a fun use of Susanna Street park.


This is Ethan who is  wearing an original Martinez beaver shirt that he made himself. He’s proudly showing his Father and son beaver bag puppets. If you wish you  could make some of your very own, the patterns are here. The paws are wooden forks. The tails and hind feet are from Dugmore’s Romance of the Beaver, but don’t forget it was Heidi’s endless labor that got them to print double sided. (The hope is that since the book is 101 years old now it will be public domain-y enough for Ranger Rick to print our pattern. And we really MIGHT have an army of beaver puppets across America.)


Bella made a beaver kit and her own frog original puppet. She knew just about everything about the bebellaavers and explained to the other children why they should use orange teeth on the older puppet. Towards the end of the event she got a little restless and went around the park picking up large sticks for her beaver to eat. It was pretty adorable.

This is Brynn who wore two charm necklaces from the past beaver festivals. She also finished thebrynn buttons this year but said that her favorite festival was two years ago when she was able to bring her best friend. If you peek to the left of the kits tail you can just make out the dragonfly and mom’s tail charms. Imagine growing up with beaver festivals. She’s been coming since she was 4.

For some reason I didn’t get photos of April and Alana from Suzi to share, but they were a dynamic duo of beaver information. April posed her beaver kit with a Fennel stalk and explained how Mom beaver liked to eat it when she was pregnant. Alana described how it might have been the salt water that killed the kits. They were both very attentive to details and asked through their grandmother if they could have their own children’s booth at the festival next year. No, really. Since I don’t have their photos to share, I will share this clip from when we met on the footbridge after the PBS beaver documentary aired. They had this feedback for the Canadian producer Jari Osborne:

Jari, btw, was delighted when I sent her this clip and wrote back on youtube:

Thank you so much, April, Alana (sp?) and Heidi!!!
Girls, I am so delighted to know you watched, enjoyed and cared about what you saw on Leave It To Beavers. It means so much to me to hear from you! ~Jari

Ethan Heidi

Which just goes to show you that beaver puppets can swim a long, long way into many people’s hearts. You’ll see. Just watch.

Never send a city worker to do a beaver expert’s job…

Posted by heidi08 On August - 4 - 2015Comments Off on Never send a city worker to do a beaver expert’s job…


Northampton will install rocks to baffle beavers at Fitzgerald Lake

Hark back to 2013, when beavers dammed the area around the outlet pipe that sends water from the lake under the dam and into the Broad Brook. The lake rose about two feet that year, forcing the city to install a wire-mesh fence around the pipe, temporarily holding the beavers at bay.

 Ever industrious, the beavers eventually burrowed under the fence, clogging the system again and raising the level of the lake. Some of the trails along the shore were even submerged this year.

 Wow, Northampton MA is 20 minutes away from Mike Callahan. I can’t believe he installed a fence beavers burrowed under in 2 years, can you? Let’s use the search function on the website to see if it gives any clues. Here’s one from 2013:

“Once the new fence is in by the city’s contractor I’ll be installing a Flexible Pond Leveler through their fence.”

Ahhhh so it was a “I’ll-save-some-$$-by-doing-this-myself, how-hard-can-it-be” job.  Gosh and now you have to spend a grand lowering rocks into the lake to hold down the silly fence that you installed, because otherwise Mike’s excellent flow device will get plugged. Have you learned anything by this? Are you going to stick to the experts next time?

Mike said at the time that this lake was the site of the FIRST flex pipe he ever installed – in 1998. How’s that for a history lesson!

bob n janeOur dinner guests last night were Bob & Jane Kobres from Georgia. Here they are at the table with our awesome chef and FRO’s beautiful beaver watercolor in the background. He’s the retired librarian from UGA that always sends us beaver research and discretely points out egregious typos so that your reading experience will be slightly less marred. He and his wife made their first trip to California (first time ever) for the beaver festival. (No, really)

Every business they visited in Martinez they made a point of telling was stunned. And they just did a beaver presentation at the children’s program in their church. How awesome is that? At dinner we realized they are truly unique folks: Jane is the daughter of a white baptist deacon from Tennessee that voted for Obama twice.

(How small is that demographic?)

They had a great time watching Bob Rust put together the wattle beaver, and Bob filmed most of it so I hope we can get it on the website soon. They shared a similar knowledgeable quirkiness that I am starting to recognize in beaver lovers. (Myself included). It’s amazing that we have had three separate visits from Georgia in the past few years, and the Blue Heron Preserve in Atlanta is now talking about possibly doing a beaver festival. (Be still my heart!) They went to Muir Beach on their visit and boldly put their bare feet in the Pacific, as well strolling around Muir Woods and the John Muir house here in Martinez.

We’re just about finished with the final exchanges for the silent auction, meeting a lot of folk wednesday at the bridge, and everything is finally put away or tallied. I sent the followup receipts and paperwork for the grants yesterday, and am finally starting to feel done with everything. I got this fun photo from our bag piper yesterday, Dave Kwinter, who said he had a great time at the festival.

bvOf course I warned him to use caution when saying he enjoyed it, or else we will certainly ask him again!



A Day of Wonders

Posted by heidi08 On August - 2 - 2015Comments Off on A Day of Wonders

Yesterday was amazing, very crowded, very cheerful, very full of children and parents eager to learn. Just how eager? Mark Poulin’s adorable buttons were an astounding hit. Kids were thrilled to learn and EVEN take the post test. Here’s an idea of just how proud they were of their work. Honestly look at those faces and tell me they aren’t beaming.

festivalThe musical line-up was amazing, the solar panels beloved, and the help of sound wizard John Koss was invaluable. We had California visitors from San Francisco, Alameda, Auburn and Winters, as well as national visitors from Virginia and Georgia. I didn’t see a single impatient parent or crabby child this year. They were all remarkably helpful, appreciative, and glowing. Everyone said the activity was enormousjonly fun and educational. FRO’s art project was a huge success, and Martinez enjoyed the work of many new painters. Jon’s tours were well attended as always and his voice was thrilled with the assistance of his brand new personal amplifier.

Everyone said the children’s parade was the best organized ever. The Watershed Steward interns were amazing handling the buttons all day and the junior keepers from Safari West were uniformly helpful down to the last tattoo and tent removal. The silent auction was a huge hit and very well staffed, and membership enjoyed  the extra helpers as well. Honestly, we had our best helpers ever this year, with sometimes more hands then even WE could put to work!

And no beaver festival would ever be complete without the wildly creative inventions of Beaver devotee and Martinez resident Robert Rust, who this year, after the giant inflatable beaver of 2012, the tail slapping beaver of 2014 decided to blow our minds with a wattle and daub beaver, formed entirely on site of willow and mud – just like a real beaver would make. (If you need a science and history lesson reminder on this technique, look here:)

There were a million other surprises I am forgetting to mention, but suffice it to say it was our best festival yet, and I’m sure all our volunteers could sleep for weeks. Enjoy your quiet sunday and THANKS!


Celebrate Beaver Day

Posted by heidi08 On July - 30 - 2015Comments Off on Celebrate Beaver Day

Is this what it looks like when you dominate the news cycle?

 Nature photographer chronicles Martinez’s urban beavers

Suzi at workMARTINEZ — The city’s renowned downtown family of beavers has caught the rapt eye of a nationally acclaimed wildlife photographer, who has been capturing their comings and goings for several weeks.

 Suzi Eszterhas, who has followed elephants in the African wild and penguins in Antarctica, has turned her lens to the lodge the beavers have built in Alhambra Creek — her first time photographing wild animals in an urban setting.

Capturing the Martinez colony’s quirky behaviors, distinct personalities and ingenuity has been a creative cornerstone for Eszterhas.

 “It’s a lot easier to photograph lions in Kenya,” she said, referring to the beavers’ inherent illusiveness and shyness.

Yet they performing their nocturnal activities next to a busy bar and eatery, with motorcycles vrooming by, and the public viewing them from several bridges over the creek.

“These beavers are coming back to their home and tolerating us being here,” said Eszterhas, a Petaluma resident. “We have this unique window to see into the lives of these creatures … There’s this oasis of peace in the midst of chaos. Not all species can do that.”

 Eszterhas, whose images of the Martinez beavers will be published in an upcoming issue of Ranger Rick, a children’s nature magazine, has donated one of her wildlife photographs to this year’s silent auction at the eighth annual New festivalWorth a Dam Beaver Festival on Saturday, Aug. 1.

The annual festival — started as a way to “throw a party for (local beavers) to make it harder to kill them,” says Worth a Dam’s executive director Heidi Perryman — has become a nexus for wildlife advocates and artists to congregate and network.

Thanks Jennifer Shaw! The article shied away from using these excellent photos, but did talk to artist Mark Poulin and promote the festival nicely. All in all we can’t complain about media coverage this year. I’m hoping that will translate into abundant attendance potential. And that folks will think of beavers differently for a while.

Here’s a wonderful story about a smart man whose mind doesn’t NEED changing one bit.

Beaver tales: Alberta homeowner enlists local wildlife to engineer a dam

Pierre Bolduc’s background as an aeronautical engineer and Hercules C-130 pilot wasn’t enough of a resume to prepare him for the task of constructing a pond next to his Alberta property.

He’d made a few attempts to build a dam over several years, but after a downpour washed out his latest earthen structure he turned to nature’s expert dam builders, a family of local beavers, to do the job right.

 “There were beavers living further down the valley that had been building dams at a culvert running underneath a dirt road,” says Bolduc, who lives on an expansive property near Bragg Creek, about 50 kilometres southwest of Calgary.

Bolduc reckoned that the gentle lilt of running water played from an outdoor sound system placed above the intended site would attract the animals to the location where he wanted to build the dam. His neighbour, a sound engineer, offered to mix a CD featuring an appropriate aquatic aria.

“I don’t know what the sound of rushing water does to the psyche of a beaver, but based on the results I witnessed, I think it could inspire them to build a dam right in the middle of a sandbox,” he says.

“They went straight to work.”

How much do we love this story! And Pierre for that matter? I’m not as convinced that the sound brought beavers (otherwise every waterfall would be cluttered with failed dams) so much as his own failed dam gave them a good base to work from. But, never mind, I am crazy about this way of thinking and it provides a nice way to show what beavers are good for.

Since labour was being provided at no cost, Bolduc provided them with plenty of free food and construction material. He cleared poplars located on his property that might eventually grow to interfere with power lines. He then placed the cut logs to float in the rising water around the dam construction site.

 “I gave them so much wood that they soon developed a 20-beaver condo,” he says. “They built an absolutely huge mansion and a powerful dam.”

The dam was completed in the summer of 2014 and Bolduc’s pond slowly expanded to a body of water measuring about 175 metres by 200 metres. The pond has since become home to numerous trout and the water has attracted muskrats, nesting loons and moose to the property.

This article makes me insanely happy. I already heard from several beaver folk that are deeply jealous they can’t let beavers build a pond where they live. Let’s hope Pierre starts a fad among land-owning engineers. He might,  just look at his next goals:

While he’s satisfied with the pond, Bolduc is breaking out his rushing water CD and outdoor speakers for another construction project, courtesy of Castor Canadensis (the North American beaver).

“There are new neighbours along the valley and when I want to visit them, I pretty much have to drive the distance to their place,” he says. “If I place those speakers just right, by next year I should be able to canoe to the neighbour’s house.”


The Sun Also Rises

Posted by heidi08 On July - 28 - 2015Comments Off on The Sun Also Rises

CaptureThis was what I had been anxiously waiting for. Turns out I was nervous for no reason at all. Thank you Sam Richards for writing something so kindly and thoughtful. I promise no money or beaver merchandise exchanged hands.  A beaver festival article will follow on Thursday. I’m posting the whole thing here and on my mother’s refrigerator, but please CLICK on the link so they know you read it okay?

‘Weekend project’ to help local beavers turns into labor of love for Martinez woman

By Sam Richards

MARTINEZ — Heidi Perryman had no idea her “weekend project” was going to last the better part of a decade — or have such wide impact.

But creating public awareness of the importance of beavers to the ecological health of the streams in which they live and championing the toothy rodents that have made Alhambra Creek an unlikely destination for environmentalists has become almost a second career for this 49-year-old child psychologist and lifelong Martinez resident.

 She takes pride in the degree to which she and those whom she has influenced have spread the message that beavers are good for the ecosystem. She also knows the work is far from done.

“It’s constantly surprising to me how successful we’ve been but also how much subtle backlash there continues to be,” said Perryman, who remains a driving force behind the local Beaver Festival, its eighth annual edition happening Saturday.

The festival has grown from a small gathering of 200 in 2008 (“We figured it would be bad to kill the beavers if we had just had a party for them!” Perryman said) to an event that drew more than 2,000 visitors last year to the small open parcel — called “Beaver Park” by some — adjacent to the creek, a stone’s throw from the Amtrak station.

My goodness, what a fantastic start to an article! Sam asked so many questions about me, the beavers and the community they inspired I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect this.  Honestly, this article is much nicer than I deserve. I was really just hoping it wouldn’t make people LESS likely to come to the festival.   (Although, I’ve heard a rumor that a certain Martinez cabal meets for breakfast every morning downtown to discuss city plans for the day. I would dearly love to be the fly on the wall when they see this in their morning paper.)

  Perryman said she was walking downtown in 2007 when she ran into a friend who told her beavers had recently migrated to Alhambra Creek. “I thought it was funny, and I came down to see them,” she said.

 Not so funny was learning the beavers were going to be killed, as downtown property owners feared flood damage caused or exacerbated by the rodents’ dams.

She then joined the Martinez City Council’s “beaver subcommittee,” diving into what had become an emotional, divisive debate.

“Heidi was less excitable than some of the people on the other side of that issue, which was a good thing,” said City Councilman Mark Ross, who favored researching the matter.

Perryman has been credited with leading the drive to research the impacts of urban beavers, both good and bad, on their surroundings.

Harriett Burt, a former Martinez councilwoman, initially wanted the beavers gone, fearing flood damage to nearby buildings. But she said the research done by Perryman and her fellow Worth a Dam beaver advocates turned up viable options for preserving the beavers when official sentiment was going the other direction.

“She was clear, competent, articulate, well-informed and thorough,” Burt said. “She did have to win me over, and she did.”

The Worth a Dam group, she added, forced the City Council to look at other solutions.

There are three things I’m proudest about in my work on the committee, keeping my temper (most of the time), convincing Igor Skaredoff and Mitch Avalon that beavers are good for creeks, and persuading Harriet Burt that Beavers could belong in Martinez. I’m so happy he talked to her and she was kind enough to give such a quote. Harriet was my vice principal in middle school and the mayor of Martinez when I got my last degree. She was the planning commission forever and welcomed us when we bought this old house downtown. This really means a lot coming from her.

While Perryman had to stand up to beaver opponents, she also had to get to know their advocates.

“She knows how to engage other people who are themselves involved with that issue and make them all part of the same coalition,” said Igor Skaredoff, who since 1990 has been a member of Friends of Alhambra Creek.

In an effort to coexist with the paddletail swimmers, the city employed a version of a flow device, called by its inventor Skip Lisle the “beaver deceiver.” It’s a plastic pipe that carries water under the beavers’ then-main dam between Escobar Street and Marina Vista. It ensures the water level behind the dam never rises too high and that the beavers can’t tell water is getting through, which could send them into a damming frenzy.

Perryman said that now, seven years after the “beaver deceiver” was installed, the beavers appear to have finally realized the deception. That’s probably the biggest reason their main dam is now several hundred feet farther downstream, adjacent to that small park near the train station.

“Seven years, I would say the ‘beaver deceiver’ was a success,” said Perryman.

There are no plans to move the pipe to the new dam, as any flooding there would only inundate an adjacent floodplain and not endanger buildings.

Oooh nice PS for the council, “don’t worry about the new dam, Everything will be fine”. Could there be a better fortune hidden inside this cookie?

Walking slowly one recent morning onto the footbridge, using a cane, Perryman looked out over a creek more alive than eight years ago, an ecosystem largely restored. More fish, plus muskrats, river otters and other species, come (and go) now almost certainly because of the beavers’ activity, Perryman said. They stir up the creek bed, exposing insects and other creatures, which attract the fish that eat them.

The fish, in turn, attract otters and mink, which also have been sighted. Even the largely vegetarian muskrats eat some of these critters. The beaver dams also help keep more water in the creek longer, lessening local effects of the drought on surrounding trees and plants.

But there’s more to do; on the Worth a Dam agenda is work to change California fish and game laws to allow relocation of beavers to where they would be a good ecological fit.

Perryman also wants to continue to be a resource to the other beaver advocacy groups; their numbers are growing, and such units from San Jose, Napa and Lake Tahoe are expected Saturday at the Martinez festival.

The festival and the beavers themselves have helped give Martinez a little publicity. There are bumper stickers and T-shirts touting “Mtz. Beavers,” and those who gather on that footbridge are a mix of locals and out-of-towners.

“It’s rare to find a beaver dam so close to a parking meter,” Ross said.

Hometown: Martinez
Claim to fame: Child psychologist who fought starting in 2008 to keep beavers in Alhambra Creek; lead organizer of Martinez’s annual Beaver Festival
Quote: “I thought I’d work a day, or a weekend, on helping the beavers. But it really sort of took off.”
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Marina Vista and Alhambra Avenue, downtown Martinez
Cost: Free

HeidiWhat a wonderful article, Sam Richards. I am totally grateful AND relieved. The child in me is pretty proud, so I’m including this photo of young Heidi showing off my crafting talents with a “little house on the prairie inspired” corncob doll while camping. 

One thing that didn’t make it in was the fact that I gave a TON of credit to the people of Martinez who marched to that meeting and demanded to live with beavers. And to the beavers themselves, who oddly decided to live in a very public area where people could see and care about them.  Maybe he thought I was just being humble, but they really deserve the credit. Honestly, save this article for my eulogy. I am way prouder of the beavers than my dissertation. (The article says so exactly what I secretly wished it would that I am weirdly worried that something terrible will happen now.)

What the heck. This poem-alteration seems totally fitting this morning. (Apologies to Leigh Hunt.)

I saved beavers in our creek
Kept them safe from traps and trials
Whatever else I couldn’t do
They were spared the city’s wiles
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad
Atheist among believers
Say I’m getting old but add
Add that I saved beavers

Passing the beaver-chewed baton…

Posted by heidi08 On July - 27 - 2015Comments Off on Passing the beaver-chewed baton…

lory quizFor more years than we can count, Worth A Dam’s own Lory Bruno has been the steam engine behind the festival’s silent auction. Helped endlessly by her husband Ron, the pair have been pretty much solely responsible for its successes, which involves tagging and grouping the items, hauling and handling the display and sale, and making exchanges for late pickups after the festival.

 This year Lory officially retired her gavel and asked for some well-earned rest. We had to get several hard-working people to take her place. Deidre Martin, who arranged the amtrak journey last year, is taking on the bulk, along with the help of Napa’s Robin whoauction-pritchards-cabinet-of-curiosities[1] generously agreed to manage bid sheets, Erika, who will help with display throughout the day, and Pam from ISI who will help with sales. I, of course did my usual begging and spreadsheet and Jon will handle transport and late exchanges later.

Yesterday, Deidre, Jon and I went through the auction items and tagged and grouped them with the bid sheets. 126 items from some 40 states and 10 countries valued at 5700.00.  Here’s a look at some of the items that will be offered.  From jewelry, adventure tickets, fine dining, and paintings, books and puppets.  You won’t believe your eyes. There’s even a gift basket from a family at Pixar that will keep your children or grandchildren busy all year. wordle


One new rule this year should appeal to the affordably impatient. Find an item you LOVE and pay the full value to take it anytime during the day. Remember many of these items are unique, and one of a kind. Avoid the wait and the suspense while you donate to a great cause. Honestly, I don’t think you will find a better grouping of beaver-friendly merchandise anywhere.