Because the beaver isn't just an animal; it's an ecosystem!

The Martinez Beavers

Category: Festival

beaver festival SSPYesterday I handed in the goliath special event application necessary for the new beaver festival which felt great to do. You can’t imagine what the response was. (I’ve attached the map and short description they ask for). Description-of-proposed-event

We have gotten to be very good friends with Parks and Rec folk after 10 years and they give us quiet pieces of invaluable advice when we need it.  (Psst you forgot to do this or sign this…) This time it was whispered that when we advertise f or the event we should be careful to call it SUSANA PARK and not SUSANA STREET PARK because some were sensitive about the issue.


CaptureI will call it anything you like if it means I get to have a beaver festival there, of course. But who on earth calls  it SUSANA PARK? Even the listing of parks on the city website calls it Susana Street Park, the Gazette calls it Susana Street Park, and it’s known locally as Susana Street Park. But I guess Art in the park [and that squatter] Shakespeare in the park called it Susana Park as they’ve been advised, and it’s offially listed on google and map quest as Susana park, so I guess like everything else in Martinez, it’s complicated.

Meanwhile in the normal beaver news Rusty Cohn’s Photo Essay reappeared in the Napa Register today, and I am always very happy when people get to look at his awesome photos.

Photos: Life at Napa’s Beaver Lodge at Tulocay Creek

The Tulocay Creek beaver pond is located next to the Hawthorne Suites Hotel, 314 Soscol Ave., Napa. At the creek, you’ll find river otters, mink, muskrats and herons as well as beavers. Here are some photos of the critters taken by local photographer Rusty Cohn.

“Since Beavers are nocturnal, the heat doesn’t seem to bother them,” Cohn said. “They come out a little before sunset and are mainly in the water. During the day they are sleeping either in a bank den in the side of the creek bank under a fair amount of dirt, or inside a lodge which is made of mud and sticks mainly.”

This is my favorite of course, but go and look at the rest, they are all wonderful.


Did Saturday really happen at all? It seems like a million years ago or underwater very far away. But it must have taken place be cause it got a nice write up in the Gazette this morning with charming photos.

Beaver Festival attracts adults, children, other animals in environmental celebration

MARTINEZ, Calif. – A breeze ruffled the feathers of a great horned owl that blinked at children from his tall perch. A peregrine falcon flapped his wings while Angela Mazur from Native Bird Connections held his jess leash. Both birds, who can’t return to the wild after being injured, were on display Saturday during the 10th annual Martinez Beaver Festival.

While there may be no beavers this year in Alhambra Creek near Beaver Park, at Alhambra Avenue and Escobar Street, others represented the aquatic animals during the celebration.

Most notably, the award-winning biologist Brock Dolman, dressed and portraying his character Buster Beaver, drawled a folksy explanation of the importance of beavers in the ecosystem and how they are affected by the sequences of drought and winter rains.

Dolman is part of Occidental Arts and Ecology Center of the WATER Institute, who often appears at serious or scholarly conferences, such as a recent multi-day meeting about the environment and its effects on salmon. There he tackled such serious subjects as climate change and how restoration projects should adapt for those changes.

In a more casual style, he reminded festival attendees that the Earth is the only habitable planet we can reach, and so it deserves our care. He also described how beavers’ routine activity becomes part of that care that helps many other types of wildlife.

Many other organizations promoted the same message. The Oakland Zoo described the many threats to California’s native pond turtles by letting children play a pachinko-styled game with bolt pegs and ping pong balls, then asked the children to describe how beavers can help turtles.

Other organizations promoted recycling, such as The Garden at Heather Farms booth, where visitors could learn to weave using natural materials, and the Republic Services booth, where R.C. Ferris took old badges, covered them in double-faced tape and showed visitors how to decorate the sticky badge faces with stickers, moss, leaves and other materials to turn them into works of art.

Youngsters small enough to squeeze into small carts decorated like beavers rode around the park, and Julian Frazer, riding his horse, Joey, let his mount join in the day’s theme by decorating his tail to look like a beaver tail.

Plenty of children lined up for the program books that guided them through nine booths where they learned about water, frogs, otters, herons, fish and dragonflies in addition to the beavers and pond turtles. Those who completed their visits collected tattoos they could use in making nature journals.

Bidders had an array of items they could buy, from vacations and excursions to stuffed animals and artwork. The money raised in the silent auction is paying for the festival.

Yes it is, Beth. Thanks for a lovely article. And thanks every person who bid on the silent auction and everyone who donated to it. We got received our last checks yesterday from lucky winners, as well as a very sweet note from ‘Joey from Utah’s‘ sister. So all that means it really happened, right?

And you were there? And you, and you, and you!


The bulk of auction items found there way home yesterday, on the Monday after the festival which is unhead of. I have a few stragglers to complete today, but I’m thinking the whole thing will be done by Wednesday. I can’t tell you how delightful that feels! I guess one of the advantages of having no Peddler’s faire to share foot traffic with is that everyone stayed at the festival and claimed their prizes. Hurray!

To my great delight yesterday I finally had time to open the filming that some friendly moms did of their children doing the jjournal activity. I had asked a few to shoot video because I might think about making a film later on of the process itself. It was wonderful to have a moles-eye view (do moles have eyes? Maybe a gopher’s- eye) of what went on at each  booth. But I was especially delighted with this moment, which I had to share. That’s Dave Kwinter on the bag pipe btw.

Outside the festival bubble, in the larger beaver world there was a nice report of community upset by the loss of water caused partially by removing a beaver dam that caught my attention. I just love it when people point out that draining a pond will rapidly reduce property value.

Fayette’s David Pond losing water, alarming property owners who want action

Shorefront property owners are working with owners of the pond’s impoundment to seek a solution amid concern that reduced water level could affect wildlife, recreation and ecology and depress property values.

FAYETTE — The lower water level of David Pond this year has spurred those with waterfront property and waterfront access there to organize in search of a solution.

They say recent damage to a rock pile impoundment at the north end of the pond caused the water level to take a significant drop, and they cite concerns about the effect on “wildlife, recreation, ecology, and declining property values and the resulting losses to the town tax base,” in a website posting by Elizabeth Hicks.

Hicks is one of eight people on a steering committee looking for a solution. “We don’t know how stable the current situation is,” she said. “We would like to move on it very quickly.”

When Hicks and others brought their concerns to the Fayette Board of Selectmen, she said, they received sympathy but were told the board could do little because the impoundment was in neighboring Chesterville, which is in Franklin County.

“It’s been a little, ongoing dam war,” Cayer said. “What happens is the landowners are responsible, so we have to do some kind of remediation out there, but we’re not sure yet what that’s going to be.”

She said some people built up the dam to raise the water level and someone else came out and dismantled it, as well as part of a beaver dam, to lower the water.

This article is a wonderful reminder that removal of a beaver dam has consequences for the entire community, including the wildlife using the water behind it.  It sounds like some of the residents want their pond back and some of them don’t. I’m curious what will happen. Obviously the beaver dam wasn’t the only thing dismantled, but I’m sure there was also some trapping involved. It’s certainly the wrong time of year to be ripping out ponds. It will take a long time to get that water back now.


Speaking of ponds and times of year, Rusty Cohn of Napa has been enjoying the golden time of year at Tulocay Creek by visiting several times a week. This is the precious look at Mom and the new kit he got last night. Double click on any photo for a larger view and get ready to say it with me now.





The smoke is settling, the U-haul has been returned and the puppet winners have been contacted. This year there were only 12 transactions to complete on the silent auction, and after today I’ll be down to nine! It’s more than time to share some photos of the beaver day, and Cheryl sent some wonderful photos of the festival we all thought we attended. There is so much more to see on the day than any one person can take in! Do you know as our awesome exhibit coordinator, she went rushing back and forth between the booths and actually clocked 6 miles in that little half acre park that day?

nature journalsThe journals were definitely a hit, and you can see why. Earning them was a great way to get children engaged in the festival and thinking about the way beavers change the watershed.  It was also dam cute, which is always fun.


You can see it was fairly labor intensive getting the journals made and put together. Thankfully the we had Excellent helpers this year in the form of the Watershed Stewards who helped every child make their own. Besides the journals there were birds and catapillars to see, and so much more!

So much to see\

20604551_1809539259063818_6720186982441115444_nGeorgette Howington runs the Blue Bird recovery program (and incidentally ,her husband Bruce founded this very website lo these many years ago), single-handedly brought child after child to my table to start the activity. This morning she had these very kind words to say on FB:

Tom Garry, my nest box monitor partner, and I represented the California Bluebird Recovery Program yesterday at the “10th Annual Martinez Beaver Festival” along with 40 other organizations! We have participated every year since the beginning of its inception and every year, Heidi Perryman, and her crew, outdo the previous year. Musicians, a Children’s Procession, Art Projects and a Silent Auction to name a few of the activities…Heidi provided a project for all the children called, “Learn To Earn: Working for the Ecosystem”. Each child would visit the designated booth and “earn” their tattoos to complete the nature journal. Last I spoke with Heidi, over a hundred children played the game running around the festival eagerly. seeking out the booths and to get their tattoos and prizes…budding naturalists born! I had a chance to visit each booth. Many of the people in attendance are old friends in the community after decades of volunteering and I have to say, I think we had every bit as much fun as the children!!! I wish I could had posted all the photos I took. These are just a sampling but I am very grateful for having the opportunity to be part of such a wonderful event for families and children in our community.    

During all this, the performers on stage delighted everyone with their wonderful entertainment. There wasn’t a moment that wasn’t delightful and we were so lucky to have all their talents in one place. John Koss was the amazing sound technician who volunteered a 12 hours of his life to set up the equipment and adjust everything for the different acts. If there is a more cohesive way to truly show off a variety of musicians, I’m sure I don’t know what it is. 

amazing performances       

I’ll post individual photos over time, but I thought this was the easiest way to show you how much was going on and how spectacularly it all came together thanks to everyone’s very hard work.

tattoos journalI’m still trying to put my finger on why yesterday’s beaver festival felt different. Attendance was smaller than in past years, but more cheerful and appreciative.  People came from longer distances specifically to be there, and were more appreciative of the event.  No one was surprised about the beaver in Martinez, but people were earnestly eager to see  their children focus on nature and learn more about the good work that beavers do.

Kids loved the nature journal activity,  tattoos were  collected with enthusiasm, and they watched with fascination as the ink image emerged on their leather covers as if by magic. I dearly loved hearing the children try to summarize what they learned from the beaver docent wall, and nearly 50 stayed to do the post-test afterwards. Parents were appreciative too and thanked us many time for such a wonderful and educational activity.

A cluster of helpers appeared on hand to help with the tents. the stage, the posters, the exhibits, the entire day. The auction looked amazing and was crowded all day.  Many items had 5 or more bids, which hasn’t happened before. This year the Safari West package sold for 100 dollars more than it’s highest bid in previous years. The new Wifi in the park made it easy to record credit sales, and most auction items were lovingly claimed at the end of the day.

I think the different feel to the day can be summed up with this story of the lively enthusiastic young mom who stopped at my booth with her children and said,

“My brother Joey told me we should come and he was right, this is amazing!”
“Joey?” I asked, politely.
“You know, Joey from Utah”.
“He teaches at the university there”
A foggy idea began to form in my dizzy brain ….”Do you mean Joe Wheaton?”
“Yes exactly! He said this was an amazing event and he’s right!”

Let that sink in for a moment. Apparently Dr. Joe Wheaton of the Utah State, who has done the foremost work on beaver hydrology in the country and whom I have never met or spoken to on the phone, who is renown for his crowded webinars attended by folks in every state, who invented the beaver mapping tool and is recognized as a major force in their use for restoration, apparently has a sister who lives in the South Bay that brought her children to the beaver festival. Here we are with her children who are very proud about those newly made journals.


Once in a great while, I get this odd sense that what I’ve been doing for a decade has mattered, even tipped the landscape in some way, or created a new beaver bright spot on the horizon. Yesterday author Ben Goldfarb coming from Connecticut, Steve Murschel driving down from Portland, and so many strangers thanking me for an excellent day, was one of those times.

Everyone gathered at the house afterwards for Pizza and air conditioning,  they drank beer, talked over the excitements and frustrations of the day, and mused that the entire story belonged on “This American Life”. Then the blessed folks who had attended the festival from out of state impulsively offered to unload the U-haul, and within a 10 minutes the unpacking was suddenly done.

The phenomenom of the Martinez Beavers might not be important to the Bay Area anymore – or even to Martinez itself, but the beaver festival has become recognized and appreciated around the country. In some ways around the world. That feels new, and kind of wonderful.