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Inside/Outside Nature Education Series

This community education program includes both “inside” presentations and “outside” guided walks, field trips, and bike rides, featuring local experts.

The goals are

  • to learn more about nature here in our own backyard;
  • to develop a sense of place;
  • to understand how our daily actions impact the environment around us.

Cotati Creek Critters has a monthly column in the Community Voice, the newspaper which covers Cotati, Rohnert Park, and Penngrove. Learn more about past events and topics: Visit our Press & Media page for related articles.


Upcoming Events:

Cotati Creek Critters began its Inside/Outside Nature Education series in January 2006. Talks and outings were hosted regularly, sometimes every month and sometimes less frequently, through November 2012.

As of January 2013, we are considering continuing to offer similar events in the future, depending on the level of community interest.

Past Events:
NOTE: read the related articles in our "Press & Media" section of the web site. See events prior to 2010 at 2009, 2008 and 2007.


Saturday, November 10, 11 am - 1:30 pm:Tour of the Laguna Environmental Center.

The Laguna Environmental Center opened in May. It’s a wonderful place from which to get an overview of what the Laguna is all about, from historic Stone Farm to bird watching to hands-on activities for all the family, with fabulous views of the Laguna all around. There’s a regular Open House every second Saturday, but this is a special Cotati Creek Critters group outing, so please join us! Bring a picnic lunch. We’ll arrange carpooling from Cotati/Rohnert Park.

Laguna Headwaters Walk: Discover the Historic Headwaters of the Laguna in Cotati Saturday, September 29, 10am- 1:30pm $10-$20 suggested donation (sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds)

Led by Jenny Blaker of Cotati Creek Critters and accompanied by Laguna Foundation docents, this 3-mile, fairly flat, urban walk includes part of the Cotati Creek Critters’ one-mile restoration site; a permaculture “pocket park;” the surprising historic headwaters of the Laguna de Santa Rosa; and a stop for a picnic with invited guest speakers. Most suitable for adults (slow walk with lots of stops). Limited group size.

11 am – 1:30 pm - May 13: Tour of MuRefuge:

Cathie Haynes has lived in Sonoma County for over a quarter of a century. She is now restoring MuRefuge after a 25 year career as a critical care R. N., college professor and cardiac rehabilitation nurse.

MuRefuge is located on 3/4 acre in the Hessel area of Sonoma County. When Cathie and her husband, Dwight Sims, moved into the 2 year old spec. house in 1993, the land was barren. The healthy, evolving full spectrum habitat (vegetable garden, orchard and many California natives) is impressive to visit at any time of the year’s cycle.

MuRefuge is now home to not only Cathie and Dwight, but Rose, a 3 legged Saluki mix, 6 Indian Runner ducks and much wildlife. MuRefuge’s evolution is chronicled in BE-ing Rooted: a Practice in Essential Living. A link to this blog is http://beingrooted.blogspot.com/2012/01/in-dead-of-winter.html.

May 4:Tour of the Llano Road wastewater treatment plant with Denise Cadman, City of Santa Rosa.

An opportunity to see how the water from our homes is cleaned up, treated, and used.

Friday, April 20, 7 pm: Rethinking Plastics A presentation by Stuart Moody at the Cotati Room, Ray Miller Community Center, 216 E. School St., Cotati.

This event is growing in scope! Not only are we fortunate to host the main presenter, Stuart Moody from Green Sangha’s Rethinking Plastics campaign, but also Sachiko Knappman of Mottainai Sonoma with a display table on “furoshiki,” a creative, traditional Japanese way of using cloth to create innovative and versatile wrappers and carriers of all kinds; AND Green Mary of www.Green-Mary.com who has created a successful business which has been “greening” major events all over the Bay Area for the past ten years.

Plastic is everywhere. All the plastic that has ever been made still exists. It never completely biodegrades, but just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. With all the uses of plastic, why don't we agree with the American Plastics Council that "plastics contribute to our health, safety and peace of mind"? The problems include non-biodegradability, non-recyclability, wildlife fatalities, and toxicity. It’s even found in our bodies. So what are the solutions?

Stuart Moody is Board President of Green Sangha, an organization that brings individuals together to meditate, to educate and support one another, and to inspire action for the earth. In 2005, he initiated the Rethinking Plastics campaign, which has inspired zero waste practices in schools and businesses, saving tons of plastic from the landfill every year, and contributed to several waste reduction ordinances in Marin County. He is also Green Schoolyard Coordinator at Davidson Middle School in San Rafael. In addition to his environmental work, Stuart teaches yoga, meditation, movement, and dance.

Thursday, February 9, 7 pm: Native Plants for Streamside and Backyard Gardens - a presentation by Walter Earle. At the Cotati Room, Cotati Community Center, Ray Miller Community Center, 216 E. School St., Cotati (behind Cotati City Hall which is at 201 W. Sierra Ave.)

Walter Earle, owner of Mostly Natives plant nursery in Tomales, will discuss in detail some of the plants suitable for riparian areas, including photos taken at different times of the year. The emphasis will be on creating sustainable habitat and how our gardens can enhance this goal.

Walter Earle graduated with a BA in Biology from Sonoma State University in 1977. He is a past President of the Milo Baker Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. With his wife Margaret he has operated Mostly Natives Nursery in Tomales since 1984. Their goal is to produce plants suited for our North Bay Climate, with an emphasis on local native flora, both for Coastal areas and the interior Coastal Range. They grow a number of riparian species.

Thursday, January 12, 7 pm: The Laguna de Santa Rosa: Past, Present, and Future - a presentation by Denise Cadman. At the Cotati Room, Cotati Community Center, Ray Miller Community Center, 216 E. School St., Cotati (behind Cotati City Hall which is at 201 W. Sierra Ave.)

Denise will look at the history of the Laguna, the present day biodiversity and what is being done to protect and enhance the Laguna for future generations.

Denise Cadman is the Natural Resource Specialist for the City of Santa Rosa. This position involves managing 1500 acres of irrigated and natural area land in the Laguna de Santa Rosa; planting creek corridors, removing invasive species, conducting studies and performing long-term surveys on plants, birds and mammals. An education program compliments these efforts.

Denise grew up in the wilds of Rincon Valley and received her BA, secondary teaching credential and MA from the biology department of Sonoma State University. She teaches at Santa Rosa Junior College as an adjunct faculty member in the Life Science Department in addition to working for the City of Santa Rosa and she and her husband operate a draft horse powered family farm in the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Denise attributes her career in natural resource management to a love of bird watching.

For a presentation on the Laguna de Santa Rosa, Past, Present and Future, by Denise Cadman, given in Cotati on January 12, 2012, click here.


A two-part program with Arthur Dawson, historical ecologist at the Sonoma Ecology Center:

Saturday, April 2, 10 am: A Walk to the Laguna de Santa Rosa headwaters
Join us on a collaborative effort to reconstruct the past landscape of Cotati and the Laguna de Santa Rosa headwaters. Arthur Dawson, historical ecologist at the Sonoma Ecology Center, will share his research into the historical hydrology of the area now occupied by Cotati, Rohnert Park and SSU. A number of experts in various fields will help to create and flesh out a “picture of the past.”

Monday, March 28, 7 pm: Thinking Like an Oak: 200 Years of Change in Cotati & the Laguna Headwaters: Join us for an evening of time travel and find out what Cotati was like before Mexican and American settlers arrived. We’ll take a fascinating look at how early maps, illustrations, and accounts can be pieced together to reconstruct an intricate mosaic of lakes, wetlands, creeks, and uplands. We’ll finish with a look to the future and how restoring or mimicking natural patterns can reduce soil erosion, filter water, reduce flooding, and restore habitat.  Held in collaboration with the Cotati Historical Society.  At: the Cotati Room, Ray Miller Community Center, 216 E. School St. (Behind Cotati City Hall, 201 W. Sierra Ave.  Near the police station).

Monday, February 28, 7 pm: Movie, Music and Munchies: "Dirt the Movie", Dirt -“the ecstatic skin of the earth” - we take it for granted but it’s a daily miracle we can’t live without.  An extraordinary movie featuring experts worldwide, “Dirt the Movie” is for anyone who eats food!   Music by Albert Tenaya, Native American flute player.  In collaboration with Daily Acts and Transition Cotati.  Sliding scale $5-25.
At: the Cotati Room, Ray Miller Community Center, 216 E. School St., Cotati.

Monday, January 24, 2 7 pm: Meet Conservation Corps North Bay! Conservation Corps North Bay educates and engages youth in natural resources management: habitat restoration, trail construction, and recycling.  CCNB recently opened an extensive new facility in Cotati to bring its important work to Sonoma County.  CEO Marilee Eckert, Sonoma Program Director Gary Miltimore, Development Director Laura Giacomini and REAP (Recycling & Americorps Programs) Manager Will Becker will host a tour of the facility and explain CCNB’s programs and mission.   This is a great opportunity to learn at first hand about the inspiring work being done by CCNB, a new neighbor in our community.   At: 365 Blodgett St., Cotati.

Sunday, January 23, 7 pm: “A Simple Question”, a movie about the Bay Institute’s STRAW project (Students & Teachers Restoring a Watershed) which engages elementary school children in hands-on habitat restoration. Petaluma Film Series.  At: Aqus Café, 189 H St., Petaluma.


Friday, November 19, 10 am: Where Does Our Trash Go? – a tour of Sonoma County’s Central Disposal Site: See how garbage collected in Sonoma County gets processed.  Patrick Carter of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency will lead a tour of the County’s Central Disposal Site, including recycling/reuse (Recycletown); the tip floor and landfill where garbage is first dumped, then buried; the municipal composting program; and we’ll also learn about the landfill’s gas power plant and household toxics facility.

Sunday, April 25, 9:30 am - 12 noon: Essential Living: BE-ing Rooted in Place – garden tours of MuRefuge: In April, July, and September, Cathie Haynes, habitat restorationist, offered a tour of her garden, MuRefuge, a living example of sustainability and a haven for wildlife, with native plants, edible gardens, and foraging/egg laying ducks! Each had a different theme, e.g. July: abundance and food preservation; September: "the fifth season" - native plant dormancy.   For more information about MuRefuge, see Cathie’s blog, “BE-ing Rooted: a Practice in Essential Living” at http://beingrooted.blogspot.com/2010/07/story-of-murefuge.html.  To inquire about similar future talk/tours please contact Cathie Haynes at afsp@sonic.net or 707-829-9178.

Monday, March 1, 7 pm: “The Forgotten Miracle: Living, Fertile Soil” with Patrick Picard, a local Bay-Friendly Qualified Landscaper who has over 20 years of landscape experience and is certified in both Permaculture Design and Landscape Water Efficiency.
At: Stony Point Room, Ray Miller Community Center, 216 E. School St., behind Cotati City Hall.

Monday, February 1, 7 pm: "Economic Growth: possible? desirable? sustainable?" with Bruce Macpherson and Steve Barnhart.
This event is co-sponsored with the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy.
An economist and an ecologist who have collaborated on this issue for many years will be addressing these and related questions.  Bruce Macpherson recently retired from SRJC where he taught economics, environmental studies and business administration. He was one of the original instructors in SSU’s School of Environmental Studies, where he taught ecological economics.  Steve Barnhart is the Education Director for the Pepperwood Foundation and Preserve. He taught biology, botany, ecology and a variety of field classes at SRJC for 37 years.  His research specialty is oaks and oak vegetation.
Handouts distributed on Feb. 1: Economic Growth, The Ecological Imperative, From a Failed Growth Economy to a Steady-State Economy

Special Thanks to the City of Cotati, Sonoma Mountain Village, and the California Native Plant Society Milo Baker Chapter for their past funding in support of this series.

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Updated 2013 by Lucy Kenyon