Hillside Festival 2016

Sunday, May 15th

The 3rd Annual Hillside Festival

Starred Photos-001

Festival Schedule

Free. 10-5 Hillside Natural Area.
Festival Reception Area, end of Schmidt Lane near Recycling Center

Enjoy El Cerrito’s third annual Hillside Festival!  This festival is sponsored by El Cerrito Trail Trekkers and the city’s Environmental Quality Committee and Parks and Recreation Commission and Tree Committee.

This year the main gathering spot is the Meadow just above the Schmidt Lane Trailhead.

Please help maintain and improve the Hillside Natural Area. The Hillside Festival is a free event, open to all and designed to showcase the natural and cultural beauties if El Cerrito’s Hillside. Trail Trekkers is dedicated to helping the city maintain this wonderful area, to improve its natural habitat, to remove dangerous overgrowth to prevents fires, and to improve access. Please donate here to this effort. All funds help improve and maintain the Hillside Natural Area. Donations are tax deductible, as provided by law.

A downloadable map and guide is here.


*The Bike Park, Snowdon Reservoir, at the end of Snowdon Lane
Come ride your bike at El Cerrito High School Mountain Bike Team’s pop-up BIKEPARK! Skill features for all ages and abilities include: Pumptrack, freeride features, balance beams, teeter totters and more! MTB coaches will be on hand to offer skills clinics and advice. Free basic bicycle maintenance. Free Valet Bike Parking.

*Hillside Bingo for Kids. Hey kids, want to explore the Hillside looking for strange and beautiful flowers, plants and critters? Pick up a pack of cards with pictures of some of the animals and plants that live in our Hillside – then find and photograph them and win prizes. On the bingo list will be Monkey flower, manzanita, lizards and more. The game goes on all day. Get cards and instructions at the Meadow.

Talks and Tours

8:30 a.m. Special Pre-Festival Morning Bird Walk led by Golden Gate Audubon Society member Tara McIntire. Come climb and explore the Hillside Natural Area with its magnificent views and grasslands covered with beautiful, native, tangled oak forests, creeks and BIRDS! The terrain can be steep and difficult. Wear sturdy shoes with good traction. Hike starts and ends at the Schmidt Lane Trail head. The walk will be limited to 15 participants. Please RSVP to taramcintire@yahoo.com. Note, this hike repeats at 12:30 p.m. when no rsvps are needed.

10 a.m. History of Wildcat Canyon – How It Almost Became a Lake And Then a City. Longtime Kensington resident and historian Bob Shaner provides historical and personal memories about Wildcat Canyon – which remains wild land today only because efforts to dam the creek and to build homes and stores failed. The Meadow above Schmidt Trail head.

10 a.m. Join Janet Gawthrop of the California Native Plant Society for a beginner-general level Plant Walk to learn about the native plants that dot the Hillside. Enjoy wildflowers and some hidden wonders. Meet at the Meadow above the Schmidt Trail head.

11 a.m. Ranger Daniel Sanchez of the National Park Service will lead a walk and talk about the Juan Bautista de Anza National Trail, focusing on the Anza expedition from Mexico to the Bay Area in 1775-1776. Meet at the meadow above the Schmidt Trail head.

11 a.m. – 12:30. Join El Cerrrito Boy Scout Troop 104 for an educational, hands-on habitat restoration and environmental cleanup, removing invasive plants from the Hillside while learning about the Scouts. Open to all ages but especially to young people. Learn how to recognize toxicodendrum diversoloba (posion oak). The Scouts will also be volunteering throughout the festival. Gather at the Meadow above the Schmidt trail head.

Noon. Poet, songwriter, performer Kirk Lumpkin will perform in honor of El Cerrito’s Open Space. The Meadow above Schmidt Trail head.

12:15. Let’s Preserve our beloved Hillside. Dave Weinstein, Trekkers’ president, discusses efforts past, present and future, to preserve El Cerrito’s miniature wilderness forever. We won by saving the Madera Open Space – but challenges remain. The Meadow above the Schmidt Trail head.

12:30. Bay Area favorites Ken Hayes and Tom Cline perform Americana music in their inimitable style. The Meadow above the Schmidt Trail head.

12:30. Bird Walk. Golden Gate Audubon Society member Tara McIntire leads a family-friendly one hour bird walk. Meet at the Meadow above the Schmidt Trail head.

1 p.m. Ralph Boniello of the El Cerrito Tree Commission leads a family-friendly one hour Tour of the Hillside Natural Area’s Trees, from native Coast live oaks to exotics.

2 p.m. Early California Indian Life in the El Cerrito area. Berkeley’s well known historian and author and publisher of RSB books Richard Schwartz will discuss life in El Cerrito before the arrival of Spanish colonists, and about rancho life of the Californios. Meet at the “crossroads,” a spot with breathtaking views. Enter at the first, southernmost, trailhead on Regency Court, the one that has a trailhead sign, and walk downhill a quarter mile. Check the map.Vist Richard’s website at http://www.richardschwartz.info/.

2 p.m. Hidden Poetry/Geocaching Hike. Join Trail Trekker Jenny Hammer and others for a two-hour hike in the Hillside Natural Area and the new Madera Open Space in search of HIDDEN geocaches, both officially-registered and ones containing poems by nationally-recognized poets. This hike affords wonderful views and traverses trails in the most natural areas of El Cerrito. Coordinates of the caches will be supplied. Bring a GPS device if you have one, or simply use ours. Hike starts at the Meadow.

3 p.m. History Of Hillside Natural Area Hike. Dave Weinstein will wear his El Cerrito Historical Society hat for this strenuous, 90-minute trek while discussing the history of this wonderful open space from the early 1900s to today. Meet at the Meadow.

4 p.m. Explore the varied ‘Biomes’ of the Hillside. For a small (100-acre) spot, the Hillside Natural Area features a wide variety of ‘biomes’ – plant and animal communities, from riparian to open field to oak forest, and more. Join Robert Schaadt for a vigorous, sometimes steep 60-minute tour. Meet Robert at the north Regency Court entrance. Check the map.

7:15 p.m. Special post-festival event. Meditation in Nature. Take in the deep peace of nature and the long evening light with a sunset meditation. All ages welcome. Led by Nicole Becker, yoga and meditation teacher, and owner of Ojas Yoga Center, El Cerrito. 7:15 gather, 7:30 gentle movement, 7:45-8:15 silent sunset meditation. Meet on the Ridge Trail by an oak tree gathering spot facing Mt. Tam, just in from the King Court Trailhead.


* The city of El Cerrito’s Environmental Quality Committee booth will provide festival maps and schedules, or download them from the Trekkers website. Learn about EQC activities and initiatives, including cleanups, habitat restoration, graywater techniques to save water. Also learn about Friends of Five Creeks, whose efforts to preserve creeks and the Hillside have been ongoing for years.
* The National Park Service will gather community input to help them develop a signage plan for trails and public paths throughout El Cerrito. A park service ranger will also discuss the Anza Trail, which passes through El Cerrito.
* The Community Garden Network will give away seedlings and discuss gardening with native plants.
*Learn about local geology from the Northern California Geological Society. See our collection of fascinating local rocks, minerals and fossils. Bring yours in for us to ID. Free rocks for kids. Get information on our field trips, talks and awards for geology students and teachers.
* Representatives of the Diablo Fire Safe Council will discuss the dangers of wildfires in the wildland-urban interface. Learn how to prevent disaster before it happens.

*The El Cerrito Hillside Organization (ECHO), a community group dedicated to preserving the Fairview Open Space, the largest remaining parcel of unprotected open space in the El Cerrito hills, will present information. “Our goal is to preserve this open space for the benefit of the creatures that inhabit it and the residents of El Cerrito and the San Francisco Bay Area.”
* Donation time. The festival is free but maintaining and restoring the Hillside is not. Please make a tax deductible donation to this effort with a check to “ECCF,” with “Hillside Restoration” in the message line. (ECCF is EC Community Foundation, our fiscal agent.) Send to Pam Austin, 834 Kearney St., EC 94530.  Or donate here.

A downloadable map and guide is here.