About every other year, the staff at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley hosts a month-long docent training program, known as Delta Docents, for people interested in volunteering at the park, and the next class is getting ready to start.
The park, located at 69 Big Break Road, features hiking trails, a fishing pier, a kayak and canoe launch and a busy schedule of activities and events designed to engage local residents with this valuable natural resource. The centerpiece of the park is its visitor center — the newest in the East Bay Regional Park District.
Rachel Pulizzi, acting naturalist aide at Big Break, explained that approximately 30 docents, who contribute more than 2,100 volunteer hours a year, support the visitor center’s operations.
“Originally, I became involved as a docent at Big Break because I was looking for a way to stay active and involved with the community after my retirement from an IT career,” explained current docent, Michael Krieg. “I stay involved because the Big Break programs give me many opportunities to meet people who share my interest in nature and the environment.”
The Delta Docent training program starts July 8, and runs for seven sessions throughout the month. No experience is necessary to participate in the program that focuses on Delta history and ecology, presentation skills, and activities and games. There will also be field trips, including a visit to a working farm on Tyler Island and presentations from specialists in areas like invasive species and local wildlife. With needs that run the gamut from presenting to pre-schoolers to entering data behind the scenes, there are a variety of roles available for those who complete the program.
“A good docent is one that finds the perfect pairing,” said Pulizzi. “The pairing of their passion, but also what they’re comfortable with and what our needs are ... Being very interested and curious about the Delta — I don’t want to say it’s a requirement — but it’s what we talk about. It’s what we’re interpreting. Most of your conversations are about that. If anything, that should be part of your passion of why you’re volunteering.”
Pulizzi went on to say that the success and growth of the programs at Big Break over the last seven years would not have been possible without the help and contributions of volunteers. With more than 40,000 visitors a year, volunteer opportunities abound.
“I got involved with the park district so I can reach, evolve and interact with the community,” said docent Ed Valenzuela. “We have so many young families in the area, and the park district is an amazing place to take their families.”