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Alameda's Crown Beach hosts 55th Sand Castle and Sculpture Contest

May 20, 2023

One of the East Bay Regional Park District's most popular and enjoyable events is scheduled for Saturday at Crown Beach in Alameda. It's the 55th Annual Sand Castle and Sculpture Contest, always a family-friendly crowd pleaser.

Registration is from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the bathhouse, which is reached via the park entrance at the intersection of Otis Drive and Eighth Street/Westline Drive.

For your castle or sculpture, only items found at the beach must be used. You can't bring in your own embellishments. That said, the variety and creativity of the entries is always amazing. It's as much fun to watch as to participate.

Construction ends at noon, at which point judging begins. Winners receive trophies and ribbons during an awards ceremony at 1 p.m. This isn't a high-stakes contest; bragging rights are the real reward.

Contest sponsors are the Alameda Recreation & Parks Department, East Bay Regional Park District, Alameda Youth Committee and the Bay View Women's Club.

For more information, call the City of Alameda at 510-747-7529, or the Park District's Doug Siden Visitor Center at Crab Cove at 510-544-3187.

Fremont: Ardenwood Historic Farm celebrates Historic Days from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursdays through Sundays. Activities include the narrow-gauge train, tours of the Patterson House Museum and farm animal feedings at 3 p.m. On Sundays, the park staff dons historic costume for period-appropriate programs and activities. Entry fees apply; parking is free.

Ardenwood recreates life on a prosperous 19th-century farming estate. The park is located at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd. in Fremont, just north of Highway 84. For information, call 510-544-2797.

Antioch: Bees, bats and butterflies might not seem to have much in common besides flight capability, but they are all pollinators. Naturalist Jessica Kauzer will talk about how their activities benefit us, while she leads a short walk from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on June 11 at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch. Afterwards, participants can create their own pollinator craft.

The program is free and registration is not necessary. Meet Jessica at Black Diamond Mines’ uppermost parking lot, at the end of Somersville Road, 3½ miles south of Highway 4.

Black Diamond Mines has a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when the kiosk is attended. For information, call 510-544-2750.

Oakley: A bilingual Community Campfire program in English and Spanish is on the calendar from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on June 11 at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley.

Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic dinner to enjoy before the show. The program will highlight the features of Big Break through a variety of activities. S’mores, those gooey campfire treats, will be served.

Big Break is at 69 Big Break Road off Oakley's Main Street. The event is free. For information, call 510-544-3050.

Farewell: And in conclusion … after writing this column for more years than I can remember, I have decided that it's time to retire.

Many thanks to the Park District Public Affairs Department and all the district staff, past and present, who have been generous with their time and information. Any errors that have showed up in my columns have been mine, not theirs.

Thanks also to the media for its continuing coverage of the district and its services to the public.

I would also like to thank the readers, who have occasionally suggested column topics, shared their own park experiences, or pointed out my factual lapses.

Of course the real star of the show has always been the East Bay Regional Park District itself. And its story is a remarkable one. From its founding in 1934 through a grass-roots movement headed by community leaders with admirable foresight, the district has grown to become a two-county public agency with 73 parks totaling more than 125,000 acres. It is the largest regional park agency in the United States. Wherever you live in the East Bay, there is a regional park within 15 minutes of your home.

Their foresight notwithstanding, the park district's founders would likely be amazed at the agency's size and variety today. The district's offerings include hiking, equestrian and cycling trails, picnicking, camping, swimming, fishing, plus natural and cultural history programs. District parklands also preserve critical habitat for wildlife and protect some of the beautiful open spaces that make the East Bay such a desirable place to live.

I urge everyone to take advantage of all the great programs and activities for all ages that are available. The parks are an extraordinary resource for recreation and nature study, not to mention the health benefits conferred by outdoor exercise. We are fortunate to be the beneficiaries of the founders’ vision, and the agency they created needs and deserves our support.

My columns could only mention a few of the district's programs each week. For the full story, visit, and also look for the district's bimonthly Regional in Nature Activity Guide, available at visitor centers, as a newspaper insert and online at

As for me, although I will no longer be writing the column, I will continue involvement with the district through the Volunteer Trail Safety Patrol and other activities, exploring and enjoying our regional parks. I hope to see you on the trails.

Ned MacKay writes about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at [email protected].

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