2012: The EV Year in Review
By Allan Berkowitz, Executive Director

There is a familiar French expression: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Often in life that holds true…but not for the EV this past year.

As I reflect back on 2012, what an amazing year it has been for the Environmental Volunteers! Moving into our new facility has been the culmination of a long and arduous process. But that process – despite the magnitude of its challenges and hurdles – was not the end; rather it placed us at the starting line. As I’ve said on many occasions this past year, the completion of the EcoCenter merely set us up for the real work: developing new programs, reaching new audiences, and expanding our mission fulfillment.

From our perch above the beautiful bay marshes (literally above the marsh as the window in the floor in the nature center attests) we now engage the community with new and exciting learning adventures:

  • Monthly public education programs on everything from life in the bay mud to the California gray fox.
  • A new Junior Naturalist program is set to launch with over 30 kids already registered and a wait-list in formation. This after-school program for grades 3-5 will facilitate nature-based learning activities for local youth who will earn ‘nature pins’ on their way to becoming Junior Naturalists.
  • Our incredible 40-inch touchscreen displays in the nature center engage visitors in wondrous and creative learning opportunities. And stay tuned: new touchscreen programs are already in development.
  • E-Bird, a program from Cornell Ornithology Lab, allows visitors to learn the common birds found in the preserve, record bird sightings and enter that data through our E-Bird terminal, which is then used by university researchers.
  • Curated nature art exhibits became a reality and a lovely addition to the EcoCenter.
  • The Marsh Cam atop our building refreshes a picture of the marsh every 30 seconds and allows you to view the serenity of the Baylands anywhere in the world. Oh, and while on the Marsh Cam webpage, you can also learn about the flora and fauna of the San Francisco Bay.

While so much is new and exciting at the EV, one thing has not changed: because of the continuing dedication of our wonderful volunteers, our school program will again deliver over 500 education programs to 10,000+ students this year. Educating and inspiring new generations of students is still our core work. I am particularly proud that the chaos and excitement generated by the EcoCenter did not negatively impact our school program. In fact, this current school year we are on track to deliver a significantly increased number of services.

We entered 2012 knowing that the move to the EcoCenter was imminent.

We knew that it would be chaotic and it was.

We knew that it would be off-the-charts exciting and it was.

And we knew we were setting off on a journey that would require flexibility, an open mind to learning how to manage a facility open to the public, and the mandate to develop new programs without really knowing the ‘whats, hows and whens.’ What we did have was a very high degree of confidence that we had the wisdom and talent to successfully navigate through the unknowns.

We’ve learned a lot about being a public facility. Our staff and our new EcoCenter docents show great flexibility and maintain the perspective that every visitor to the center is a prospective new learner, volunteer, or donor (and if we are lucky, all of the above). Our Education Team has already launched great new programs and they have many more in the works. Our Board has been very active in supporting the staff, our fund development projects, and providing great guidance towards crafting our new identity.

So I’ll end 2012 by quoting one more famous expression: Be careful what you wish for. Because as it turns out, you might end up having more fun than you ever imagined. 2012 was the transition year that brought us to that starting line.  And now we are having too much fun developing new programs, finding new ways to inspire, teach, and engage new friends of the EV.

To each and every one of you, may you have a wonderful holiday season and may 2013 be your starting line for exciting adventures and experiences that will enrich your lives.