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Sonoma is ground zero for Earth Day

With every passing year, Earth Day continues to gain recognition as a non-religious, non-historical holiday, at least as valid a celebration as 4/20, Kwanzaa or Festivus. It can easily claim seniority over those three, having first been celebrated in 1970.

In places like the Sonoma Valley, where gardens, hiking paths and green vistas are part of the landscape, multiple events are scheduled from a variety of organizations. The biggest single event is the Earth Care Festival, held on Sunday, April 22, at the First Congregational Church on West Spain Street. It’s only the third year of the gathering – and more about that later – but other Valley locations and organizations have celebrated Earth Day even longer.

At the top of the list is the Sonoma Ecology Center, which claims Earth Day – April 22, 1990 – as its birthday. SEC will be launching its seasonal Harvest Market on Saturday, April 21, at Sonoma Garden Park (19996 Seventh St. E.), from 9 a.m. to noon, featuring fresh produce grown on site. The Harvest Market will then run every Saturday until the end of the growing season.

SEC will also re-open Sugarloaf Ridge State Park’s famous Planet Walk hike on April 21, an easy two-mile round trip from the Sun (at the Robert Ferguson Observatory) along the Meadow Trail and Bushy Peaks trail to the Uranus marker a mile away. More ambitious space travelers can venture all the way to Pluto farther up the Bushy Peaks trail to Gray Pine over three miles away, with an elevation gain of 1,100 feet. Cost is $10, $5 for students and docents, free for 18 and younger.

That same Saturday, a bilingual group will visit the Van Hoosear Wildlife Preserve on a Caminata de la Primavera, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. This private preserve is notable for having the most incredible wildflower display in the county; contact Alana Fichman at 591-1726 or alana@sonomaecologycenter.org for details.

Returning to Sugarloaf on Sunday, April 22, the Sonoma Ecology Center will join botanist Peter Warner in a different kind of wildflower walk, exploring several regions of the park that were burned over in October. Fire has a dramatic effect on a landscape over time, and certain flowers – known as “fire followers” – only bloom in the wake of wildfires. The slow-paced hike should begin at 9 a.m. and end about 1 p.m., covering three or four miles depending on the flora discovered. Tickets are $10 (plus Sugarloaf parking charges).

For more details on these and other SEC hikes, visit their website at sonomaecologycenter.org/earth-week.

Not to be left in the dust, the naturalists at Jack London State Historic Park celebrate Earth Day weekend with a wildflower walk and a hike, both focused on the interconnected web of nature.

On Saturday, discover the wildflowers along the Wolf House trail on an easy, short walk with park naturalist John Lynch; on Sunday, join Lynch on an intermediate four- to eight-mile hike on backcountry trails to discover a wider variety of wildflowers.

Lynch promises the hikes will be slow-paced to allow plenty of time to study or shoot (as in photograph) the wildflowers. Participation is $15 per person plus parking; reservations and more information at jacklondonpark.com/earth-day-wildflowers.html.

Quarryhill Botanical Garden (12841 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen) is celebrating Earth Day a day early, on Saturday, April 21, with events and activities throughout its gardens.

Its annual Spring Plant Sale may well be the highlight, an opportunity for local gardeners to purchase starts for some 150 species of trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials, most of which are native to temperate Asia and therefore uncommon in the nursery trade.

Other fun stuff to do at Quarryhill – which largely escaped the fires of fall – includes face painting, arts and crafts, kids activities and informational displays on wild cats, river otters, bees, succulents and more, plus music and dancing performances.

All ages are welcome, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., $10 for parking. Proceeds from the Spring Plant Sale help support the mission of Quarryhill Botanical Garden - conserving plants and slowing species loss. For more about their conservation work, go to quarryhillbg.org/conservation.html.

Which brings us back to the annual Earth Care Festival, set for Sunday at First Congregational Church/Congregation Shir Shalom, just a couple blocks from the Plaza at 252 W. Spain St. The event is free, and organizers promise “something for everyone, young and old, music lovers, foodies and friends of the Earth.”

Like the Quarryhill festival, Earth Care will include presenters and displays from local organizations, in this case more “mission-driven” groups such as the Praxis Peace Institute, End World Hunger, Earth Care Advocates and the Napa/Sonoma chapter of the Sierra Club, among others.

The Sonoma Overlook Trail will also be represented, as well as the SEC, the Sonoma County Land Trust and Transition Sonoma Valley.

Last year’s very popular children’s interactive art table will return with stimulating and educational activities for children of all ages.

The event begins at 11:30 a.m. and includes several musical performances, including the dynamic Taiko Drummers, the Threshold Singers, the Drum Beats and guitarist Carl Sherill. Biking to the event is encouraged.

Though the Earth Care Festival is free, a delicious and nutritious Farm-to-Fork luncheon in Burlingame Hall will be ready to serve at 11:45 a.m., provided by Nancy Ladd ($7 for adults and $5 for children).

Earth Day is celebrated world-wide on April 22, to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network and celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.

That’s more than Kwanzaa, Festivus and 4/20 combined.

Contact Christian at christian.kallen@sonomanews.com.

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