Want to get to know your local California elected officials in a natural setting? Consider attending or co-sponsoring a Walk and Talk with a representative in your area. My local Audubon chapter, Mount Diablo Audubon Society, helped organize an informal birding and politics walk last month.
Around 30 people joined California Assemblywoman Catharine Baker on a beautiful morning for a short hike in Shell Ridge Open Space in Walnut Creek. Mount Diablo Audubon Society provided loaner binoculars and information on bird species. The local chapter of the Sierra Club discussed native plants and other natural history features of the park.
We heard many Red-winged Blackbirds and saw males showing off the red epaulets on their shoulders. Hugh Harvey, Field Trip Chair for Mount Diablo Audubon, brought along his scope to share better views of Acorn Woodpeckers and other birds. Assemblywoman Baker spotted a gorgeous Western Bluebird perched in a blue oak tree. Turkey vultures and Red-tailed hawks soared overhead, but the most exciting sighting of the day was a Cooper’s Hawk. We also heard Anna’s Hummingbirds and saw many pigeons, Mourning Doves, Western Scrub-Jays and one White-breasted Nuthatch.
Two of the Mount Diablo Audubon members on the walk, Randi and Herb Long, were heavily involved in the effort to save Shell Ridge and other parks in Walnut Creek in the early 1970s. When an area of Shell Ridge was proposed for development, a citizen committee formed to rally the public to pass a referendum and bond to purchase and protect open space. Eventually 2726 acres of land were protected in 1974, thanks to the efforts of Randy, Herb and other visionaries.
No matter where individuals might place themselves on the political spectrum, doing a walk and talk in a protected local natural setting or park that is valued by the local community can be a simple way to connect neighbors and elected representatives. In the end we all move forward in one direction and see the natural beauty that surrounds us.
If you would like to learn more about how to develop a relationship with your local representative and organize and promote a similar event, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.