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Experience Nylander Park and Clark’s Island in Clearlake Oaks

With myriad outdoor opportunities available in Lake County, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the small parks that dot the landscape. Two such parks are found in Clearlake Oaks, where you can picnic, fish, or simply bird-watch – Clarks Island and Nylander Park. Both provide a shady interval from a busy day. 

Clarks Island, manmade, is found off of Highway 20 in Clearlake Oaks and was purchased by the County of Lake/Redevelopment Agency in 2007 in a comprehensive plan to uphold environmental sustainability. This mini-park sports California indigenous flora and interpretive panels for the public. There are plans to continue to assist the native tule reeds that were established by volunteers at this site. Tribal Ecosystem Restoration Alliance (TERA) has planted tules at Clark’s Island. This important work was undertaken by Big Valley Rancheria as they shared their indigenous knowledge across the years.

Clarks Island is a mere 1.48 acres. Would you believe that a company called Floating Islands West undertook the venture to launch a 150-foot manmade island made of thousands of recycled plastic bottles and anchored it all into place with two large anchors? The idea behind the man-made island concept is that now there is an opportunity to restore habitat and filter out nitrates, phosphates, and other detrimental pollutants from waterways while also controlling the erosion of lake and stream banks.

Clark’s Island offers a covered pedestrian bridge, picnic tables, and other areas for picnics. River otters and a wide variety of avian species are seen here. You may watch coots and ducks, as well as lovely great white egrets and American White Pelicans as they fish the waters.

Just across the highway from Clark’s island is the attractive and small Nylander Park, which completed construction in 2008 with land purchased from the Red and White Market owner Gary Nylander, for whom the park is named. This small but mighty one-acre park sports a relaxing and shady ambiance with its 40 trees, including crepe myrtles, Chinese pistachio, ginkgo biloba, flowering plums, and more. Its tables, benches, and barbeques all invite you to spend time on its cooling green lawns. Once upon a time, this was where the town’s shops, barber shop, and post office were located. Today, the park proudly displays a collection of ceramic tiles to honor those who helped bring the park to fruition.

Also, just a hop, skip, and a jump from Nylander Park and Clark’s Island is the Clearlake Oaks boat launch, which offers yet another exciting opportunity for some superb bird watching. When I took the opportunity to view birds here in February on a cold day, I spotted flocks of ducks of several species: egrets, shorebirds, and pelicans!

The Redbud Audubon group who took their February field trip here, as well as to a heron and cormorant rookery in the Keys, made loads of other discoveries. According to the newsletter in an article written by Redbud Audubon’s president Donna Mackiewicz they saw 40 species, listed here:  56 Canada Goose,  8 Mallard, 2 Bufflehead, 5 Common Goldeneye, 2 Hooded Merganser, 2 Ruddy Ducks, 36 Eared Grebe, over a thousand Western and Clark’s Grebes, 3 Eurasian Collared Doves, 1 Mourning Dove, 1 Anna’s Hummingbird, 660 Coots, 600 CA Gull, 930 Double-crested Cormorants, 282 Pelicans, 6 Black-crowned Night Herons, 1 Snowy Egret, 140 Great Egrets, 11 Great Blue Heron, 2 Turkey Vulture, 1 Belted Kingfishers.

I want to be like the Redbud Audubon group when I grow up, and become a Super Birder! It just goes to show you, once you take nature’s invitation to get out in her velvet valleys, and especially if you seek out the flat-as-a-mirror waterways scattered across Lake County you are bound to learn some fascinating secrets of nature along the sheen of reeds in the sinuous contours of our own Clear Lake’s edges.

Kathleen Scavone

Kathleen Scavone, MA., is a retired educator who has resided in beautiful Lake County for over 45 years. She freelances fiction, poetry, nature writing, curriculum ideas, and local history. She writes for The Press Democrat, Napa Valley Register, News From Native California, Green Prints, etc. She has published three books, a play and a poetry chapbook. The second edition of her locally set historical novella, People of the Water- a novella of the events leading to the Bloody Island Massacre of 1850 is available in local museums and stores, as well as on Amazon.com and IngramSpark in both paperback and e-book formats. She has written Anderson Marsh State Historic Park- A Walking History, Prehistory, Flora and Fauna tour of a California State Park, and Native Americans of Lake County. Kathleen is a photographer and potter. Her other interests include hiking, assisting on archaeology digs, travel, gardening and reading.

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