Preserving Heritage, Embracing Nature: Exploring Xabatin Community Park

I took the opportunity while visiting Lakeport to check out its newest park, Xabatin Community Park with some friends not long after its grand opening. We had some time before attending a performance at the wonderful Soper Reese Theater. As we strolled the park’s grounds, we noted that the park was well-attended with people who spanned the spectrum of age. There were kids having a blast riding their skateboards in the dedicated skate park, folks enjoying the lake view from a cozy park bench, dog walkers promenading with their leashed pooches, picnic areas, a basketball court, and more!

Xabatin is pronounced Ka-bah-ten and means Big Water in the language of the Pomo people who first lived here for around 20,000 years. Xabatin’s parklands include lands of the Scotts Valley Pomos as well as the Big Valley Pomo Indians, who work hard in modern times to keep their cultural heritage alive.

Xabatin held its grand opening on October 26, 2023, with all of the pomp and circumstance that it deserved, and included many thoughtful events in the ceremony. The Big Valley Band of Pomo Indian dancers performed and honored Pomo past and present, Pomo Elder and tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Ron Montez was the keynote speaker, Lakeport’s Mayor, Stacey Mattina was on hand and welcomed all at the opening which included a performance by the  Clear Lake High School Band, a flag presentation by the Lake County Military Honors Team, then the National Anthem was sung by the Sweet Adelines.

Many other special events and speakers honored the day such as Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire, City of Lakeport’s City Manager Kevin M. Ingram, Richard Rendon, Office Chief for the Office of Grants and Local Services, California State Parks and more.

It is heartening to see that a new park gives visibility to past cultures and its Xabatin or Big Water, Clear Lake. To sit and gaze out upon the ancient lake never gets old. It seems to reveal secrets in the minutia. Small fish, like hitch or Chi, are back, fighting to make a permanent return. Dedicated locals have been petitioning to list the Clear Lake hitch as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act for years, as it is a species endemic to Clear Lake and its tributaries.

It is a large minnow that, if you can picture it, was once so plentiful that it was considered a staple food for native people. Long ago hitch clogged the waterways of streams coursing into Clear Lake during the spawning season. Other elements of ancient times etch the surroundings and are revealed as you sit along the amphitheater of Clear Lake’s shores.

Tule reed is poking up to reassert itself. Tule reed once encircled the lake and supported an array of wildlife. Tule reed grows 3-6 feet tall and thrives in marshes, ponds and around lakes throughout the western portion of California. Here is where western pond turtles, deer, otter, mink, raptors and myriad other avian species thrive if given half a chance. Tule is extremely valuable for nesting waterfowl and fish habitat. It plays an immense ecological role as nature’s filter since it strains out nutrient loads that tax the waters. Tule buffers the lands and lake from strong winds and wave action. Tule reed has been in use here for thousands of years when the native people made baby cradles, tule boats, mats, fish traps, women’s skirts and more.

Xabatin gives the gift, through its Big Water views of light specked with glitter in the company of mountains in the distance with matching grey-blue hues. Wind song, nature’s symphony blows through the foliage. Nature, in all of its wisdom, can change our perception of time.

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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