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Keep Safety in Mind for That Winter Walk at East Bay Regional Parks

Public safety personnel and equipment may not be able to respond easily to emergencies due to road and trail conditions, The Richmond Standard reported. The majority of East Bay Regional Parks have been closed since Jan. 4 due to recent storms and conditions. Only some shoreline and delta parks are currently open. See list at EBParks.org. 

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Photo courtesy of EBRPD.
Photo courtesy of EBRPD.

PARK IT

By Ned MacKay

Because of the series of heavy storms that have battered the region in recent days, this is a good time to emphasize winter season safety measures for park visitors.

According to the Richmond Standard, the East Bay Regional Parks District is urging the public not to enter closed parks or areas with caution tape due to storm-caused safety hazards such as downed trees, falling branches, flooding and mudslides.

Public safety personnel and equipment may not be able to respond easily to emergencies due to road and trail conditions, The Richmond Standard reported. The majority of East Bay Regional Parks have been closed since Jan. 4 due to recent storms and conditions. Only some shoreline and delta parks are currently open. See list at EBParks.org.

Entering closed parks not only risks your safety, but also those of first responders.

“Help keep yourself and first responders safe by staying out of closed parks,” East Bay Regional Park District Fire Chief Aileen Theile told The Richmond Standard. “It may not seem unsafe, but the dangers and the potential for injury or loss of life are real.”

Anyone entering Regional Parks when closed is subject to citation or arrest for violation of the Park District’s Ordinance 38.

Here are some safety tips for winter activity in the parks:

  • Check the weather before you go. And go with a friend, so someone can seek help if there’s an emergency. If you go alone, be sure to tell a responsible person where you are going and when you will be back. Then inform them when you have returned. In an emergency, call 911 or 510-881-1121, 24 hours a day.
  • Be prepared for changeable weather. Dress in layers, carry extra warm clothing, and wear sturdy footgear. It’s better to carry clothing you may not need than it is to need clothing you do not have.
  • Bring a map and stay on the official trails. Don’t take shortcuts on unmarked paths. Maps can be downloaded from the park district website, www.ebparks.org.

While you are on the trails, watch for rockslides, fallen trees and any other hazards. The rangers try to keep on top of these situations, but there are many trails and there’s likely to be considerable storm damage. Abide by any signs warning of closure or dangers and cooperate with instructions from park district staff.

  • Take a snack for an energy boost. A thermos full of a hot beverage works well, too.
  • Trails will likely be muddy. Leave a pair of dry shoes in the car, along with a cardboard box for those muddy boots.
  • For up-to-date information on park hazards and closures, click on “Visit a Park” at the top of the home page, then click again on “Alerts & Closures.”

With the new year comes the 30th annual outing of the East Bay Regional Park District’s always-popular Trails Challenge program. It’s free of charge, fun for all ages and levels of ability, and easy to join.

The goal is to complete any five Trails Challenge trails or 26.2 miles (same distance as a marathon) of non-challenge trails. Record the trail names and distances and submit your log to reservations@ebparks.org by Dec. 1, 2023. You’ll be rewarded with a 2023 Trails Challenge pin, while supplies last.

The program is a great way to become reacquainted with familiar regional parks or explore new ones. It’s also an incentive for enjoyable and healthy outdoor exercise.

You can download the Trails Challenge guidebook at ebparks.org/TC. It contains a list of 20 trails, graded as easy, moderate or challenging. There are trails open to hikers, bicyclists, equestrians and dog walkers. Trails Challenge 2023 also offers increased accessibility, with trails that are usable by people with mobility limitations.

Here are some examples. There are easy hikes listed for Bay Point Regional Shoreline in Bay Point and Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline in San Leandro.

For a moderate hike, there’s a trail at Sunol Regional Wilderness in southern Alameda County, and one at Lake Chabot near Castro Valley.

Challenging hikes include trails at Morgan Territory north of Livermore and Wildcat Canyon in Richmond.

Besides the detailed trail descriptions, the Trails Challenge guidebook contains useful information about trail safety, etiquette, and essential equipment.

The 30th Anniversary Trails Challenge program is made possible by support from Kaiser Permanente and the Regional Parks Foundation.

The cultural history of the Ohlone Peoples is the theme of a program from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, in the visitor center at Sunol Wilderness Regional Preserve with naturalist Kristina Parkison.

Drop by the Ohlone cultures informational table to learn about the rich culture and thriving present-day lifestyle of the first people who lived in what is now the park.

Sunol Regional Wilderness is at the end of Geary Road off Calaveras Road, about five miles south of I-680 and the town of Sunol. There’s a parking fee of $5 per vehicle; the program is free of charge. For information, call 510-544-3249.

With the rains come mushrooms and other fungi. Learn more during a naturalist-led “Funky Fungi” program from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14 at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont.

Find out why mushrooms grow in circles, why mushroom rings have been historically associated with fairies, and other mushroom lore. Then make your own fairy craft.

The program is free of charge and registration is not required. Ardenwood admission fees apply.

Ardenwood is at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., just north of Highway 84. For information, call 510-544-2797.

“Old Skool Skillz” is the title of a program from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Environmental Education Center in Tilden Nature Area near Berkeley with naturalist Anthony Fisher.

Make an elderberry flute and gain appreciation for the accomplishments of the first people to inhabit the lands of the East Bay and beyond.

The center is at the north end of Tilden’s Central Park Drive, accessible via Canon Drive from Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Berkeley. For information, call 510-544-2233.

Topics related to the ecology of the Delta will be explored during a hands-on, naturalist-led “Afternoon Adventure” program from 2 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, at Big Break Regional Shoreline near Oakley. The program is free, and registration is not necessary.

Big Break is at 69 Big Break Road off Oakley’s Main Street. For information, call 510-544-3050.

It’s a good idea to check the park district website before heading out, to be sure your park is open. And stay safe when out enjoying the parks. For a full list of activities and programs planned in the regional parks, visit www.ebparks.org/things-to-do.

The Richmond Standard contributed to this report.

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Conversations About Cancer Screening Should Be Priority This Holiday Season – It Can Save Your Life

Now is the time to start having conversations about cancer screening and having them often. Be an example for your friends and family. It’s OK to say, ‘Hey, as your buddy, I want us to be together 20 years from now. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself. That includes going to the doctor and getting screened for cancer.’ It may be a tough conversation to have, but you may be the one that could make a lifesaving difference.

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David Ford, is a two-time cancer survivor.
David Ford, is a two-time cancer survivor.

By David Ford

The holidays are a time to gather with friends and family for food, fun, and great conversations. But imagine those conversations not going as planned and the joy of being with your loved ones has been overshadowed by someone sharing that they have cancer.

You may not have been ready to have that discussion, yet it was happening. And you may not be prepared to talk about screenings with your loved ones, but it’s necessary. As someone who has had two different cancers in my life, I cannot stress enough the importance of getting screened.

It was 2015 when I first heard those earth-shattering words, “it’s cancer.” I thought back to a conversation with my doctor just a few months earlier when they recommended a routine colonoscopy screening.

Instead of getting it done right away, I kept putting it off. My life was busy. I had a family and was in the midst of a successful career. It just wasn’t a priority for me, and all the while, I was unknowingly putting myself at risk. Then flash-forward to a critical moment with my doctor. It was too late; surgery was needed to treat my cancer.

If I’d gotten my colonoscopy, a screening for colon cancer, when it was recommended, it’s possible that I could’ve avoided surgery, treatment, and the emotional toll I put on my family.

Even though the treatments saved me, I had to learn the hard way not to take unnecessary risks with my life. So, three years later, when my doctor recommended screening for prostate cancer, I did not wait. I completed the screening immediately, and we were able to find and treat my second cancer at an early stage. Now, I am once again cancer-free and sharing my story to help others understand why they should be getting screened.

According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, yet the discussion of cancer screening remains taboo in our community.

Now is the time to start having conversations about cancer screening and having them often. Be an example for your friends and family. It’s OK to say, ‘Hey, as your buddy, I want us to be together 20 years from now. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself. That includes going to the doctor and getting screened for cancer.’ It may be a tough conversation to have, but you may be the one that could make a lifesaving difference.

Cancer wasn’t something I was prepared to factor into my life. But through my experience, I learned some tough lessons. It is important to listen to my doctor. I need to take the time to share with others, so they don’t make the same mistake. It’s necessary to go to the doctor on a timely basis. It’s OK to have scary conversations about health with loved ones. And if a doctor recommends cancer screening, get screened.

Through my work with the American Cancer Society, I have seen that cancer doesn’t discriminate. It’s not just older people getting cancer; anyone can be at risk. This is the reason why it is so important for you to talk to a doctor about the type of health care and screening you may need.

You can’t play around with your life. It’s more than just a cancer screening, it’s a way to help ensure that we will be around for our families. The longer we are around, the more opportunities we have to live our dreams and to see our loved ones achieve their goals.

As we prepare to gather for the holidays, whether it’s a large gathering or with immediate family, I encourage you to have a conversation with your loved ones about regular cancer screening.

I hope that you take the steps yourself to schedule an appointment to get screened. If you need cancer screening recommendations, resources, as well as tips to start the conversation visit cancer.org/get-screened. A small discussion can make a lifesaving difference, so please don’t wait.

David Ford, is a two-time cancer survivor, Senior Government Relations Manager at Southern California Edison, and member of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Board of Directors.

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Ready to start a business? Here are six steps before opening your doors

As your business grows, you’ll need to hire people you can trust to get the job done and reach the next level. Assemble a team who brings a strong work ethic and diverse expertise. It’s also essential to hire against your weaknesses and find team members who can make you smarter, more strategic, and more effective as you start down the path of growing a successful business. We also recommend seeking out mentorship.

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Starting a business requires planning. You may already have a great business concept, but, before you start selling products or opening stores
Starting a business requires planning. You may already have a great business concept, but, before you start selling products or opening stores.

By Nykole Prevost, Senior Business Consultant, JPMorgan Chase

Nykole Prevost, Senior Business Consultant, JPMorgan Chase

Nykole Prevost, Senior Business Consultant, JPMorgan Chase

Black business ownership is surging, fueled by Black women as the nation’s fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs. In fact, over one million  new businesses started over the last decade are owned by entrepreneurs of color. It’s a promising trend, as local Black-owned businesses play a significant role in building wealth, creating job opportunities, and celebrating diverse cultures.

Starting a business requires planning. You may already have a great business concept, but, before you start selling products or opening stores, consider these six steps to lay a strong foundation for growth:

1. Make it official…legally

The first step is establishing your business by choosing between a limited liability corporation (LLC), a limited liability partnership (LLP) or a corporation. Registering your business as an LLC, LLP or corporation is crucial because it makes your business a separate legal entity and forms a financial protection barrier between you as the owner and your business.

2. Make your business account work for you

Once the business is established, it is essential to determine your business’ spending needs and financial resources. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recommends all incorporated businesses have a business banking account, and there are several benefits to opening one up. For example, separating your personal finances from those of your business allows you to take full advantage of tax deductions, automate your bookkeeping, protect yourself from business debt liability and establish business credit. Consider speaking with a business banker for more information and available resources.

3. Fund your business idea

Business credit is one of most common ways for entrepreneurs to fund a new business. It’s also a great way to access the capital that you need to start, run, and grow your company. Much like personal credit, business credit signals to lenders how your company handles its debt. Stronger credit scores can increase your purchasing power by potentially making it easier — and, in some cases, cheaper — to secure loans and other forms of financing to cover day-to-day expenses, invest in inventory, hire additional staff, and conserve liquid cash. It’s important to remember, though, that using credit responsibly is a crucial component of building any business.

4. Take inventory of your financial resources

What are your income streams and how much could you invest in your business to create more customers, increase sales, and produce opportunities for growth? Make a list of all your assets, including savings, retirement, business accounts, or home equity. Next, list out your liabilities, including credit cards, rent, mortgage, or car payments. Then, find out your net worth by subtracting what you owe from what you own. Work with your financial, legal and tax advisors to run through best and worst-case scenarios and find out what your options are. Financial resources like cash management solutions can be helpful when setting up your business.

5. Create your online presence

Whether you have a brick-and-mortar business or you’re digital only, your customers need a way to find out more about your business and what you offer. Think about your target customer and what you want them to know about your brand. If you don’t already have a website, creating an online hub for your business is critical to getting your message out there and building a customer base.

6. Build your dream team

As your business grows, you’ll need to hire people you can trust to get the job done and reach the next level. Assemble a team who brings a strong work ethic and diverse expertise. It’s also essential to hire against your weaknesses and find team members who can make you smarter, more strategic, and more effective as you start down the path of growing a successful business. We also recommend seeking out mentorship. The Minority Entrepreneurs Initiative is a great way to gain an additional perspective on ways to stabilize, grow and scale your business from experts.

Visit a local Chase branch and speak with a business banker or check out educational materials at chase.com/business/next-level-biz to learn more about starting and managing your business.

Sponsored content from JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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Advice

Buying a Home May Not Be as Out of Reach as You Think, Even in This Market

While existing home sales have fallen month-over-month since the beginning of the year, prices hit a record high above $400,000 in May, according to the National Association of Realtors, as low levels of housing inventory and supply chain constraints have created an affordability squeeze for homebuyers. Mortgage rates have nearly doubled in the last six months — from 3% in 2021 to close to 6% in 2022 — making it increasingly challenging for many Americans to purchase a home, especially for those with limited income.

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While existing home sales have fallen month-over-month since the beginning of the year, prices hit a record high above $400,000 in May, according to the National Association of Realtors
While existing home sales have fallen month-over-month since the beginning of the year, prices hit a record high above $400,000 in May, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Here’s How You Can Achieve Homeownership

Buying a home is one of the most important purchases you will make in your lifetime. Pressure is mounting for those looking to buy right now, with home prices fluctuating and mortgage rates at their highest levels in over a decade.

While existing home sales have fallen month-over-month since the beginning of the year, prices hit a record high above $400,000 in May, according to the National Association of Realtors, as low levels of housing inventory and supply chain constraints have created an affordability squeeze for homebuyers. Mortgage rates have nearly doubled in the last six months — from 3% in 2021 to close to 6% in 2022 — making it increasingly challenging for many Americans to purchase a home, especially for those with limited income.

So, how do you know when you’re ready to buy a home? More importantly, how much home can you afford? We sat down with Denise Richardson, community home lending advisor at Chase, to answer those questions and discuss what the current state of the market means for you and your family’s home buying dreams.

Q: What are the main factors mortgage lenders look at when evaluating an application?

Richardson:

When it comes to homeownership, your credit score and debt-to-income ratio are major factors in the application process.

Your credit score is set based upon how you’ve used — or not used — credit in the past. Using credit responsibly, such as paying bills on time and having a low utilization rate will result in a higher score. Higher credit scores can help you qualify for the lowest interest rates. A score at 700 or above is generally considered good.

Additionally, lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio. This is a simple equation of how much debt you have relative to how much money you make. Borrowers with a higher debt-to-income ratio are considered more risky while a lower debt-to-income ratio may allow you to qualify for the best rates on your home loan.

Q: What are some tips for improving your credit score?

Richardson: There are a number of things you can do to improve your credit score, starting with reviewing your credit reports to understand what might be working against you. You can also pay down your revolving credit and dispute any inaccuracies.

Additionally, there are services like Chase Credit Journey to help monitor and improve your credit score. Credit Journey monitors all your accounts and alerts you to changes in your credit report that may impact your score. You’ll get an alert any time Chase sees new activity, including charges, account openings and credit inquiries. Chase will also notify you if there are changes in your credit usage, credit limits or balances. You don’t have to be a Chase customer to take advantage of Credit Journey.

Q: What are some factors that can affect the cost of a mortgage?

Richardson: There are several factors to consider when reviewing mortgage options including loan term, interest rate and loan type. Potential homebuyers should contact a home lending professional to understand and review the options available to them.

For example, there are two basic types of mortgage interest rates: fixed and adjustable. While adjustable rates are initially low, they can change over the course of a loan, so your mortgage payments may fluctuate. Loan term indicates how long you have to pay off the loan. Many homebuyers tend to opt for a 15-year or 30-year mortgage, though other terms are available. A longer loan term generally means you’ll have lower monthly payments, but you’ll pay more in interest over the life of the loan. A shorter loan term may come with higher monthly payments, but you’ll likely pay much less in interest over time.

Q: What are the costs of homeownership beyond the monthly mortgage payment?

Richardson: People often think of the down payment and monthly mortgage — but buying and owning a home carries additional costs. Closing costs, for example, can amount to up to 3% or more of the final purchase price. Other factors that could add on to your monthly payments are property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and homeowner’s association (HOA) fees. To get an idea of what this may look like for you, use an affordability calculator.

While there is no way for a buyer to completely avoid paying these fees, there are ways to save on them. Some banks offer financial assistance for homebuyers. As an example, Chase’s Homebuyer Grant offers up to $5,000 that can be used toward a down payment or closing costs in eligible neighborhoods across the country. There may also be homeowners’ or down payment assistance offered in your city or state. Contact a home lending advisor to learn about resources you may be eligible for.

For a deeper dive into this topic, our Beginner to Buyer podcast — episode three, “How Much Can I Afford?” is a great resource for prospective homebuyers to get answers to all their homebuying questions.

Learn more about the homebuying process, here.

Sponsored content from JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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