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Within its one square mile, Edgewood Park in Woodside contains wetlands, grasslands, woodlands and chaparral populated by the usual Peninsula mammals -- deer, coyote, bobcat and raccoon -- but there are also 70 species of native birds and more than 500 of native plants. And there are inhabitants that are not native (and therefore not welcome), such as Italian ryegrass and Italian thistle, the European starling and the Argentine ant.
That's a lot to describe using exhibits inside a building, but the Bill and Jean Lane Education Center at Edgewood Park and Natural Preserve gives it a shot. The intended audiences for the interactive displays are school children, amateur naturalists and casual visitors. The topics are "Edgewood's rare and interesting life forms, fascinating soils, and mosaic of plant communities and wildlife habitats," according a website description. "The exhibits and displays in the Center reveal these stories, beckoning visitors, both young and older, to hear the land speak."
The $2.5 million sustainably constructed building opened in April 2011 and is named in honor of Portola Valley philanthropists and environmentalists Bill and Jean Lane. The center at 6 Old Stage Coach Road in unincorporated Emerald Hills is open on weekends between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The hours change seasonally.
In the spring, park docents lead wildflower walks on spring weekends. Once a month throughout the year, Audubon Society docents lead bird walks. There are also park residents that can be dangerous if riled, including rattlesnakes, skunks, yellow jackets and bees.
The urban surroundings, including Interstate 280, have made an impact on the park. The San Mateo thornmint grows only in San Mateo County, according to the San Francisco-based Wild Equity Institute. For reasons unknown, the population has plummeted to 500 individual plants from an estimated 53,000 in 1994. "The population is now so imperiled that the (wildlife) managers believe that even a low number of additional visitors could damage the plant by compacting soil or introducing weed seeds," the Institute's website says.
The population of Bay checkerspot butterflies at Edgewood was 100,000 in 1981, 500 by 1987, and then none at all. Vehicle traffic on I-280 is considered a principal culprit.
Stuart Weiss, the chief scientist at the Creekside Center for Earth Observation in Menlo Park, released about 1,000 caterpillars in 2007 in hopes of reintroducing a native population. "To ensure that the species isn't lost again, the area is carefully mowed at specific times to keep the invasive weeds from thriving," according to the Wild Equity Institute site. "Edgewood Park remains one of the few places to try and see this vanishing species."
■ Visit this link for more information and a virtual tour of the center.
■ Visit this link for an idea of what you'll see on spring wildflower walks.