Visitor Information

Thank you for your interest in the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center.

NOTE: OAEC is still currently closed to all visitors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the exception of socially distant shopping at our outdoor plant nursery (seasonal hours here). Tours, garden volunteer days and onsite events are on hold until further notice.  Currently, we are accepting inquiries for booking in-person organizational retreats starting October 1st, 2021 and beyond, and we are enrolling Permaculture Design Certification students for later this fall.  At this time, all OAEC staff and residents are fully vaccinated and we will be requiring proof of vaccination or documentation of a medical exemption, plus a negative Covid test, for all on-site course and retreat participants.  A specific page on our Covid protocols for these upcoming activities is in development. Of course, these tentative reopening plans and Covid protocols are subject to change due to the unpredictable and dynamic conditions of the pandemic, so keep checking our home page for specific updates.

Details below are for informational purposes only for when we re-open.

 

No drop-ins, please. To maintain our retreat center atmosphere, the main OAEC site is not open for drop-in visitors. Our Plant Nursery, (entrance at the upper driveway) is open Saturday & Sunday 10am-5pm April through November. The gardens are closed except for scheduled tours.

 

 

Park in the upper parking lot – go up the hill and use the second gated entrance off Coleman Vally Rd.

Parking: Parking is in the upper lot by the greenhouses (2nd driveway up the hill, off Coleman Valley Rd). Registered Guests may drop off gear and passengers in the lower loading zone via the main entrance. Once you’ve unloaded, please park in the upper parking lot for the rest of your stay.

Wear sturdy shoes. The land is hilly and there are no paved paths. Please contact the office for more information if you have accessibility needs.

Please leave your dog at home (or in your car.) Because of the sensitive environment, diverse wildlife and native poison oak, we have a no-pet policy. In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, we accommodate leashed dogs who meet the ADA definition of a service dog.

Information for Residential Participants

What to expect when coming for courses, trainings or retreats.

Welcome! The OAEC site is a rustic, working farm and nature preserve with hilly, uneven terrain in many areas. Guests and course participants should come prepared to enjoy lots of time outside in many types of weather, which here in the Bay Area, can range from hot and sunny to cool and rainy in a single day.

Housing & Accommodations During Your Stay

Accommodations:  Guest rooms for participants are shared with 2-8 people per room and each Guest House has its own shared bathroom with toilets and showers.  See photos and more detailed information about each of our guest houses on our Group Retreats page.

Showers and Toiletries: To protect our greywater reuse systems, we ask that you only use the biodegradable shampoo, conditioner and soap that we provide in our guest bathrooms and community bathhouse, and leave other products at home, if possible.  You are welcome to shower in our guest housing bathrooms or the community bathhouse near the hot tub and sauna.

Clothes & Personal Items

Please bring the following:

  • A flashlight, a travel mug and water bottle, sturdy shoes or boots for walks on the land, a bathing suit, and slippers (we generally remove shoes while inside buildings here).
  • You will spend lots of time outside here. The weather is variable during all seasons, so consider dressing in layers and bringing weather-appropriate gear (rain jacket, rain boots, umbrella, a sun hat, sunscreen). Bring work clothes for OAEC courses or retreats with a garden or wildlands component.

The Garden & Backcountry

The Center has many beautiful areas for strolling, hiking, and quiet meditation, including our gardens and 70 acres of wildlands in the backcountry. However, please stay on the paths, and refrain from picking anything, as many plants are being saved for seed.

When exploring our wildlands, pack out all trash and do not disturb the wildlife.

Watch for poison oak – there is a lot of it around! If you’re not sure what it looks like, ask a staff person.

Be aware of ticks in spring, summer, and fall (May through July is peak tick season). There are several kinds of ticks in our area. Lyme disease can be transmitted by the Western Black Legged Tick. Check your skin and clothes after walking in tall grass or wooded areas. More information is available in the Center office.

Please Latch the Deer Fence and Close Doors to Buildings. The Core Area of the Center (about 10 of the 80 acres) is surrounded by a deer fence. There are several gates that you may pass through on foot. Please be sure that the fence gates are closed and latched at all times to keep the deer from munching the gardens. Also, please close the doors to all buildings at night to keep out skunks, raccoons, possum and other critters.

 

 

Meals at the Center

Our professional chefs prepare delicious and plentiful vegetarian meals using fresh, organic produce from our gardens and local farms.  Meals are served buffet style and are shared with community residents, staff and volunteers. Please see the Group Retreats page for more info on food during your stay.

Specific Dietary Needs: With advance notice, we can accommodate vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free diets. However, we cannot accommodate the many other individual food preferences. Those with food allergies should notify us immediately so that we can accommodate and plan meals accordingly.

Meal times: Meals are generally served at the following times – breakfast at 7:30, lunch at 12:30, dinner at 6:30. Please see your course or retreat schedule for exact times. For lunch and dinner, a bell rings 2 times 15 minutes before the meal is served, and 3 times when the meal is ready.

Drinks: We do not serve alcohol with our meals, but you are welcome to bring it. Beer and wine can be purchased at the local markets in Occidental. We provide tea and coffee in the meeting room kitchenette. Feel free to bring extra drinks and snacks.

Outside OAEC kitchen

Phones and WiFi

Wifi: Every OAEC building and outdoor meeting area has unrestricted wifi. We cannot provide wifi-free spaces.

Phone Use: Guests with Verizon cell phone service can get reception onsite. OAEC’s Meeting Hall has one phone that can be used to make free domestic calls.  There is wi-fi in every building, so wi-fi enabled calling is also an option. In general, we invite you to take advantage of this opportunity to unplug as much as possible and ask you to please be discrete with your mobile device to help maintain a retreat-like atmosphere. Mobile device conversations are not allowed in the North or South Gardens, at the pond or at the Dining Room/Kitchen.

Contact Number: You can leave your course coordinator’s or point person’s OAEC phone extension for your family for emergencies.  The coordinator will check for messages once or twice a day.

In Case of Emergency: Use the phone in the meeting hall – hit “9” to get an outside line. If there is a fire or if you are alone and need help, ring the dinner gong hanging from the oak in front of the kitchen repeatedly until someone comes to help (the bell can be heard all over the property).

More Information

Restricted Areas: There are many private residences at the Center. Please do not venture into these buildings or surrounding areas unescorted:

  • Posted private residential areas
  • The barn, wood shed, and tool storage areas
  • Backcountry cabins

Pets: No pets please! Because of the sensitive environment, diverse wildlife and native poison oak, we have a no-pet policy. In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, we accommodate leashed dogs who meet the ADA definition of a service dog. Please let our office know in advance of your visit, so that we can make accommodations.

Fragrances: Please do not wear colognes or perfumes during your stay.

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the property except at the picnic table across the road from the barn. We are very serious about this due to fire danger. Please properly dispose of your extinguished butts.

Quiet Hours: After 10:00 pm, we ask all guests to please not make loud noise or play amplified music. Acoustic music is OK in the meeting room and dining room after 10:00 pm.

Meeting Hall Kitchenette: You are welcome to make tea or coffee and help yourself to snacks. Please clean up after yourself.

Sauna: If you have a group of folks who want to take an evening sauna, please tell the instructor or a staff person before dinner so we can stoke it up (it takes about an hour to prepare).

Pond and Hot Tub Use: We have a beautiful backcountry pond and a hot tub in the bathhouse. No lifeguard on duty. Swim at your own risk. Minors may not swim or use the tub without a parent present.

Shoes Off: Please take your shoes off before going into the kitchen, dining room, meeting room, yurt dorms, or office, especially during the muddy, rainy season.

Questions?  Call the office at 707-874-1557 x101