If Earth Day could claim a capital, Portland would be a top contender. Thanks in part to locals’ passions for recycling, renewable energy, bicycle commuting and sustainably designed buildings, Stumptown routinely ranks as one of America’s greenest cities. Having oodles of green space helps, too: More than 14,000 acres (5,666 ha) of parks and green spaces fill the city. Here are five urban oases that delight nature-lovers of all kinds on Earth Day — or any other day:
Portland State University
The Portland State University (PSU) Student Community and Engagement Center hosts a free day of Earth Day events each year. In 2018, the schedule began with several volunteer opportunities, including a litter cleanup and invasive English ivy removal, and culminated with a keynote speech by Lara Pacheco, herbalist and co-founder of Brown Girl Rise. PSU also hosted an Earth Day festival inside their Learning Gardens Laboratory where visitors had a chance to enhance their gardening knowledge, tour the facility and browse for some greenery of their own at the lab’s plant sale.
In 2018, SOLVE Oregon held an Earth Day cleanup at Walton Beach on Sauvie Island. This 26,000-acre (10,522 ha) island at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers is a federal wildlife preserve, and critter sightings are almost guaranteed. The Sauvie Island Wildlife Area provides sanctuary for more than 250 species of swans, herons, cranes, bald eagles and other animals. Other outdoor attractions include boating and kayaking; long, flat bicycling loops; and clothing-optional beaches.
Many choose to celebrate Earth Day by helping the Forest Park Conservancy restore Portland’s backyard wilderness: Forest Park. This mammoth park attracts hikers, runners, cyclists and equestrians with 70 miles of tree-shaded trails fanning out over 5,100 acres (2,064 ha). At the center of the action, the popular Wildwood Trail extends 26 miles (42 km) and conveniently connects trekkers to Washington Park, the historic Pittock Mansion and the Audubon Society of Portland. Best of all, this verdant retreat is only a few minutes from downtown Portland — and the nearest latte.
Accessible from downtown Portland via MAX light rail, Washington Park provides an array of family-friendly attractions perfect for Earth Day. The 187-acre (75.7 ha) Hoyt Arboretum is home to more than 1,100 tree species — a lovely spot for an easy hike, as is the tranquil and meticulously maintained Portland Japanese Garden. Considered the most authentic, highly ranked Japanese garden in North America, it’s a perfect place to quietly reflect on nature’s delicate beauty. The nearby International Rose Test Garden, which boasts more than 10,000 rose plants in 500 varieties, and an unobstructed view of Mt. Hood, offered visitors similar repose. The World Forestry Center Discovery Museum acts as an educational outpost for forest conservation, teaching visitors about different kinds of trees, habitats and forest sustainability. And across the parking lot, the Oregon Zoo holds an annual Earth Day celebration by supporting a variety of environmental causes with lectures, activities and interactive learning opportunities for all ages.
Tryon Creek State Natural Area
Portland’s only state park, Tryon Creek lies just 15 minutes south of the city center. This 645-acre (261 ha) jewel includes 8 miles (13 km) of hiking trails, two horse trails and a 3-mile (5 km) paved bicycle path. To help maintain this natural area, people join the Friends of Tryon Creek for their annual Earth Day Birthday celebration where “eco crews” remove invasive plants, tidy the trails and eat cake — it is a birthday celebration, after all.