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 to delight nature-lovers of all kinds on Earth Day — or any other day:
Portland State University
The Portland State University Student Community and Engagement Center hosts a free day of Earth Day events. The schedule begins with several volunteer opportunities, including litter cleanup and invasive English ivy removal, and culminates with a keynote speech by Lara Pacheco, herbalist and co-founder of Brown Girl Rise. This local nonprofit empowers girls of color to “reclaim their connection to body, community, land, health and creativity.” PSU also hosts an Earth Day festival inside their Learning Gardens Laboratory where visitors will have a chance to enhance their gardening knowledge, tour the facility and browse for some greenery of their own at the lab’s plant sale.
Join SOLVE Oregon for an Earth Day cleanup at Sauvie Island’s Walton Beach. This 26,000-acre (10,522 ha) island at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers is a federal wildlife preserve—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. Help keep this beautiful island trash-free during this self-directed volunteer event.
Celebrate Earth Day by helping 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. Hosted by the Forest Park Conservancy, volunteers will be provided with all the tools and training needed to restore native habitat and clean up the trails after a rough winter. 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. Help spruce up the 187-acre (75.7 ha) Hoyt Arboretum—home to more than 1,100 tree species—by joining their special Earth Day volunteer crew who will be responsible for tidying up the park’s trees and trails. To celebrate Earth Day on your own, take a stroll through 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. Then visit the nearby International Rose Test Garden which boasts more than 10,000 rose plants in 500 varieties, and an unobstructed view of Mt. Hood. At the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum every day is Earth Day. This educational outpost for forest conservation teaches visitors about different kinds of trees, habitats and forest sustainability. Across the parking lot, the Oregon Zoo will be 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 eight miles of hiking trails, two horse trails and a three-mile paved bicycle path. To help maintain this natural area, join the Friends of Tryon Creek for their annual Earth Day Birthday celebration where “eco crews” will remove invasive plants and tidy the trails, and eat cake—it is a birthday celebration after all.