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:
Earth Day Portland at Normandale Park
Head to Normandale Park in Northeast on Earth Day weekend for one of the country’s largest community-organized Earth Day celebrations. The family-friendly festival features live music, speakers, kids’ activities, volunteer opportunities and a procession of the species parade. Attendees can also browse booths from a hundred sustainable businesses and organizations, from organic kombucha, produce and chocolate to acupuncture and bicycle repair.
PNCA Earth Day of Action
The Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) a student-organized Earth Day of Action, the highlight of April climate change programming that also includes student-led Eco Club Pollution Solutions workshops during the week of Earth Day. The day is full of events and workshops, including a “print your own reusable shopping bag” activity put on by the Eco-Club and the Print Club.
Oregon’s bounty is on display at dozens of farms and U-pick stands scattered across this 26,000-acre (10,522 ha) island at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. 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, although picnickers, fishermen and geese hunters are welcome. Other outdoor attractions include boating and kayaking tours; long, flat bicycling loops; and clothing-optional beaches.
The mammoth Forest 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, where visitors can learn about local flora and fauna and even meet birds of prey. 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. Tranquil and meticulously maintained, the Portland Japanese Garden is considered the most authentic, highly ranked Japanese garden in North America. The 187-acre (75.7 ha) Hoyt Arboretum houses more than 1,100 tree species along 12 public paths, while the nearby International Rose Test Garden boasts more than 10,000 rose plants in 500 varieties. The World Forestry Center Discovery Museum educates visitors about different kinds of trees and forest sustainability, and the Oregon Zoo houses 232 awe-inspiring animal species from Africa, Asia and the Pacific Northwest.
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. Keep an eye out for beaver, trout, springtime wildflowers (like trillium) and more than 50 species of birds. Lined with benches, drinking fountains and interpretive signs, the 0.35-mile (.56 km) paved Trillium Trail also ensures that the park is fully accessible to nature lovers with mobility-related disabilities.