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by Elizabeth VeuCasovic
There is a holiday upon us. Sure, for many it doesn’t hold the same excitement as Christmas or the 4th of July, but it is a holiday that benefits our communities, our neighborhoods and our Earth. Earth Day is Friday, April 22 — are you ready? Tradition dictates that Earth Day be celebrated by planting a tree or two. This is of course up to you; there are many ways you might choose to celebrate Earth Day, by yourself or with your family. Even though technically Earth Day is just one day, many places in Portland are celebrating throughout the week, April 16 through 23. So if you live in Portland and want to get your family excited about nature or in the mood to help out our planet, this is a great time to start — and an ideal way to kick off the spring and summer seasons!
The Oregon Garden is a beautiful place to visit, any time of year. Filled with gorgeous plants and flowers, the garden is the perfect place to inspire a love of nature in you and your family. The Oregon Garden will be celebrating Earth Day on April 23, and admission is free. Admittedly, the Oregon Garden is about an hour’s drive from Portland, but that might just add to your family’s adventure of enjoying nature. Play a nature-based game of “I Spy” with your kids as you make the trip to the garden and back home again: try spying a blue spruce or an English daisy.
This year, the Oregon Garden Earth Day theme is “Clean Water, Clear Skies.” They will offer presentations, on-site food vendors and entertainment from local musicians and exhibitors. While on-site parking will cost $5, there will be free shuttles on the day of the event from nearby Robert Frost Elementary School and the gravel lot near Roth’s Fresh Market. This means celebrating Earth Day at the Oregon Garden can be relatively inexpensive for you and your family.
Located about 10 miles from Portland is Sauvie Island. With a wildlife refuge on one end of the island and farmland on the other, Sauvie Island is the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors and all it has to offer. With hundreds of species of birds, mammals and reptiles, there is wildlife to be seen and enjoyed from a distance. They make the island their home and it could use a little cleaning up!
Why not celebrate Earth Day by helping tidy up Sauvie Island’s popular Walton Beach? On April 23, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., volunteers will be helping clean the area, and bags and gloves will be available to anyone willing to helpe. Kids under 18 are welcome to attend but must be accompanied by a parent, and sensible clothing is encouraged. Remember, you’ll be walking the beach! Unlike the Oregon Garden, entertainment and food won’t be available. There are a few places where you can purchase food, but bringing your own sack lunch might be a preferable route for some. Just be sure to clean up after yourself!
Salmon Creek Greenway
About a 20-mile drive from Portland is the Salmon Creek Greenway. On April 16, the StreamTeam will have their 17th Annual Family Eco-Fair Celebration for Earth Day! Volunteers will be planting native trees, but there are also free activities available for kids. There are even gifts available for volunteers who work four or more hours. Last year, they offered entertainment by way of a mobile zoo and birds of prey show, and the StreamTeam is hoping for similar activities this year. So even if you aren’t able to help out and plant a tree or two, you can still enjoy food (only free if you volunteer), kids activities and local entertainment. All of which is sure to give your family an Earth Day to remember, while getting everyone excited about volunteering and helping out your community and the Earth!
It’s possible you may not be in the mood to leave the Portland metro area, or maybe you have little guys or girls that just aren’t ready for manual labor, no matter how much you love the Earth. Whatever your reasons, if you want to celebrate Earth Day without volunteering, you can still check out Forest Park! Forest Park is the largest urban park in the United States. With lots of wildlife and hiking trails, this would be a great spot for a picnic. Bring your mountain bikes and take a ride, winding your way through trees and keeping your eyes open for any animals you might never have seen before. On April 16, there will be two organized hikes through various parts of the park. April is a great time to see the lilies blooming there! Both hikes are from 10 a.m. to noon. Spending the day outside will have you and your family smiling, and just a little more appreciative of this planet we call home.
Of course you don’t have to go anywhere special, make special plans or even pick a special day to celebrate the Earth. You can pack your favorite sandwiches, head to your favorite park with a football or Frisbee and just spend the day outside. You can hang out in your backyard; if it’s nice enough, grill your favorite foods and have a barbeque. Or even delay your plans, and have an urban campfire!
Choosing to celebrate the Earth can happen anytime, anywhere. This Earth Day, remember that our planet is the reason we are all here, that it provides us with food, water and air to breath. No matter how you spend the day, this April 22, take some time to appreciate your community, your neighborhood—your Earth!
Elizabeth VeuCasovic has a masters degree in history and two crazy boys; throw in some writing and you have a recipe for never-ending excitement!