What if they closed down your neighborhood streets to car traffic and set up booths, music and fun in your local park? I'll bet the whole neighborhood would be out and about, chatting, having fun and re-connecting after the rainy winter.
This is exactly what happens in Portland annually. On five Sundays, a neighborhood closes its streets to traffic so people can have a carefree Sunday afternoon in their own neighborhood.
The Sunday Parkways events have become a tradition. Even people outside the neighborhoods flock to the events, often bringing their bicycles. This past Sunday I experienced the first event of the season. A Southeast neighborhood dedicated seven miles of streets and a section of the Springwater Corridor for bikers and walkers and skaters only. Both city and local volunteers helped with the crosswalks and directing walkers, bikers and the few stranded cars.
In several parks there were food, merchandise and information tents set up. As a visiting walker, I enjoyed looking over the Keen tent to see the latest in footwear. My walk route was hosted by the Rose City Roamers volkssport club. The club hosted the event in recognition of an International World Walking Day, complete with international certificates. The route included the Sunday Parkways event plus other neighborhood streets. We walked about 11 kilometers that day, dodging bikes and visiting the tents at the parks. Some of the food was hard to resist. Imagine a hungry walker coming upon grilled Urban German sausages, kraut and onions. But we walked on.
We enjoyed learning about the neighborhood and seeing how people live in this Southeast neighborhood. Down one street we encountered a large chicken coop right next to the sidewalk. Those gorgeous chickens had it made. There were urban vegetable gardens and older homes with character. Tall trees shaded the sidewalks.
Right next to one city park was a lovely garden, the Portland Memory Garden, which was built as a collaborative effort of the Alzheimer's Association together with parks and landscaping organizations. Since it is fenced, and the paths are in a circle, it would be a safe place for a person with memory loss to wander. The garden includes four seasons of plants and flowers in raised beds that have been chosen to stimulate the senses and to spark past memories. We were appreciative of the nice restroom in the garden, which is open to all the public.
Sunday Parkways is becoming more and more a "bike event" with bike-riding families and serious bike groups alike taking over the route and streets. As I walked, I found the bikers to be not too aware of walkers on the streets and paths. This is a safety issue and a trail etiquette issue. I would urge walkers to go early for the most laid back experience. But do go. The neighborhoods need to focus on walkers too!
Sunday Parkways is a great way to get out and about in a car-free environment, meet some new people and to learn about Portland's neighborhoods. Consider putting these events on your calendar.
2014 Sunday Parkways Event Calendar
North Portland Sunday Parkways
June 22, 2014 ~ 11am-4pm (9.5 miles)
Cruise along the scenic Willamette Boulevard, and then glide towards Peninsula, Arbor Lodge, Kenton, Columbia Annex and McCoy Parks to enjoy an array of activities, food, music, vendors and fun.
Northeast Portland Sunday Parkways
July 27, 2014 ~ 11am-4pm (8 miles)
Explore the Northeast Neighborhood Greenways while you make your way around the Northeast Portland route. Don’t forget to stop by Woodlawn, Alberta and Fernhill Parks where a collection of fun activities, festive music, and delicious food awaits you.
Southeast Portland Sunday Parkways
August 24, 2014 ~ 11am-4pm (7 miles)
Spend a warm summer day walking and rolling around the Southeast Sunday Parkways. While you’re at it, take a few moments to explore Laurelhurst, Colonel Summers and Ivon Parks to grab a bite to eat, listen to tunes, and join some activities.
Southwest Portland Sunday Parkways
September 28, 2014 ~ 11am-4pm (6 miles)
End the Sunday Parkways season by taking advantage of the route, including a walk-only trail. Whether rolling down Troy Street or exploring the SW Trails with its rolling hills and scenic views, don’t forget to stop by Gabriel Park, Multnomah Village and Hillsdale Shopping Center for food, music, activities and more.
Sunday Parkways Website