Wednesday photo of the week: salmon homecoming

Salmon homecoming at Oxbow Regional Park
Note: this photo was taken by my wife

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Lunch with the Birds! in Hillsboro, November through June

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Monday thought of the week: a direct connection to the other world outside

A thought:

I always think that we are animals and we shouldn’t be inside these boxes all day and all night long. And then to walk outside and only walk on sidewalks and never touch the earth or think about that you’re on this spinning planet… To me, a direct connection to the other world outside is a very important part of my life and my child’s life. Everybody knows that children don’t get to play outside anymore. It’s true. But it is so important to get their feet barefoot in the water. It’s just so important.

- artist Nikki McClure, in an interview for NW Book Lovers (March 11, 2014)

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Upcoming nature events in Portland

Hike series with Friends of the Columbia River Gorge

Hike series with Oregon Wild

Fall nature classes at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve

October 18 | Park After Dark: Sounds of the Night | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

October 18 | Salmon Homecoming | Oxbow Regional Park

October 18 | Introduction to Mycology | Tryon Creek State Park

October 19 | Salmon Homecoming | Oxbow Regional Park

October 19 | Wahclella Falls Kids Hike | Friends of the Columbia Gorge

October 22 & 26 | Two part nature series: Digging deep into fungi | Metro

October 22 | First River Professor Talk: Native People of the Tualatin River – Past & Present | Tualatin Riverkeepers

October 23 | Book talk: Welcome to Subirdia with John Marzluff | Powell’s Books (Beaverton)

October 24 | Kids Nature Night Out: Witch’s Potion | Cooper Mountain Nature Park

October 24 | Owl Prowl | Columbia Slough Watershed Council

October 25 | Nature Days in the Park: Stoller Creek Greenway | THPRD

October 25 | Grand opening of Nature Play Area at Westmoreland Park & Salmon Celebration | Portland Parks & Recreation

October 25 | Classroom Discovery Days: Banana Slugs | Tryon Creek State Park

October 25 | Native Forest Hike With Marcy Houle | Forest Park Conservancy

October 25 | Fall Family Field Trip Day | Columbia Springs

October 25 | Halloween Night Flight | Audubon Society of Portland

October 26 | Fall Color Tour | Hoyt Arboretum

October 29, Nov. 2 & 9 | Three part nature series: Wildlife tracking | Metro

November 2 | Mushrooms for beginners at Mount Talbert | Metro

November 5 | Night at the Refuge | Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge

November 5 | Author Event With Tim Palmer, Field Guide to Oregon Rivers | Audubon Society of Portland

November 8 | Newt Day | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

November 11  Family Fun on the Farm   Sauvie Island Center

November 14 | Park After Dark: Owl Prowl | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

November 15 | Scouters Mountain nature hike | Metro

November 16 | Nature Days in the Park: Foothills Park | THPRD

November 21 | Book talk: Welcome to Subirdia with John Marzluff | Oregon Wildlife

November 21 | Kids Nature Night Out: Geology Rocks | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

November 21 | Park After Dark: Owl Prowl | Cooper Mountain Nature Park

November 23 | Thanksgiving walk at Oxbow Regional Park | Metro

December 3 | Night at the Refuge | Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge

December 12 | Kids Nature Night Out: Frozen | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

December 13 | Park After Dark: Owl Prowl | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

Regular nature outings (check websites for seasonal scheduling): Nature Days in the Park and Nature Mobile from Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District’s Natural Resources, Honeybee Hikes at Leach Botanical Garden, Story and Strolls and Guided Nature Walks at Tryon Creek State Park, Ladybug Nature Walks with Portland Parks & Recreation, Puddle Stompers at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, Bird Walks for adults and kids through Backyard Bird Shop, free field trips with Audubon Society of Portland volunteers, Library events with The Bug Chicks, Tadpole Tales with Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Farm Fridays at Zenger Farm, and Second Saturdays at the Water Resources Education Center in Vancouver, WA.

– $2 admission at OMSI the first Sunday of every month
– $3 admission at the World Forestry Center the first Wednesday of every month
– $4 admission at the Oregon Zoo the second Tuesday of every month
– FREE admission at the Portland Art Museum the fourth Friday of every month, 5-8pm
– FREE admission at the Portland Children’s Museum the first Friday of every month, 4-8pm
– FREE admission at the Oregon Historical Society & Museum every day for Multnomah County residents

*My friend Laura posts a monthly listing of kid and family-friendly events of natural, scientific, and cultural interest. October’s list is here.

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Wednesday photo of the week: sand and water play

Sand fun at Westmoreland Park Nature Play Area

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These Parks Depend On You and Me – Yes on 26-159

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Monday thought of the week: set the children free

A thought:

Set the children free. Let them have fair play. Let them run out when it is raining, take off their shoes when they find pools of water, and when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run about with bare feet and trample on it. Let them rest quietly when the tree invites them to sleep in its shade. Let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them up in the morning, as it wakes every other living creature.

- Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child (1948)

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BOOK REVIEW: The Truth About Nature (& giveaway at

Last year, I wrote about a new book from Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer that offered awesome ways for kids to get excited about nature, The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things To Do In Nature Before You Grow Up. After also putting out We Love Nature!: A Keepsake Journal for Families Who Love to Explore the Outdoors, they have teamed up for a third book: The Truth About Nature: A Family’s Guide to 144 Common Myths about the Great Outdoors (Helena, MT: FalconGuides, 2014, 232 pp.).

One does not need to know all the details about nature to get outside and enjoy the world. But, knowing some things sure does help, and folks – kids and adults alike – will be curious about things they see, touch, smell, or hear. A lot of what we know about nature – about plants, animals, the physical environment – we learn in school, in visits to museums and zoos, and programming on TV or the internet. And some of what we learn we hear from other people, and in turn might share that information with others. It’s gauranteed that something you learned about nature just simply is not true. This is where The Truth About Nature comes in. Tornio and Keffer, while wanting to get kids and families excited about nature, are dispellers of myths and misconceptions that many people have always held about how things in nature were.

For folks in the Pacific Northwest, here’s one nature myth from the book that might dispel your previous thoughts:

Myth 113: Moss only grows on the north side of trees
About the myth: Go out for a hike in the woods and find moss growing on a tree. Chances are it’s on the north side of the tree. The proof is right there!
The truth: Yes, moss does often grow on the north side of trees, but it can grow anywhere it’s shady. So look a little harder to see if you can find it growing on other sides as well. The reason it likes growing on the north side the most is because of the way Earth is tilted toward the sun. In the Northern Hemisphere the north gets less sun than the south. But if you were to go to the Southern Hemisphere, where the south gets less sun, you’d see that moss grows more on the south side of trees!
The takeaway: If it’s a shady enough area, moss will grow on any side of a tree. Do your own little experiment: Go for a hike and see where you can find moss growing.
Additional facts: Moss is kind of a weird plant. It’s considered a non-vascular plant, and it doesn’t have any roots. It needs a lot of water since it doesn’t have toots to drink up water like most plants. So in addition to looking for moss in shady spots, look in damp areas, too.

Interestingly, the nature park in Beaverton where I previously worked has an interpretive sign along the main trail about this. It states: “Are you lost? Forget the folk tale about moss growing on the north side of trees. In truth, mosses flourish on the wet side of trees.”

The Truth About Nature is chock full of entries like this (143 more to be exact!); the authors state what the nature myth is, share the truth about it, give suggestions for further learning, and wrap it up with additional information. They are organized by season (from Spring to Winter), and each myth is rated on a Myth Scale (1 through 3) depending on how true or false the claim is. Also, dispersed throughout the book are other entries covering things in nature that are indeed true, “luck legends,” weather legends, and how to be a scientist. My son is excited to flip through and read entries, and I look forward to perusing more. The illustrations are enjoyable, too – very colorful and bold renderings of animals, plants, and landscapes by Rachel Riordan.

Tornio and Keffer are doing a giveaway:

Be a hero at your school! Award-winning authors, Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, are giving away a free school visit along with free copies of their new book, THE TRUTH ABOUT NATURE! All you have to do is enter a video or photo between September 22, 2014 and November 23, 2014.

What’s the video or photo supposed to be about? It’s simple—just make a video or create a photo that features a common outdoor myth. You can look for ideas from Stacy and Ken’s recent Falcon Guides book, THE TRUTH ABOUT NATURE.

We are looking for fun, creative videos and photos that help us get the truth out about nature! So gather your family, classmates or friends, and get started. All you have to do is pick a myth to tackle. Then it’s up to you to come up with a clever video or photo to show why it’s a myth. Good luck! You just might win an author visit for your entire school!

Click here for the giveaway page. Also be sure to check out the authors’ website,

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Wednesday photo of the week: canoe paddle

Canoeing at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

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New nature play area opens at Westmoreland Park in SE Portland; celebration on Oct. 25

Portland Parks & Recreation’s first significant nature play area has just opened up at Westmoreland Park (in SE Portland near Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden and Reed College). While a grand opening celebration and Salmon Festival are slated for October 25, you can visit the park now! I visited this site in September as part of a tour of nature play areas in the Portland area (Afton tagged along, photos here), and we plan to visit as a family next weekend.

A broader perspective of the new Westmoreland Park Nature Play area (PP& R photo)

A press release and photos from PP&R:


News Release from Portland Parks & Recreation
October 7th, 2014 9:16 AM

Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R)’s first-ever permanent nature-based play area is now open at Westmoreland Park, SE McLoughlin Blvd and SE Bybee Blvd. The Westmoreland natural play area is the first such permanent playscape across the PP&R system and features play elements made of logs and boulders, sand & water play, plants, hills, and opportunities for building with “loose parts” such as branches, sticks, pinecones and more.

A recent US Army Corps of Engineers project (in conjunction with the Bureau of Environmental Serves and PP&R) restored Crystal Springs Creek to its natural flow through Westmoreland Park. This project meant that Westmoreland Park’s aging playground had to be moved away from the restored floodplain to a more desirable location on higher ground. The equipment was outdated and needed to be replaced. Community input showed a strong enthusiasm for the idea of nature play.

“This is a unique and wonderful project to encourage children to play creatively and connect with nature,” says Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “The new Westmoreland play area is a site where people of all ages can spend much-needed time outdoors, and enjoy unstructured play, away from apps and TV screens, to provide valuable and hands-on educational and social experiences. This special place is sure to create treasured memories.”

A celebration of the renovated park, the restoration of Crystal Springs Creek, and the return of salmon to the city will be held on Saturday, October 25, from 11am-4pm. Please see this link for more info on that day’s program, which will include a Native American blessing, tours of the rejuvenated park, games, crafts, and inter-tribal activities. The event will be free and open to all.

The new, nature-based playscape is a pilot project for Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R)’s Nature-Based Play Initiative, with a goal of creating settings in developed parks that encourage creative play and interaction with nature and natural materials. PP&R continues to explore the concept of nature play, a movement that is building support in the public, with educators and with parents. A natural play environment connects children and families with nature. Natural materials increase environmental awareness and appreciation.

“Portland Parks & Recreation’s mission includes stewardship of the environment,” notes PP&R Director Mike Abbate. “And we hope that Westmoreland’s new play area inspires connection to the environment and environmental stewardship. Children are innately fascinated by nature. We are proud to offer a natural play area that creates opportunities for children to explore, discover, take challenges and risks, and learn. These are the types of play which are essential to healthy development.”

Westmoreland Park’s Natural Play Area features include:
Creek Mound – a concrete stream channel with willow tunnels, water pumps, mazes where children can manipulate the water’s flow, and a large sand play area.
Forest Mound – features logs tilted at varying inclines for climbing and adventure, a hill slide build on a natural embankment, and boulder scrambles.
Mountain Mound – made of natural boulders and logs featuring varying degrees of difficulty, for climbing, balancing and unstructured play.
Log Climbers – log segment sculptures for climbing; this feature calls to mind tree climbing.
Creative Building – building frames for creative play with “loose parts”, such as branches, pinecones, etc., for building forts, tents, etc.
Crystal Springs Interpretive Markers – inspired by the recently restored namesake creek that runs through the park. Basalt column stones are engraved with poetic phrases, telling the story of Crystal Springs.
Enchanted Forest – a grove of Giant Sequoia trees serves as the centerpiece of an area for free and imaginative play.
Grassy picnic area – grassy mounds for sitting and picnicking
Park benches – log benches and standard park benches.
Split rail fencing – low fencing to help keep younger children within the boundaries of the play area.

The revitalized Crystal Springs Creek inspired the theme of the new Westmoreland Park play area designed by the landscape architecture firm, GreenWorks PC, in conjunction with public artist Adam Kuby. Kuby worked integrally with the design team to develop the concepts of several of the primary play features through the City of Portland Percent for Art program, administered by the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC).

Why Westmoreland?

Though PP&R has had many requests to incorporate nature play into park land, the Westmoreland Park play area is the first large-scale natural play area project the bureau has built. Spring Garden Park in southwest Portland has a nature play area, designed to be a temporary site (though some elements of nature play may be incorporated into the playground’s design as the park is developed). The Westmoreland Park natural play area came about from a combination of projects, needs, and funding. The Westmoreland Stream Restoration project (funded and facilitated through the US Army Corps of Engineers) was completed in July of 2014. The design for the stream restoration required relocating part of the former, outdated playground away from the stream bank and floodplain and up to higher ground. That opened up the opportunity to provide the park a completely new play area. The themes and goals of nature play fit perfectly with the environmental restoration project. Public o utreach and input made it clear that neighbors were supportive of the concept.

“The research proving the developmental and environmental stewardship benefits of children having a strong connection with nature have grown dramatically over the past 15-20 years,” says the PP&R project manager for Westmoreland Park’s playground, Sandra Burtzos. “It’s something that people who work with children have known for decades, but now a growing body of research is documenting it. This nature play area is somewhere on the continuum between learning and playing in actual nature, and a playground. Located within an urban park setting, it is one stepping stone to reconnecting children and families back to nature. I am most excited to see the multi-generational play that natural play areas are so much more conducive to than a typical play structure.”

Metro’s voter-approved 2006 natural areas (Nature in Neighborhoods) bond measure provided $150,000 in funding for the Westmoreland Park natural play area. The remaining project cost (approximately $900,000) is being funded by Portland Parks & Recreation General Fund tax dollars and by System Development Charges from new construction in Portland. The project was constructed by three different contractors working closely together: Cascadian Landscapers served as the City’s General Contractor, Adam Kuby & Stone Sculptures Inc. installed the log and boulder play features, and Oregon Log Homes fabricated the log play elements out of salvaged trees that had to be removed from other park sites.

Left to right: 7 year-old Dori Bond and her grandfather, Amir Fathizadeh, play at the new Westmoreland Park Nature Play area. The sand feature pictured in this photo is perhaps the most popular element in the new play area (PP&R photo)

Quinn Wojtanik, 8, balances on a log at the new Westmoreland Park Nature Play area (PP&R photo)

Left to right, Claire Kennedy-Wong, age 6, Eden Gittler, age 6, and Luc ianne Kennedy-Wong, age 8, are all smiles on top of the boulder pile at the new Westmoreland Park Nature Play area (PP&R photo)

Westmoreland Park Grand Reopening Saturday, October 25, 11am-4pm

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