In Portland, a walk in the park is a popular pastime at lunch, breaks, in early morning, during the evening and on weekends. Other users include the 650 men's and women's softball teams, over 10,000 adults who regularly play baseball in city parks until 11 p.m.
Getting there is getting simpler all the time. Tri-Met, Portland's public transit system, has gained national recognition for its service. In "Fareless Square," a 340-block downtown section of the system, passengers can ride anywhere within the area free, any time, any day. And Portland's new Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) light rail runs 15 miles from downtown past the airport to Gresham, an eastern suburb.
Portland author Beverly Cleary wrote 20 children's books centered around Grant Park, where her main character, Henry Huggins, dug for worms. Mt. Tabor is a city park with an extinct volcano used as a natural amphitheater for concerts.
Elk Rock Island is a 15-acre park in the middle of the Willamette reached only by boat. In summer the park department takes boatloads of children to Elk Rock Island for treasure hunts. Mt. Hood, four other Cascade peaks and the Portland skyline are seen from a splendid vista point in the internationally acclaimed Washington Park Rose Gardens, the oldest public rose garden in America. While walking through the rose gardens, visitors can see Portland's official bird, the Great Blue Heron, soaring past downtown skyscrapers.
At Hoyt Arboretum, trails wind through 214 acres of dense forest containing 600 species of trees including the largest collection of conifers anywhere. A 140-mile hiking trail encircles the city. At Kelly Park, the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers, picnickers watch a daily parade of ships from around the world.
"Our parks represent the value system of Portland," said Park Superintendent Cleve Williams, 49. "Residents here take great pride in their parks. This is one of the cleanest and livable cities in America. Unlike other cities there is virtually no litter or graffiti."