Sometimes the best outdoor adventures can be found as close as your own backyard – or as this week’s “Grant’s Getaway” shows us –just off the front porch.

You can tell a lot about a community by the parades they put on — especially when smiles and laughter and good times take over the city streets. I recently learned that neighbors drive the Portland Sunday Parkways when city streets are closed to cars and buses so families can cycle without traffic for five hours.

City of Portland Transportation chief, Linda Ginenthal said, “People want to get out and play, they want to enjoy their streets, they want to enjoy their neighborhoods, they want to connect with other people and this is the way to do it…give people an opportunity to be riding and walking and enjoying their neighborhoods without a car.”

Portland Sunday Parkways is organized by the city’s Bureau of Transportation, which partnered with private businesses, church groups and especially hundreds of volunteers, according to Neal Armstrong, the event’s Volunteer Manager

“We have 205 people who are blocking the streets off to traffic and allow it to remain open to the bicyclists and pedestrians – without them we’d simply not be able to do it.”

Folks who participate are pleased to see how the five and a half mile Parkway route also integrates city parks where people can take a break, listen to some music, enjoy a snack and even let their kids try something dew – like a bicycle obstacle course.

Kaiser-Permanente’s (the event’s major private business donor – reportedly more than $100,000) Dave Northfield, noted that Sunday Parkways is all about exercise and a healthier lifestyle:

“People are much more likely to participate in these healthy lifestyle activities if it’s fun, if the community is involved and if their friends and loved ones are there along with them. So, this is a perfect event for Kaiser to be involved in.”

Portland Sunday Parkways has grown fast! It began just two years ago with one summer event and last year there were three events in varied Portland neighborhoods. This year, there are five events scheduled across Portland neighborhoods (one per month through September) and Portland’s Mayor Sam Adams hopes to involve more than 50,000 people.

“Any city – no matter how big or small – in the Pacific Northwest, could put something like this on and I think they will have an amazing positive response – not just from participants, but local businesses and the neighborhoods – it’s exceeded our wildest expectations.”

Sunday Parkways is a parade of possibilities; for fun, for good health and set in the outdoors by embracing a spirit of community that’s uniquely Oregon.

about author Grant McOmie

Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.

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