Portland's parks have long been a source of civic pride. But during the pandemic, the city's greenspaces have felt even more essential—they've become public forums, neighborhood waterholes, gymnasiums, even nightclubs.
They are one of the few places where Saturday night still feels like Saturday night. On balmy weekends, at basically any open field, you can find groups of friends lounging on blankets and sipping tallboys, sharing picnics or blasting Saweetie at a socially distant birthday party.
Throughout the year, protesters gathered at parks from Peninsula down to Woodstock to listen to speakers, distribute zines and give out free food. After the presidential election was called for Joe Biden, Laurelhurst Park turned into a giant party, complete with champagne, burning Trump flags and at least one bagpiper.
Even now that the winter weather is keeping more people indoors, you can still regularly find crowded basketball courts, busy dog parks and cyclists decked out in LED lights convening for night rides. On a recent gray Wednesday, Irving Park hosted slackliners in the afternoon. After dark, a group of kids in hoodies blasted music and practiced dance moves at a COVID-safe distance.
We probably didn't need a pandemic to remind us that easy access to plentiful public greenspaces is a major reason many of us choose to call this city home. But during a year of isolation, parks have been an oasis of joy—a venue for moments of connection and celebration that don't come at the expense of others.
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