Tuesday, April 15, 2014

O is for Oaks Park and organic food (Portlandia from A to Z)

Oaks Park

Oaks Park, once known as the Coney Island of the Northwest, is one of the 10 oldest amusement parks in the country. Opened in 1905 to accompany the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, it is the only amusement park in Portland still in operation. It was built to increase ridership on the streetcar lines. The 44-acre park, located in the Sellwood area along the Willamette River, includes 20+ amusement park rides, midway games, a year-round wooden roller skating rink with an organ, and picnic grounds. Here's an example of a ride when the park first opened (from this article about the park's history):
"The most dramatic and thrilling of the rides was the Chute the Chutes, a two-story wooden structure that looked out over the eastern side of the Oaks. Patrons were required to climb a set of stairs that zig-zagged back and forth to the top of the tower. Passengers then took a seat in a flat bottom boat that whisked the riders down a steep incline plunging into a small man-made lake below. Adventurous riders took their positions on backless seats with only a polished steel handrail to hang onto! If they didn’t suffer terrible back and shoulder pain after the ride was over, they certainly could tell about the drenching they’d received when the boat splashed into water below, covering any thrill-seeker who dared to sit in the front row of the ride. An attendant clad in rubber waders and waterproof clothing guided the boat with a long pike-pole back onto the track that would haul the boat back up the ramp for the next batch of ticket holders."
That sounds like a hoot! My mom remembers visiting Oaks Park when she was a little girl, and my kids love to visit it to this day. Here are some vintage photos I found.

We enjoy visiting the park every summer--Kieran will be performing there again with Kids Company on Mother's Day weekend--and I love to ride the upside-down, scrambling Screamin' Eagle! It's a great park for younger kids, because it has lots of kiddie rides as well as scarier ones.

My favorite ride--the Screamin' Eagle!

My kiddos on a ride several years ago
Organic food
We love our organic food in Portland! According to the 2008 USDA Organic Agriculture
Census, Oregon is #5 in the country for the number of organic farms, #4 on the list for vegetable/melon farms, #3 for berry farms, #4 for fruit/nut tree farms. #4 in organic milk sales, and #4 in organic sales ($156 million/year). Oregon Tilth, one of the most respected third‐party certifiers in the United States, certifies most of Oregon’s organic farms and processors. Oregon has 425 certified organic farms, with over 115,000 acres in organic production. As I wrote about in F is for Forests and Foodies, farmers' markets are highly popular in Portland--and many of the farm stands are organic. Oregon State University is one of 10 U.S. colleges that offer organic agriculture programs.

Outside of farmers' markets, Portlanders also like buying organic food at New Seasons, a local grocery store. New Seasons Market, founded in 1999, is a prime example of Portlanders' loyalty and love for all things Portland! Founders Brian Rohter, Stan Amy, and Chuch Eggert were affiliated with Nature's, another local organic grocery store, but left to start New Seasons when Nature's was sold to Wild Oats. The founders' commitment wanted to create a company that had a "true commitment to its community, to promoting sustainable agriculture, and maintaining a progressive workplace."

New Seasons now has 12 stores in the Portland area, some in neighborhoods that didn't previously have great supermarket options. The company gives back 10% of their after-tax profits into the community and has outstanding customer service. New Seasons goes out of its way to help its customers, such as voluntarily labeling all non-GMO foods. It's a grocery store that is actually pleasant to visit! I love the fact that it sells bulk organic grind-your-own peanut butter and Tamari sauce (important for my gluten-free husband), which are impossible to find elsewhere.

And here's the rub: Wild Oats, which was a natural chain, went down in flames. Portlanders embraced New Seasons so wholeheartedly that its prime competitor could not survive. 

Read my other A to Z posts here, and stay tuned for tomorrow: Portlandia and Pink Martini.


  1. Now there is a reason for my son to visit Portland! Oaks Park! I am a new fan of the mighty/understated Oak tree so I would be thrilled for an entirely different reason. I would expect the organic food thing but the amusement park thing not so much. Does it still have the old-time flavor to it?

    Fun reading, once again!

    Julie Jordan Scott
    The Bold Writer from A to Z

    1. Wonderful--yes, it has a great old-time flavor to it! You should come visit.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Love the vintage photos of Oaks Park. It seems odd though to build a park simply to help the streetcar system. That sounds backwards to me.
    Visiting from A to Z~
    Wendy at Jollett Etc.

    1. You're right Wendy--that does seem strange nowadays. But I think it might have worked! My mom used to take the streetcar to Oaks Park when she was a child!