Kids laugh and learn at Leach Gardens ‘Nature fair’

From slug races to crafts, see why this annual springtime event attracts hundreds of kids to Portland’s only city-owned botanical garden.

Sammy Bidwell watches the slug races being put on by Ron Goodwin at Leach Botanical Gardens.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Typically, Leach Botanical Gardens is relatively quiet, as folks linger in the test gardens, marvel at the natural surroundings, or learn about the unique species of plants and animals found at this outer East Portland nature spot.

But the stillness and serenity was broken in late spring, as children laughed and chattered while they made crafts, listened to stories, discovered nature‚ and rooted for a winner in the slug races.

Kathy Goertz with her grandkids, Lilly and Nick Balladone, make pinecone art with the help of Leach volunteer Marylou Koehler.

“This is one of my favorite races,” volunteer Ron Goodwin told us has he got ready for the next round of slug races.

“This event‚ we hold it each year in May‚ let’s kids have hands-on fun. In larger settings, like at OMSI or the Zoo, there may be a crush of kids around, and they don’t get to actually handle and touch nature,” Goodwin continued.

We saw families making paper flowers and bark animals, and having all kinds of nature-oriented fun. They were planting seeds, looking at insects, and even going on “ladybug walks” with Portland Parks & Recreation helpers.

Putting her own stamp on paper is Arsina Gavrishov — making stamp art.

Goodwin continued, “We want the community to know that Leach Garden is here, in outer southeast Portland, on SE 122nd Ave. south of Foster Road. But even more importantly, we want youngsters to get outdoors and be able to see what nature looks like up close. We have such a large natural space here; there isn’t much of that left in Portland.”

The botanical garden hosts over 2,500 species of plants, giving people plenty to see.

“I’ve got to go,” Goodwin said, as he gently took out slugs and put them on the “race course”. Sammy Bidwell, a first-time visitor was transfixed watching Goodwin handle the slimy mollusks.

“I’m betting on Sluggo,” Sammy exclaimed, after the start of the race.

“Which one is Sluggo?” asked Goodwin.

“He’s the one that’s winning!” replied Sammy.

Sammy, and his new friend, Ron Goodwin, declare “Sluggo” as the winner of this slug race.

Activities all summer long
Be sure to take in Scotty Fairchild’s “Gardener’s Tour” the first Saturday of each month at 10:00 a.m. For more information, call the garden at 503-761-4751 or 503-823-1671.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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