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Ecological Sustainable Landscapes

Portland Parks & Recreation's is adding nature patches to developed park landscapes to provide natural experiences for people and habitat for wildlife. Nature patches are unique natural garden spaces that support native pollinators and offer fun opportunities for education and exploration.

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Nature Patches around Portland

About Nature Patches

What's in a nature patch?

Nature patches are spaces within existing parks that are being enhanced to add beautiful natural elements for people and wildlife. A variety of natural materials like native Pacific Northwest plants, logs, boulders and paths will be added to underused areas to encourage people to play and explore. Nesting boxes, flowering plants and other additions will improve the habitat for birds, pollinating insects and wildlife. Nature patches will bring nature into view at neighborhood parks, adding beautiful greenspaces that are home to birds, bees, and butterflies.

How are nature patch locations selected?

The locations chosen to become nature patches are underused areas of developed parks that are not programmed, are challenging to maintain, or are better suited to natural uses. Alberta, Hazeltine, and Gabriel Parks are the first to have nature patches, with planning now underway for Lents Park. Portland Parks & Recreation will be improving parks with nature patches across the city, with a focus on neighborhoods with less access to greenspaces.

Where's the next nature patch going to be?

Ten initial park locations were selected as a 5-year pilot project: Alberta, Gabriel, Hazeltine, Lents, Cathedral, Irving, Custer, Columbia, Midland, and Overlook Parks are being considered as part of the pilot project. Some of these locations may change during the project as we learn how best to develop the natural spaces. Smaller projects may happen in tandem with the ten major pilots through unique funding collaborations.

What are the goals of the program?

Nature patches are part of the larger Ecologically Sustainable Landscapes Program. The program focuses on improving the natural and ecological functions of park spaces while expanding local access to nature for all Portlanders. The goals of the program include: 

  • Provide spaces for people to explore, play, and interact with nature
  • Create ecologically robust landscapes that support native pollinators within developed parks
  • Provide environmental education and stewardship opportunities
  • Increase soil and plant health, and expand the diversity of natural landscapes within parks
  • Foster community partnerships and PP&R collaboration
  • Decrease maintenance inputs over time

Read the Ecologically Sustainable Landscapes Initiative behind this program (pdf)

How big or small can a nature patch be?

The size of a nature patch will vary in each park, depending on the current uses and open spaces available. In general, the larger the area, the better it can function to support wildlife. In practice, nature patches will range from about an acre to smaller pockets tucked into the existing park landscapes.

Will there be learning elements?

Yes! Interpretive signs, ecological art, and plant identification markers will be a part of each nature patch. 

Who will create nature patches?

Nature patches will be developed and built using teams of Portland Parks & Recreation staff, with many opportunities for community partners to take part. Volunteers of all ages and abilities will be welcome to help with planting and stewardship.

Ecological Sustainable Landscapes Initiative (pdf)

The City of Portland and Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) have developed a national reputation for sustainable planning, design, and operations. As examples, PP&R is the only certified “Salmon Safe” park system in North America. However, as sustainability becomes more mainstream and widespread, professionals are learning more effective ways to incorporate ecological processes into park plans, designs, and maintenance procedures. It is timely for PP&R to incorporate the most current best practices to maximize the ecological function of the landscapes it has the responsibility to manage.

Join us

Click here to sign up for an upcoming planting event.

Pollinator Plant Resources

Nature Patches in the Press