Gresham Japanese Garden is a perfect stop along the Springwater

A cyclist on the Springwater Corridor rolls by Ebetsu Plaza in Main City Park. (Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The sun has broken through and Portland is prepped for a perfect weekend. Before signing off and enjoying it myself, I wanted to share something I experienced today that would make for a great ride destination.

Earlier this week I stumbled upon a mention of the Gresham Japanese Garden. And since it’s spring break and my kids are home and my mom is in town (that’s why story production has been a bit lower this week), we decided to pile into the car and go check it out. 

I didn’t realize until we arrived that the garden is directly adjacent to the Springwater Corridor path! The garden is located inside Main City Park, a place I’m familiar with because I’ve passed it so many times over the years as I whirred by on my bike. But I never stopped to really check it out.

The City of Gresham has done an amazing job integrating the Japanese Garden into the park. There are three elements to the gardens: Kyoudou Center, Tsuru Island, and Ebetsu Plaza.

The plaza is what you can see right from the path. It’s a grove of 12 Akebono cherry trees (donated by a nursery in Boring) planted around a small plaza in the middle. There are benches to sit on, a crane sculpture, and other fun treasures along the various paths. The blossoms are in bloom now and they rained down on us with each wind gust. When you go, check out the paving stones on the eastern edge of the plaza. I loved seeing all the stones folks had purchased (with a $125 donation to the park) that had a bicycle icon on them — I even recognized a few names of Portland Bicycling Club members.

Tsuru Island is the other part of the park worth checking out. Just north of the plaza, you’ll see a gorgeous bridge across the creek that leads into a small network of walking paths. Note the sign that says, “No Smokes, No Spokes, No Joke” — so you’ll have to leave your bike in one of the parking spots (or I suppose you could walk it). The island was formed by a fork in Johnson Creek, and the garden was created in the early 1970s by a group of local farmers and members of the Japanese-American Citizens League. It features several bonsai trees, a covered pavilion area, stone walkways — and don’t miss the “Kamekichi – Lucky Turtle”.

If you ride out to see the trees and garden, give yourself extra time to check out historic downtown Gresham, which is just across Powell Blvd.

I hope everyone had a good spring break. Now enjoy the sunny weekend and consider rolling out to Main City Park via the Springwater. To get there, just get onto the Springwater south of OMSI (and the Esplanade) and take it south for about 16 miles.

See you back here on Monday (if not sooner out and about!).

GreshamJapaneseGarden.org

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Paweł
Paweł
13 days ago

Read this yesterday and decided to make Springwater -> Gresham my afternoon ride. Had a really nice time looking at the blossoms and checking out the garden. Thanks for sharing Jonathan!

bArbaroo
bArbaroo
17 days ago

So cool! I love gardens, and especially Japanese gardens, and I am so happy to see the bike-garden connection here.

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
17 days ago

To add some context – the Ebetsu center (and the garden) references Gresham’s years-long sister city relationship with the Japanese city of Ebetsu on the north island of Hokkaido. I grew up on a farm east of Gresham, graduated from Sam Barlow HS, and taught in Gresham public schools for 28 years. The district continues to foster a robust student exchange program with Ebetsu; Gresham students have the opportunity to visit Ebetsu, where they live with host families and attend school for a short time, and students from Ebetsu have the same opportunity in Gresham.

There’s another, darker side to the Gresham – Japan connection that I believe the garden also references as an attempt at some historical healing. Gresham and east county had a number of productive farms owned by Japanese immigrants – Fuji Farms being the best known, but there were many others – that supplied much of Portland’s fresh produce. When the US entered WWII after the attack on Pearl Harbor and Roosevelt issued executive order 9066, Japanese Americans were shipped to internment camps and many east county farmers lost their farms and had to start over again from scratch after the war. I worked several summers picking berries for Michio Sakaui, who was one of them .

Ryan
Ryan
15 days ago

Shameless plug for my wife’s place of work – Maggie Mae’s Bookshop is near the Northwest corner of Powell and Main there in downtown Gresham. It’s a really cute store that welcomes your 4-legged family members as well :). They have special events like paint nights, open mic poetry, and book clubs for multiple different genres. While the downtown area can get clogged with cars, the city has been working to make the area more bike-friendly.