Eugene is lucky to have some great wild areas within easy access of the city, including the West Eugene Wetlands. While many folks might see this section of the Fern Ridge Bike Path as a nice flat stretch to ride through really fast, the annual “Walkin’ and Rollin’ in the West Eugene Wetlands” event, hosted by the Willamette Resources Educational Network (WREN), does a great job of slowing folks down and showing them the exciting natural wonders of this squishy ecosystem.
Walkin’ and Rollin’ traditionally takes place on the last Saturday in May, which fell on Labor Day Weekend this year. This probably accounted for the somewhat low turnout on May 29th, but those of us who came were rewarded with non-crowded paths, a better chance at scoring a free coconut-milk ice cream bar, and great odds in the raffles. In addition, we got to monopolize the experts at more than a dozen great booths along the 3-mile stretch of bike path to our hearts content.
I’ve always enjoyed how traveling by bike makes it easy to bird-watch or stop and smell the flowers. The great thing about the Walkin’ and Rollin’ event is that, as you’re admiring the scenery, you’ve got experts on birds, butterflies, dragonflies, aquatic mammals, native plants, invasive plants, climate change, and watersheds standing by to answer any question that pops into your head. Indeed, you can’t help but start asking questions as you spot the trays teeming with aquatic insect larvae that are set out at tables, or marvel at the massive teeth on a beaver’s skull, or watch a turkey vulture spread its wings to soak up the sunlight that has finally broken through the clouds.
Since this event is designed around stations along the Fern Ridge Path, the only way to participate is via some method of active transit. It was delightful to see toddlers on scoot-bikes and kids with tassels on their handlebars going from booth to booth collecting passport stamps. Meanwhile, Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life was offering free tune-ups, the Eugene Bicycle and Pedestrian Program was giving out free bells and lights, and folks were stopping to learn about upcoming GEARs & Safe Routes to School programs. Good solid proof that you don’t need an SUV to enjoy nature.