PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Walk around one of Salem’s many parks this summer and you might stumble upon a colorful, glass bird. The flock is part of a new effort to bring the community together and into the city’s green spaces.
The birds are hidden in plain sight and are meant to be discovered and taken home by their finder. They’re part of the new Salem Seekers program, a creative idea Salem resident Pamela Garland had that was inspired by similar events in other Oregon cities.
“It’s always been something that I thought was just an amazing idea. It just brings joy to everyone involved. I love that concept,” Garland said about Lincoln City’s Finders Keepers program – a city-run program that hides thousands of glass floats on the coast every year.
Tualatin’s Share the Love program was another source of inspiration.
Like Lincoln City and Tualatin, Garland had the idea to hide glass figures around Salem and encourage people to look for them. She sensed many people had grown afraid of Salem parks in recent years and wanted to give people a reason to get out and explore them and maybe even make new friends on their search.
Garland and her helpers hid the first batch of birds in Weathers Street Park on June 1 and already, she said the community response has been incredible.
Throughout the month of June, 30 birds will be hidden in the park. Garland said she can’t guarantee there will be a new bird hidden every day, but said they’ll hide a few at a time until all 30 birds have been placed.
In her first few days heading to the park to hide them, Garland said she’s seen dozens of people hunting for the birds.
“It’s been really neat seeing people bump into each other and saying, ‘Are you looking for the birds too?’ ‘I am, yeah,’” she said.
Weathers Street Park is only the first Salem park where the birds will be hidden. In July, Garland will hide them in Woodmansee Park. In August, she’ll hide them in Orchard Heights Park, and in September, she’ll hide them in Northgate Park. This way, each quadrant of the city will have an opportunity to look for them.
Currently, she only plans to hide the glass birds in parks through September.
Garland worked with the Salem Leadership Foundation’s Community Partnership Teams to decide how many birds would be hidden and which parks would be best to hide them in.
For the creation of the glass birds, Garland turned to Glass Art Oregon – a Salem glass-blowing business run by Gail and Art Obendorf. The husband-wife duo will create the more than 100 glass birds that will be hidden around the city.
Each bird has a tag tied around its neck with a QR code people can use to learn more about Salem Seekers. Garland asks anyone who finds a bird to post a picture of it on the Salem Seekers Facebook page and share a bit about how they found it or what their adventure was like.
Garland said all the birds will be hidden off well-established pathways and won’t be under bushes or high up in trees. She wants the hunt to be inclusive for kids, adults and people of all abilities.
Salem Seekers is free and everyone is invited to participate.
“The idea is so beautiful and I love it so much,” Garland said. “The goal of the whole thing, it’s just about love.”
Garland hopes Salem Seekers will help spark conversation between strangers and help neighbors get to know one another better.