Ecotourism has become a buzzword in the tourism industry, but whatever words you use, Metro Parks Tacoma has embraced the ethic.

Metro Parks always has managed landmark attractions, such as Point Defiance Park and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, as natural destinations and educational assets. You might already chauffeur out-of-towners through Point Defiance's Five Mile Drive for a quick look at the old-growth forest. And it's easy to enhance a day trip to Mount Rainier by taking the kids to Northwest Trek so they can get up close to native creatures such as bison, moose and cougars.

What may be less familiar are Metro Parks efforts to conserve lower-profile natural areas, teach about natural wonders and offer opportunities for volunteers to help sustain them. An outstanding example of this is Swan Creek Park, where Metro Parks has forged a partnership with the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance to create a regional mountain bike system through 50 acres of forest. An expansion of the project is supported by the Metro Parks 2014 bond measure. The first phase, completed last year, was built and is maintained by volunteers who have pledged to respect the forest and its treasured features, which include a rare plant species called Torrey's peavine.


Swan Creek also hosts a chum salmon run, which takes place in late fall, and year-round hiking opportunities. If you're unfamiliar with the terrain, why not suggest guests hike with a guide? These family-oriented outings are regularly scheduled at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. on Saturdays at various sites, including Swan Creek. For example, our interactive event calendar lists walks Aug. 8 atWapato Hills; Aug. 15 at Titlow Park; and Aug. 22 at McKinley Park.


Some ecotourists enjoy building a connection with the environment through volunteerism. Metro Parks also offers that option, even if it's only for a few hours at a time. Again, check out the interactive event calendar for volunteer work party listings virtually every Saturday.