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The Garden Path

Letter from Drake Snodgrass, Board President

Dear Members,

It has been such an honor as a Board Member to serve Portland Japanese Garden for the past ten years. As incoming Board President, I see an even greater opportunity to serve, guide, and help lead our Garden into the future. May I say the future is bright.

Before venturing forward, let me tell you a little about the past and my family connection to the Garden. Take a walk with me and imagine standing under the Wisteria Arbor that marks the entrance to the Strolling Pond Garden. Now look to the right at the pergola post in front of you. There is a wisteria planted at the base of the post. My dad planted that wisteria. I have a photo from an article in The Oregonian showing him planting it 57 years ago. He had a big smile on his face!

Portland Japanese Garden Board President Drake Snodgrass (far right) standing next to His Excellency, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the United States of America, Koji Tomita underneath the Wisteria Arbor of the Strolling Pond Garden. Photo by Jonathan Ley.


Portland Japanese Garden was designed and built by people who had a vision of bringing peace between Portland and Sapporo and between the United States and Japan. The people who designed and built the Garden looked for things in common between the people of both countries rather than things that divide. The love of nature and gardening in Japan and in the great Pacific Northwest was the perfect path to find common ground and to grow roots for a strong relationship. Gardens are a place where family relationships can grow strong and where new friends can be made.

Drake Snodgrass (l) and his wife, Rep. Lynn Snodgrass, at the Night of 1000 Cranes event in 2021. Photo by Nina Johnson.


I mentioned earlier the future is bright and it is. We are a team – the Garden staff, Members, our local community, Foundation Board members, Volunteers and the Board of Trustees – that strives to accomplish remarkable things. The Japan Institute is a great example. Imagine people traveling to Portland from nearly every country to study Japanese landscaping, culture, art, and music. Would we not find more things in common and fewer things to argue about!

My dad (Robert Snodgrass) fought in World War II. He was with the 10th Mountain Division. He battled on skis in the Alps of Northern Italy. The war caused him to hate the enemy. After the war, he started a garden center and landscape company. Planting the wisteria at the base of the pergola started his personal healing journey that lasted a lifetime. Gardens can do just that. I was fortunate to witness it happen then, and to see it manifested in our future. I invite you to come enjoy the peace and togetherness that Portland Japanese Garden offers.

With gratitude,

Drake Snodgrass

President, Board of Trustees