Photo: Portland Parks & Recreation
The substantial completion of the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) Better Naito Forever project has resulted in a new and improved world’s smallest park – Portland Parks & Recreation’s Mill Ends Park.
Naito Parkway is a critical transportation corridor for people walking, rolling, biking, and driving. This nearly complete project has provided a permanent two-way bikeway and sidewalk along the west side of Waterfront Park.
As part of the improvements, the City removed Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R)’s entire, tiny, Mill Ends Park - which got a refreshed design during this project. Today the park has returned, a full six inches west from its previous location, with a new cloverleaf park border (legend has it the park is home to a family of leprechauns), and a new official park sign. The bureau is hopeful park visitors can find the park in its new location without a map.
Portland Parks & Recreation plans to hold a small rededication ceremony in the near future – the world’s smallest ribbon-cutting, at the world’s smallest park. Details will be firmed up soon.
“In Portland, we’ve long embraced the quirky, creative spirit that drives our city,” says Portland Parks Commissioner Carmen Rubio. “Mill Ends Park embodies that spirit. Bike and pedestrian safety improvements in the Better Naito Forever project will now allow more Portlanders to safely visit this iconic park and the leprechauns living there.”
The new two-way bikeway and sidewalks built by PBOT’s Better Naito Forever project are open for travel. The installation of additional planters, permanent striping, and tree planting along the corridor will happen later this spring.
Mill Ends Park is once again located in the median strip of SW Naito Parkway in downtown Portland. The park is about 2 feet across, with a total area of 452 square inches (0.00007205784 acres). It is the smallest park in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records, which first granted it this recognition in 1971. Mill Ends Park is an iconic Portland destination with its own weeding and watering schedule, under the purview of Portland Parks & Recreation’s downtown maintenance team. It became an official City park in 1976.
“Our park maintenance staff have identified the best vegetation to thrive in Mill Ends Park,” says PP&R Director Adena Long. “And thankfully, the new plantings are expected to offer an even better habitat for the leprechaun family rumored to live in the park.”
PP&R Professional Repair and Maintenance Services crews lovingly constructed the Mill Ends Park sign with recycled materials. It is a smaller-scale model of other, official park signs, but otherwise identical.
History of Mill Ends Park
In 1946, Dick Fagan returned from World War II to resume his journalistic career with the Oregon Journal. His office, on the second floor above Front Street (now Naito Parkway), gave him a view of not only the busy street, but also an unused hole in the median where a light pole was to be placed. When no pole arrived to fill in this hole, weeds took over the space. Fagan decided to take matters into his own hands and to plant flowers.
Fagan wrote a popular column called Mill Ends (rough, irregular pieces of lumber left over at lumber mills). He used this column to describe the park and the various "events" that occurred there. Fagan billed the space as the "World's Smallest Park." The park was dedicated on St. Patrick's Day in 1948 since Fagan was a good Irishman. He continued to write about activities in the park until he died in 1969. Many of his columns described the lives of a group of leprechauns, who established the "only leprechaun colony west of Ireland" in the park. Fagan claimed to be the only person who could see the head leprechaun, Patrick O'Toole. After Mill Ends officially became a city park on St. Patrick’s Day in 1976, the park continued to be the site of St. Patrick's Day festivities.
Over the years, contributions have been made to the park, such as a small swimming pool and diving board for butterflies, many statues, a miniature Ferris wheel (which was brought in by a normal-sized crane), and the occasional flying saucer. The events held at the park have included concerts by Clan Macleay Pipe Band, picnics, and rose plantings by the Junior Rose Festival Court.
The park had to be moved temporarily once before, in 2006, for construction on Naito Parkway. It was replaced on March 16, 2007, in true St. Patrick's Day style with the Royal Rosarians, bagpipers, and the Fagan family, including Dick's wife Katherine, in attendance.
Source: Portland Parks Bureau