Monday, June 23, 2008

McCarthy Park expedition

Willamette River at McCarthy Park


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Willamette River at McCarthy Park

mccarthy park

Today's thrilling adventure takes us to Portland's little-known McCarthy Park, a tiny spot on the Willamette up on Swan Island. Yes, industrial Swan Island, which isn't an island (anymore) and has no swans. The park's just a small grassy area tucked between two Freightliner office buildings, with a few benches, a historical marker, and a small ramp for launching small boats, probably nothing bigger than a canoe or a rowing shell. The big deal here is that it's about the only (legal) public access to the river between downtown & the St. Johns Bridge, so the park offers an unusual view of the river and downtown. So I thought I'd go take a few photos, and then see what (if anything) the Interwebs have to say about the place.

Willamette River at McCarthy Park

The signs indicate the park's owned by the Port of Portland and not by the city, which may explain why I'd never heard of it before last week. The Port's all about no-nonsense he-man stuff -- cargo ships, airports, and huge industrial parks -- so operating a grassy riverside picnic spot isn't really their core business, and they don't make a lot of noise about it. Zero, in fact, as far as I can tell.

My guess is that the park was created as part of the Port's gigantic Swan Island Industrial Park. Perhaps when the Port decided this would be the white-collar corner of Swan Island, they figured they ought to spruce it up a little.

Willamette River at McCarthy Park

The Wikimapia page for one of the adjacent Freightliner buildings claims it used to be an upscale shopping center back in the 70's. Now, if anything Wikimapia is even less authoritative than Wikipedia (even I've added to it on occasion), but the "Ports O'Call" building is kind of unusual. It's kind of a rambling Craftsman-style complex, and it's not hard to imagine it divided up into swanky boutiques. Probably swanky macrame and gold medallion boutiques, it being the 70's and all. Apparently the idea of shopping on Swan Island sounded just as weird back then as it does now, since the mall eventually cratered (according to Wikimapia) and eventually Freightliner bought it.

The industrial park (and mall) replaced earlier WWII-era shipyards, which in turn displaced Portland's original airport. So what comes next, condo towers?

mccarthy park

The city's "River Renaissance" site has a page about the park, describing it thusly:

McCarthy Park is a small, relatively unknown park on Swan Island with beautiful views of the city and the river. It is mostly used by local workers during lunch hours and after work. The park is the only place where people can access the river between the Steel Bridge and the St. Johns bridge.


It also appears on the city's North Portland Walking Map, which is where I first heard of it, and it also shows up on the state's Willamette River Recreation Guide, although neither provides any further info beyond the location.

Willamette River at McCarthy Park

A May 2002 Oregonian article, "When Business Shuts Down, Island Is Like Private Hideaway", sings the praises of the park, which we're told is quite nice outside of 9-to-5 business hours.

McCarthy Park also shows up in a blog post at OregonLive as a fun place to take kids, with all the rocks and driftwood along the riverbank. Gee, I dunno. I'm not sure touching rocks and driftwood along this stretch of the river is such a great idea. I mean, sure, maybe all those ooky chemicals will give your kid amazing superpowers. Or maybe not. Probably not, in fact.

Willamette River at McCarthy Park

It turns out the path through the park is just one segment of the larger "North Portland Greenway Trail". Right now this trail stretches for about a mile on Swan Island. The eventual goal is for the trail to follow the river from downtown all the way to St. Johns and beyond. Which is pretty ambitious, since right now much of the route is a patchwork of heavy industrial uses and Superfund sites.

A local advocacy group called npGreenway has a map of the envisioned route. They've also got a Flickr stream here.

I ran across couple of articles about the trail at the Tribune and BikePortland, and a fascinating, in-depth blog post, "Walking the Greenway Trail on Swan Island".

I honestly had no idea there was a park on Swan Island, much less a mile-long trail. I realize it's been in the paper a few times, and I might have even glanced at the news a bit. But it's also way up in North Portland, outside my neighborhood, so I suppose I just wasn't paying attention.

I think the idea behind the trail is to sort of mirror the westside's Willamette Greenway Trail, which was plotted out way back in 1987. It's still not really complete, so it may be a while yet before you can bike out to Kelly Point on the new NoPo edition.

Willamette River at McCarthy Park

Here's a BikePortland piece about a recent bike tour of the area further north, including the area around Bridge 5.1 I was too chicken to go investigate. I was kind of pleased to see that one commenter echoes my sentiments about adding pedestrian/bike access to the rail bridge. It wasn't me. Cross my heart.

Incidentally, it kind of amuses me how the alleged "park" properties up there have such sunny, bucolic names: "Willamette Cove" and "Harbor View". They sound like upscale gated communities or something. You certainly wouldn't hear the names and think "Superfund", but that's what they are.

Willamette River at McCarthy Park

I didn't follow the Greenway trail when I was there, partly because I didn't realize the extent of it, but mostly because I was worried about parking. If you look at the satellite photo above, you'll see parking lots all over the place, but they're for Freightliner employees only. I parked a few blocks away at McDonalds, but I figured I shouldn't stay away too long in case the tow truck mafia was staking the place out. As I left I went through the drive-thru and got a coffee and one of those new "Southern-style" chicken biscuits, I guess to get right with the Law or whatever. Turned out to be kind of tasty, actually. I've seen a couple of mentions of there being dedicated parking for the Greenway somewhere else, but I'm not sure quite where it is. You might be better off taking the bus -- both the 72 and the 85 finish their runs just a block or two from the park. I know that's what I'll do next time around.

Willamette River at McCarthy Park

The rest of my Flickr photoset is here. FWIW.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tecotosh

Tecotosh

Tecotosh

A few photos of "TECOTOSH", the new-ish large sculpture outside the front entrance of PSU's new-ish CS/Engineering building. It occurred to me recently that I hadn't posted any pics of it or said anything about it here, even though it's in my general neighborhood and it's been around for about a year now. So I figured it was overdue, plus I really needed some new local photo fodder -- Lovejoy Fountain is still not up and running this year, and lately I've gotten sort of bored with Rusting Chunks #5.

Tecotosh

So the artist's website describes it thusly:


This sculpture is a graphic illustration of four basic engineering principles: tension, compression, torsion, and shear. Its title, "TECOTOSH", is composed of the first two letters of each of those terms, and its structure is intentionally provocative from an engineering standpoint.


Now that's refreshingly straightforward. I like it. When I first saw the name I was afraid it was some sort of Northwest tribal mumbo-jumbo thing, but no, it's an acronym. All engineers love acronyms. Even lowly software "engineers" such as myself love acronyms. Yay, acronyms!

Tecotosh

I probably ought to have done the title of this post in all caps, the name being an acronym and all. That still feels like shouting, acronym or no, so I didn't, but it seemed like it was worth pointing out. I've been called lots of names over the years, but so far nobody's called me "insufficiently pedantic", that I'm aware of. Not to my face, at any rate.

Tecotosh

The aforementioned basic engineering concepts are explained somewhat simply here and here. The second link uses Flash, even. So TECOTOSH illustrates four of the five fundamental engineering loads, the fifth being "bending". The artist probably could've worked some bending into it too, but that would've made for an even longer and more unpronounceable acronym.

Tecotosh

While we're being pedantic -- ok, while I'm being pedantic -- there's small sign next to TECOTOSH indicating the surrounding mini-plaza is officially known as "Gerding Edlen Development Plaza". I don't know if it counts as a park, exactly, but it is a public space with a name. So therefore I suppose this post is technically part of my semi-occasional parks-and-public-spaces series, if anyone's keeping score at home. I say "technically" because I've never seen anyone use this name to refer to the place. No references to the name anywhere on the interwebs, so I suppose this post will be the first, for whatever that's worth. Not that I exactly plan to use the name either. I can't really see myself putting the name in a post title, it being a company name and all.

I mean, I suppose the name is understandable, as the company was a major donor to the engineering building, in addition to working on the project. Part of their work on the project involved a cool geothermal well system that helps heat and cool the building. Naturally, the building as a whole is fully LEED-o-licious and sustainable and so forth, since that stuff is tres chic right now.

In any case, there's not much else to "Gerding Edlen Development Plaza" besides TECOTOSH itself. The usual modern concrete bits and native(?) grasses. It's probably sustainable too, or something.

Incidentally, it must be great to be in the native grass business these days. Everyone wants native grasses, but they don't want to go dig up and transplant their own native grasses from a nearby field or whatever. I'm not sure why, but it simply isn't done. Instead they pay you, and they probably pay you handsomely, because anything green and sustainable and LEED-o-licious is exorbitantly expensive. Them's the rules. So they pay you, and you go to a nearby field on their behalf and dig up some native grasses and rake in the dough, and everyone goes home happy.

Tecotosh

Other random bits about TECOTOSH on the interwebs:
  • Photos here and here.
  • It appears on the cover of this brochure from the Oregon Arts Commission.
  • Some PR about it from the university.
  • A story at the Portland Business Journal
  • And a mention in a piece about local glass art. You noticed the glass bits on TECOTOSH, right? They can be kind of hard to see unless it's sunny. Which is a problem, this being Portland and all.
Oh, and the rest of my TECOTOSH photoset is here. FWIW.

photo weekday, umpteenth edition

reflected, downtown

It seems to be a bad year for flowers. In previous years, around this point I'd be posting a new batch of flower photos every few days, or at least once a week or so. This year, not so much. I blame the weather, specifically the accursed La Nina phenomenon. It's not that I'm jaded and tired of flowers, I'm pretty sure of that much. I think.

In any case, here's a pseudorandom assortment of recent-ish pics, some with flowers, and others without them. FWIW.

flowers, lovejoy fountain plaza

hawthorne bridge at night

iris, waterfront park

contrail, infrared

reflected, downtown

fern, washington park

african daisy, soft focus

reflected, downtown

african daisy

moonlight, rusting chunks

african daisy, soft focus

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wherein I declare "Mission Accomplished"....

bendy

Or, "Evil Bendy Gets Respectable". Being scenes from my Recent Adventures in Homebuying, as poorly reenacted with small toys.

Ok, "reenacted" is a bit of a stretch, actually. Regular readers of this humble blog (yes, both of you) might recall that Evil Bendy here is my occasional yellow rubbery alter ego. And the rock pictured here is a little token of appreciation from the title company you get on closing. So it's, like, symbolic, or whatever. Here's another one:

bendy

The rock, incidentally, has a little sticker on the bottom saying "Made in China". Wow. The social-commentary-on-modern-society angle pretty much writes itself. Come to think of it, Evil Bendy is probably made in China too. But I digress.

I should emphasize that the next photo is a "during" photo, not an "after" one, illustrating numerous scenes from the homebuying process. Honestly, I don't understand why you can't just buy online and cut out all the middle-persons. So many things to sign, so many dead trees. I suppose the process and its associated rituals have barely changed in decades. I mean, other than the fact that we found the place on Craigslist, and thus completely missed out on being herded around town by realtors, and all the rest of the house-hunting half of the experience. Still, the Craigslist ad ought to have included a "Click to Buy!" button. It would have simplified matters somewhat. That's all I'm saying.

bendy

So next we have the mellow "after" photo. I've been surprised by how much my general stress level has dropped since buying the place (at least so far). Ok, so now it's a simple matter of 30 years of mortgage payments (hence the "Mission Accomplished"), but that I can do. It's uncertainty that I can't stand, and there's definitely a lot less of that than before. So now that things are settled and we're officially Responsible Adults and all that, maybe now we'll get a cat, and this humble blog will devolve into an endless series of cute kitten photos.

Some might call that an improvement, actually.

bendy

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

1916: Portland's Stanley Cup

So it's Stanley Cup time again. If you're like most Portlanders, you probably don't care too much about hockey. Maybe you didn't even realize the playoffs were on. That's understandable, I guess, since we don't have a pro team of our own here, just a junior team, and the Winter Hawks may be moving to Salem soon.

But Portland wasn't always the hockey backwater it is today. Once upon a time, back in the early 20th century, our fair city was home to the Portland Rosebuds, the very first pro team south of the Canadian border. Ok, so "Rosebuds" is not a very fierce name by today's standards, but it sounds like they weren't half bad. In addition to being the first US-based team, the Rosebuds were also the first US team to play for the Stanley Cup. Seriously. In the 1916 Stanley Cup Finals, Portland lost to the Montreal Canadiens, losing Game 5 of the 5-game series by a single goal. (The following year, the Seattle Millionaires became the first US team to win the Cup finals. Bastards.)

But there's a bit more to the story. Engraved on the Cup are the words "Portland Ore./PCHA Champions/1915–16", listing us alongside all the Cup champions in years before and since. The years prior to the 1914-15 season were the "Challenge Cup" era, in which you won the cup by challenging the current owner for it; if you beat them, the Cup was yours. It was sort of like how boxing and the America's Cup work these days. Then the rules changed, setting up an annual series between the champions of the East Coast (NHA) and West Coast (PCHA) leagues of the era, with the Cup awarded to the winner. Despite this change, three of the next four seasons saw teams engraving their name on the Cup after defeating the previous year's champion -- the only exception was the 1916-17 season, in which Montreal repeated as NHA champions before losing the Cup to Seattle. So according to the era's standard practice (if not strictly according to the rules), the Cup belonged to Portland for just over a month, from the end of the regular season (Feb. 25th, 1916) through the end of the finals (March 30th). Purists and sticklers may argue the cup wasn't truly and officially ours, but I think reasonable people can disagree on that detail. Or more to the point, I know what I prefer to believe.

Besides being a fun historical curiosity, the 1916 cup may come in handy if we ever manage to land an NHL team of our own, whether by expansion or relocation. A couple of years ago the Pittsburgh Penguins were thinking about relocating, and Portland was on the short list. In the end they managed to swing themselves a schweet deal to stay in Pittsburgh, but you can't help but wonder what might have been. They're in the Stanley Cup finals this year, you know. In recent years the cup's often gone to teams in lucrative markets with no historical roots in the sport (Anaheim, Raleigh NC, Tampa Bay, etc.). We, however would be able to spin a win as the end of a 92 year Cup drought. So, sure, we technically would've gone nearly all of the drought without a major league team of any kind, but a drought's a drought, right?

One reason most Portlanders have probably never heard of the Rosebuds is that essentially nothing has survived from that era. The team went away, the whole league went away, and the old Portland Ice Arena where they played in was eventually demolished in the 1950's. Aside from a few old photographs displayed at Memorial Coliseum, there's no obvious evidence the Rosebuds ever existed, and to see those photos you'd have to go and endure three periods of the present-day Winter Hawks. I'm only that masochistic a couple of times a season, tops. There are a few tidbits around the interwebs concerning Portland hockey history, like this article at the PSU Daily Vanguard, and a site dedicated to the memory of the 1960s-era, not-quite-major-league Portland Buckaroos. That's a separate and rather colorful bit of Portland history I don't have space for here, so check out that site if you're curious.

In case you were wondering, the Portland Ice Arena was located on NW Marshall St., up in Northwest Portland, on the block that's now home to Marshall Union Manor, a high-rise retirement community constructed circa 1974. (More info here and here.) So here's what the spot looks like today:

Marshall Union Manor, NW Portland

Marshall Union Manor, NW Portland

Marshall Union Manor, NW Portland