Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Portland Park Oddities


A panorama of Oregonian Printing Press Park, in downtown Portland right at the west end of the Morrison Bridge. In fact it occupies a triangular scrap of unused land next to one of the eastbound bridge ramps. It's vastly larger than our world-famous Mill Ends Park, but it's still really tiny, and pretty obscure, too. You won't find it on the Portland Parks department's site, for the simple reason that it's one of the area's rare county parks. I imagine this is because Multnomah County owns the Morrison Bridge. The county doesn't actually have a proper parks department, so that the park is maintained by their bureau of Facilities and Property Management. Apparently they handed nearly all of their park responsibilities off to Metro's Regional Parks & Greenspaces Department some years ago, but they seem to have missed at least one. Which I guess is understandable, considering the size of the thing.

[Updated: More about Printing Press Park in a March '07 post on Portland Metblogs. Which got linkage at Welcome to Blog. Meanwhile, this page includes a poem about the place. The piece you're reading now appears to be the very last item about the park, by Google's mysterious reckoning. Since writing this post, I've learned it helps to include the name of a place in a post's title. That's likely to be much of the problem right there.


There's a similar parcel to the north, adjacent to the westbound Morrison Bridge ramps, but for some reason it doesn't merit a sign or name of its own.


Likewise, there's a much larger chunk of land around 1st and Madison next to the Hawthorne Bridge ramps, but nobody seems to want to claim it either. Even though it's got a very nice old tree growing there and everything.


These next 3 photos are of another odd little area I ran across recently. The Naito Parkway overpass over I-405 is significantly wider than the actual road, and there's a strip of greenery the width of a couple of traffic lanes right there on the overpass. This actually continues north beyond the overpass for a couple of blocks. At one time this area was the interchange between Naito (then called Front Avenue), and the old Harbor Drive freeway that ran along the waterfront. If you stand on the east side of Naito and look downhill toward the river, you can still see the old freeway roadbed sloping downhill toward what's now the Riverplace area. When they tore out the old freeway, everything right on the river became part of Waterfront Park, but between there and the old Front interchange they basically just tore out the asphalt and abandoned everything, and even today the area remains more-or-less unchanged since the early 1970's. Naito Parkway south of the old interchange down to where it merges with Barbur actually is the last remaining vestige of the old freeway. Ever since I-5 was constructed, it doesn't actually get enough traffic anymore to justify being laid out as a freeway, and it's a massive barrier dividing the Lair Hill neighborhood in half, but leaving it as-is was (and still is) the cheapest option, so that's what ODOT (the Oregon Dept. of Transportation) went with.


If you look closely among all the weeds, you'll notice that they're growing in what appears to be a series of raised planter beds. I imagine these had to have gone in after the interchange was removed, presumably with the idea that someone would be maintaining flowers in these beds on an ongoing basis. Clearly this hasn't happened for years, if not decades. I seem to recall reading that the green strip of land to the north belongs to ODOT, and presumably the overpass does as well, so we can probably blame the state for falling down on the job. I mean, clearly they have higher priorities, and rightly so -- this isn't exactly their core mission -- but if they can't afford to maintain it, why not hand it off to someone else? (See also ODOT's multiple vacant, weedy plazas under the Fremont Bridge approach, right near the Pearl District.) I'm not usually a big booster of the Portland Development Commission, but they've got their own designs on the area, and they'd at least make sure the grass gets mowed on occasion. Although you do have to admit these wildflowers aren't bad either.


I've already written several times about the infamous sculpture Leland One, a.k.a. "Rusting Chunks No. 5". At the time, I'd tried to figure out just who owns the little plaza where it's located: The city, or the surrounding condo towers. With no success. I've since come across two documents referring to this area as "Portland Center Park", but the city parks website makes no mention of such a place. Ok, that's not strictly true. This map attaches the name to a different, nearby parcel of land -- one that appears to lie directly beneath a recent apartment complex, in fact. So the mystery continues.

It wouldn't be surprising if the city's just forgotten about it. I recall a story from the late 80's or early 90's where the city sent someone out to check on a park it thought it owned on the east bank of the river somewhere up in North Portland. The worker was astonished to discover that there was no actual park there, and there hadn't been for a long time, if it had ever really existed at all. But it still showed up on the city's property rolls, and it even showed up on published maps of the city. And no concerned citizens had complained, which to me is the oddest part of all.

Come to think of it, Washington County had a similar thing happen a few years ago, whien it discovered it owned a undeveloped parcel of land out near the Coast Range that was acquired as a park, given a name (which I've forgotten, but IIRC I think it included the word "Rippling"), and then promptly forgotten about. The county didn't have any money to run another park on top of the two it already has, so I think the plan was to fence it off and await a better budgetary climate in the distant future. In other words, it's been forgotten all over again. Updated: I came across a state legislative bill referring to it in passing as Rippling River Park [PDF]. The county's Parks Services website doesn't mention it, though.

Updated 9/23/08: It turns out the state had the name all wrong. It's actually Rippling Waters Park. And here are the two Oregonian stories about the place, from April 1999. Seems the county decided it had no money to maintain the park and elected to close it to the public, but then a few community groups stepped forward and volunteered to care for the place. That must've worked out ok, because a search on the right name brings up a few mentions of the place. Mostly habitat restoration and assorted environmental events, but I also saw a mention of a CD release party, which said something about a "secret Prohibition-era dance hall". I even found a couple of addresses, so you can apparently find the place at 3865 and/or 3761 NW. Gales Creek Road. So either one, or both, of neither of those may be the right address. This may bear further investigation.

Updated II: Metro's MetroMap GIS system identifies the place as tax lot 1N421D000600, and lists its RNO (whatever that is) as R770909. The street addresses I ran across are somewhat SE of where the GIS system shows the park at. Google Maps seems to agree with the GIS system; if you check the street view at this location, you'll see what looks like it might be the "main entrance". So now we know, maybe. I still think this bears further investigation.

Updated III: Ok, I found the park. I've been there. Didn't do a lot of exploring thanks to all the very serious No Trespassing signs, but I did take some photos & I put a post together for your enjoyment, or at least for mine: "Rippling Waters Park expedition".

The city intermittently gets concerned about undesirable people hanging around in its parks, and last year the mayor imposed a curfew in several downtown parks, including several well-known ones, and one referred to in the media simply as "an unnamed park at Southwest 14th Avenue and Hall Street". I've been there, and it's a nice little place, although it sits next to I-405 and (as usual) it could use a little TLC. Like the Rusting Chunks plaza, there's no city park sign out front, and it's not mentioned anywhere on the city parks website. The website's set up so you can find a park by name, but this place doesn't have a name, therefore it doesn't appear on the list. Hmm. Makes sense, I guess, sort of, in a way.


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