February 1, 2005
Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park is the official name (since 1984) but it’s also known as Tom McCall Park, Waterfront Park, and Tom McCall Waterfront Park. You can use any of these.
Once there was a bit of raised highway here and a rather ugly bit it reportedly was. Worse still, you couldn’t see the river -- it blocked the view. Although it took decades to accomplish the highway was pulled down and replaced with this park. It’s not a decision anyone regrets.
Lots of people go to this park just for the many events held here. Summer is particularly busy. Some of the Portland Rose Festival (the entire month of June) plays out here. The fireworks spectacular kicks off the festival. The Fun Center (carnival and arcade) helps turn the lawn to mud the first week. More than 100 teams compete in the Dragon Boat Races, while the seawall becomes one long berth for the visiting Coastguard, US and Canadian naval ships of Fleet Week. 2003 saw the first participating Mexican ship. (The ships arrival and departure, although bringing vehicular traffic to a standstill, are good times to watch the bridges in action.) The Waterfront Blues Festival is in early July (2003’s headliner was Etta James) and the
Oregon Brewer‘s Festival (largest of its kind) closes the month. Attend The Bite of Oregon, a celebration of local music and food, in August. Stages at either end of the park feature different styles of music. Food booths from local restaurants flank the length, a good way to sample select items from the participants’ menus. There is also a wine tasting tent where you can discover which Oregon wines you prefer.
It’s also a good place to watch or join the river traffic. The Christmas Ships (local boats decorated with lights) parade the Willamette in December. Portland Spirit River Cruises offer several types of boats and cruises, boarding from within the park. The sternwheeler Portland (used in the film Maverick) houses the Oregon Maritime Museum.
The park holds three memorials. The one resembling a shipwreck honors the
Battleship Oregon (this is its actual mast). A time capsule is buried beside it. The Founders Stone commemorates the coin toss whereby Portland was named. Finally, the Japanese-American Historical Plaza/ Bill of Rights Memorial (also covered in this journal) acknowledges the contribution of Japanese-Americans and their treatment during W.W.II.
Some days it seems that just about everyone is here. The biggest non-event draw is the Salmon Street Springs Fountain (turned off in winter). Computer operated, its flow pattern can be changed in playful ways. Children whose parents will indulge them to play in it adore this fountain. The immediate area bustles and don’t be surprised if someone asks you in some foreign accent to take their photo, that’s another popular event here --repeated daily.
Contacts: 503-823-PLAY or 503-823-2223v/tt, firstname.lastname@example.org
From journal Portland Greenspaces: Something for Everyone