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February 1, 2005
The world's smallest park is in ... well, that depends on to whom you listen. There are two candidates in two cities. Both are in Oregon. Both are official city parks. Although an internet search will return both as results (because they both make the claim), it's clear from the math that Portland's claim wins out. However, looking at dates shows that for some years, Salem's claim was valid.
Salem (45 miles south of Portland, Oregon’s capitol) -- Waldo Park
•Size: 12-feet by 20-feet and a total of 2880-square-inches
•Contains: A Sierra Redwood. (Sequoia gigantea)
•Officially declared a park: 1936
•Validation: Believe it or not, it was credited by Ripley
Portland -- Mill Ends Park
•Size: Diameter of 24-inches, with a total of 452-square-inches
•Officially declared a park: 1976
•Validation: Dick Fagan in his column
Waldo became a park as a means of protecting the ancient tree. The story behind Mills End Park is definitely the more interesting.
Journalist Dick Fagan wrote for the Oregon Journal (the Journal is now defunct) a column called Mill Ends. From his office window he was disturbed by the view of a hole in Front Street’s (now Naito Parkway) pedestrian median. The hole seemed to want a pole in it. A utility pole he presumed. It actually was meant to hold a lamppost. But time passed and the hole remained. He concluded no pole would ever materialize. So, he planted flowers in the hole, also dubbing it Mill Ends Park (mill ends are tailings, rough hewn bits of wood remaining from the lumber milling process). His park "dedication" was St. Patrick's Day, 1948.
Leprechauns lived in the park, he said, headed by one Patrick O‘Toole. Fagan described their adventures there, the details appearing regularly in his columns. He provided events for the park, once having a Mills End Park-sized Ferris wheel delivered for a carnival being held in the park to be lowered into place by a standard-size crane. Portland’s population has enthusiastically embraced the game. Over the years they’ve held snail races, even weddings.
Oregon’s current advertising slogan is, "We love dreamers." Yes. Previously it was "Things look different here." Absolutely. (The state’s official motto is Alis Volat Propriis; "She Flies With Her Own Wings.") You should by now be clued in to the fact that people revel in their quirks here. So, unsurprisingly, the city took the next step to make Mill Ends an "official" park. You can still visit the park, but we'd appreciate it if you'd stay off the grass or you'll tread on the flowers. The leprechauns can take care of themselves.
Portland Parks Contacts: 503/823-PLAY or 503/823-2223v/tt,
From journal Portland Greenspaces: Something for Everyone
by Re Carroll
Abbotsford, British Columbia
August 22, 2001
Make sure you have your camera ready for a picture of Mill Ends Park. Measuring only two feet, Guinness has recognized it as the world's smallest city park. At one time, it was just a pole hole but an enterprising Portland resident lobbied to have it turned into a park and it now features a plaque that makes it official. I had one heck of a time finding this park and even the few residents I asked weren't quite sure. When you see the park, you'll understand why it's not easy to locate. It sits in the middle of the road, at the end of a traffic median on S.W. Naito Parkway but somehow people manage to hold weddings and other celebrations here. It is supposedly looked after by a resident leprechaun who seems to be doing a good job.
Although you can't stroll through Mill Ends (one step and you're out of the park), Portland has lots of other parks to enjoy. The three level International Rose Test Garden showcases hundreds of varieties of roses throughout the spring and summer and the Japanese Garden is one of the most authentic ones outside of Japan. Both these parks are on the MAX transit line at the Washington Park stop.
From journal Exploring Portland's Quirks