Exciting changes are underway at Errol Heights Park in Southeast Portland, where neighbors are seeing beginnings of the design they’ve helped shape. Construction crews are preparing the site for improvements that will occur over the next year. Mayer/Reed worked with Portland Parks & Recreation and the neighborhood on a design for the 16-acre park that will provide trails for barrier-free access, inclusive play opportunities, community gardens and picnic areas on the upper plateau. The park’s lower natural areas and pond—locally known for wildlife habitat—will be protected and a new outdoor classroom will welcome school groups.
This Saturday, the community is invited to a meet and greet event at the park to learn more about the work ahead. The improved Errol Heights Park is planned for completion in 2023.
Just in time for summer, “Better Naito Forever” officially opened on May 6 with a ribbon cutting and inaugural bike ride. This protected space for people walking and biking along SW Naito Parkway and Tom McCall Waterfront Park is now a permanent part of downtown Portland’s multi-modal infrastructure.
Linked with a similar project south of the Hawthorne Bridge which provides off street bike and pedestrian paths, the city has gained dedicated space for walking and rolling along 22 continuous blocks.
Mayer/Reed landscape architects and urban designers collaborated with David Evans & Associates (DEA) engineers on both segments, working with Portland Bureau of Transportation and Portland Parks & Recreation to establish human-scaled spaces that blend streetscape with park. “It was crucial to maintain a parklike edge, protect trees and create clear and welcoming park entrances,” notes Mayer/Reed project manager, Shannon Simms.
What began in 2015 as a temporary, volunteer-led pilot project to accommodate the influx of visitors to Waterfront Park during the summer festival season, “Better Naito” had grown to see wide support, eventually being designed, engineered and constructed. Now, in addition to providing space for daily recreation and bicycle commuting, the two-way cycle track and separate pedestrian sidewalk will offer inviting access for festival goers when outdoor events once again enliven our waterfront.
We celebrate National Library Week with a look back at Mayer/Reed projects that have become vital resources in their communities—providing access to programs, safe gathering and learning spaces and sense of connection from early learners to seniors. Wayfinding, placemaking and collections signage helps create a welcoming, accessible and inclusive library.
Throughout our history, Mayer/Reed has worked on parks big and small, but none as small yet so significant as the recent redesign of Mill Ends Park in Portland, Oregon.
For being only 452.16 square inches, Mill Ends Park certainly has a large reputation. Since 1971 it has held the title of World’s Smallest Park in the Guinness Book of World Records. The park’s origins are in the midcentury as a twinkle in the eye of Dick Fagan, an Oregon Journal columnist, whose imagination was sparked by an empty utility pole hole in the middle of SW Naito Parkway (called Front Avenue at the time) at Taylor Street. Looking down from his office, Fagan dreamed up a mythology for the park having to do with a leprechaun named Patrick O’Toole. The park was an object of controversy in 1954 as Fagan battled City Commissioner Bean over the name of the park, which ultimately was called “Mill Ends” after Fagan’s column in the Journal. On St. Patricks’ Day 1976, Mill Ends was officially dedicated as a city park, which makes it two years older than its 36-acre neighbor, Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
Portlanders show this quirky little park a lot of love, frequently decorating it and adding small figurines. It has been the site of protests, weddings, snail races and ceremonial rose plantings. It has hosted every imaginable form of vegetation, which is carefully hand-watered by the staff at Portland Parks and Recreation. With the rise of the selfie era, so too has Mill Ends Park become extensively photographed and shared on social media.
Over the years, Mill Ends has been rebuilt several times as part of upgrades to Naito Parkway. In 2006, the park was briefly relocated to a flowerpot at the World Trade Center while Naito was repaved. More recently, Portland Bureau of Transportation’s bicycle and pedestrian improvements on Naito (known as Better Naito Forever) has again required a rebuild of Mill Ends Park.
Tasked with the redesign, Mayer/Reed, drafted multiple design iterations before selecting a quatrefoil shaped steel form cast in concrete. The new park is located a smidge northwest of its previous location but is not a hair larger than its record-setting size.