World’s Smallest Park Endures and Endears In Portland, Oregon

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.

St. Helens Riverwalk Designs Revealed

In an online open house, the City of St. Helens, Oregon recently revealed the preferred concept for their long-awaited riverwalk. Former industrial lands are one step closer to becoming a community gathering place with public access and recreation along the Columbia River.

The Mayer/Reed-led design transforms approximately half mile of the river’s edge into a linear park adjacent to old town and future mixed-use development. Meandering pathways, seating areas and overlooks will invite activity and memorable riverfront experiences such as skipping stones, bird watching, kayaking, exploring natural and cultural history or attending an outdoor concert. Riparian and shallow water habitat improvements will be inviting for fish and wildlife as well.

Construction of the first phase is planned to begin this summer. To learn more about the project visit the St. Helens Riverwalk Project website.


Mayer/Reed is always on the lookout for great talent, whether in landscape architecture or visual communications. We’re interested in connecting with well-rounded professionals to join our collaborative team of designers.

Are you a landscape architect or landscape designer with a passion for sustainable design? Please submit a letter of interest, resume and portfolio to Jeramie Shane,

Are you a graphic designer committed to helping people navigate the built environment? Please submit a letter of interest, resume and portfolio to Kathy Fry,

Mayer/Reed is an equal opportunity employer.

Posted January 15, 2022
Written by: Mayer/Reed
Categories: IN THE STUDIO 

Kathy Fry Begins Term as SEGD President

As a passionate advocate for the fields of visual communications and experiential graphic design, Mayer/Reed Principal, Kathy Fry, is driven to create opportunities for designers and to promote the values of community placemaking and design excellence. With her recent appointment to President of SEGD, the Society for Experiential Graphic Design, she plans to deepen the organization’s commitment to inclusive design practices, equitable access to design careers, a new web presence and the annual conference – this year in Portland, Oregon.

SEGD is a global multi-disciplinary association for professionals who plan, design and build experiences that connect people to place. The community of over 2,200 members from 35 countries includes graphic, information, media, interaction, exhibition and industrial designers; fabricators; architects; technology integrators; brand strategists; wayfinding specialists; students and teachers.

Read Kathy’s welcome letter and learn more about SEGD at