Portland Parks & Recreation Seeks to Replant Douglas Fir; Bring Thief to Justice
Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) is pleased to announce that a Douglas Fir sapling, thought to be the missing tree stolen last week from PP&R’s Mill Ends Park, has been returned.
On Friday, March 8, a driver passing by the park posted a comment online noting the tree, roots and all, was lying on its side just outside the park, which has a diameter of two feet. They speculated that perhaps the “arborious criminal was feeling remorse.”
“Whatever the motivation, we are relieved,” says Portland Parks & Recreation Director Mike Abbaté. “We will be evaluating the tree’s condition and if it’s ok, we’ll plant it somewhere in our Gold Medal system as soon as possible.”
Abbaté speculated that Forest Park might be a possible destination for the young sapling, which made national news this week after news spread of its apparent theft.
PP&R’s Mill Ends Park is part ofPortlandlore. Located at SW Naito Pkwy and Taylor and named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s smallest park, Mill Ends is rumored to be the home of a leprechaun family.
The leprechauns were not at home when Portland Parks & Recreation media relations officer Mark Ross took the tree back to
PP&R’s downtown offices for water and care. However, the leprechauns have been very gracious about the Bureau’s rapid attention to the matter, and conveyed their thanks via email. They have declined to grant any interviews.
Portland Parks & Recreation park technician Scott Gibson planted a new Douglas Fir sapling this past Wednesday to replace the missing tree. The sapling cost the city $3.25. Though it is only two feet in diameter, PP&R waters, weeds and otherwise maintains the park as needed.
“We are delighted the leprechauns have their shade back,” adds Director Abbaté. “This park has an amazing, truly “Portland” history, and is just as important as any other in our system.”
Portland police caution that the tree’s return won’t mean the end of their pursuit of the thief.
“Remorse does not mean ‘case closed’,” says Portland Police Bureau Sergeant Pete Simpson. “We will pursue continue to pursue our investigation and hope that justice is served, and served swiftly”.
About Portland Parks & Recreation’s Mill Ends Park
Mill Ends Park became a city park in 1976. 30 years earlier, Dick Fagan returned from World War II to resume his journalistic career with the Oregon Journal. His office, on the second floor above Front Street (now Naito Parkway), gave him a view of not only the busy street, but also an unused hole in the median where a light pole was to be placed. When no pole arrived to fill in this hole, weeds took over the space. Fagan decided to take matters into his own hands and to plant flowers. Oregon Journal writer Dick Fagan supposedly captured the leprechaun patriarch, who granted him a wish per leprechaun tradition. Fagan’s wish? A park of his own. So the leprechaun granted him the space, where they stood – the site of Mill Ends Park today.
Fagan wrote a popular column called Mill Ends (rough, irregular pieces of lumber left over at lumber mills). He used this column to describe the park and the various "events" that occurred there. Fagan billed the space as the "World's Smallest Park." The park was dedicated on St. Patrick's Day in 1948 since Fagan was a good Irishman. He continued to write about activities in the park until he died in 1969. Many of his columns described the lives of a group of leprechauns, who established the "only leprechaun colony west of Ireland" in the park. Fagan claimed to be the only person who could see the head leprechaun, Patrick O'Toole. After Mill Ends officially became a city park on St. Patrick’s Day in 1976, the park continued to be the site of St. Patrick's Day festivities.
Over the years, contributions have been made to the park, such as the small swimming pool and diving board for butterflies, many statues, a miniature Ferris wheel (which was brought in by a normal-sized crane), and the occasional flying saucer. The events held here include concerts by Clan Macleay Pipe Band, picnics, and rose plantings by the Junior Rose Festival Court.
The park had to be moved temporarily in 2006 due to construction onNaito Parkway. It was replaced on March 16, 2007 in true St. Patrick's Day style with the Royal Rosarians, bagpipers, and the Fagan family, including Dick's wife Katherine, in attendance.