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The Final Chapter Closes
Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) replanted a Douglas Fir sapling today in PP&R’s Mt Tabor Park, just in time for Arbor Month. The young tree, thought to be the stolen-and-then-returned sapling from PP&R’s Mill Ends Park, has a new home on the forested hillside of gorgeous Mt. Tabor. Mt. Tabor Park, at SE 60th and Salmon, encompasses 191 acres.
The tree, and its replacement in Mill Ends Park ( the world’s smallest park), attracted national interest this month. A driver noticed the tree was missing (and, PP&R concluded, stolen) from Mill Ends Park atSW Naito Pkwyand Taylor. After PP&R promptly replaced the tree with another during the first week of March, someone again passing by the park posted a comment online noting that what appeared to be the original 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,” said Portland Parks & Recreation Director Mike Abbaté at that time. “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.”
That time has come, as the healthy young tree is now at its new home, secure in the ground, watered and mulched. PortlandParks& Recreation Stewardship Coordinator Susan Hawes, along with Friends of Mt. Tabor volunteer Darvel Lloyd, planted the tree on Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 11:30am. PP&R is not disclosing its exact location in order to protect the tiny, vulnerable tree going forward. We figure it’s been through enough.
The planting is timely as Portland Parks & Recreation, along with our valued community partners, gears up to celebrate Arbor Month all throughout April with free family activities, games, celebrations, lectures, nature walks and more across the city. The showcase Arbor Day Festival is on Saturday, April 20 at the Portland Farmer’s Market at Portland State University.
More on the Story of the Tree Theft:
PP&R’s Mill Ends Park is part ofPortlandlore. Located atSW Naito Pkwyand Taylor and named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s smallest park, Mill Ends Park 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 returned/stolen tree back to PP&R’s downtown offices for water and care in early March. 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 on March 6 to replace the missing tree.
The sapling cost the city $3.25, and a donor sent a check to cover that cost. Though it is only two feet in diameter, PP&R waters, weeds and otherwise maintains the tiny Mill Ends Park as needed.
Portland police cautioned (jokingly) that the tree’s return won’t mean the end of their pursuit of the thief.
“Remorse does not mean ‘case closed’,” said Portland Police Bureau Sergeant Pete Simpson after the stolen tree reappeared. “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.