Leach Garden Design Project moves forward

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Leach Botanical Garden’s Upper Garden is currently an empty field, where fairs and festivals are held. But, they’re planning on developing the area to include permanent amenities. East Portland News archive photo

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Since April, the folks at Leach Botanical Garden have been asking everyone in the greater community this question: “If you could design the perfect unforgettable garden, what would it include?”

Here’s why: Work begins again on the next phase of design for Leach Botanical Garden, as its Garden Design Project has gotten underway.

Showing a poster promoting community participating is Leach Botanical Garden Executive Director David Porter.

“The project is focused on seven acres in the undeveloped portions of the Upper Garden, and will include a new entrance, public use areas, and botanical displays, as well as a formal link to the historic Garden and Manor House below,” explained Executive Director David Porter.

The design project builds on the Upper Garden Master Plan completed in 2012, for this unique park, situated in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood. It is funded by the Portland Development Commission and by Portland Parks & Recreation.

In this aerial photo of the property, provided by Leach Botanical Garden, the top portion of the image is where most of the improvements will take place.

“An Advisory Committee is working with our volunteer group, Leach Garden Friends, as well as the city, the design team, and the community, to craft the final plan,” Porter told East Portland News while strolling through the “upper meadow”.

“Here, we are looking closely at the legacy of John Leach and Lilla Leach, and suggesting to ourselves what is really important – to make sure that people in outer East Portland have a really high-quality, wonderful place to be proud of, to come and learn, and be at peace, and to enjoy themselves in green spaces or other public neighborhood parks,” Porter reflected.

Behind the Leach Manor House, the patio provides a delightful space in outer East Portland for summertime activities. East Portland News archive photo

The original Leach estate was 4½ acres, and is the only “developed” portion of the property. “The upper garden facilities weren’t done in a planned fashion,” remarked Porter. “The new plan will help us fulfill our commitment to giving people a very unique experience of a first-class botanical garden. We want an easily-accessible showcase for the 2,000 species of plants here, that were collected from all over the world.”

Instead of visitors having to park cars on the other side of Johnson Creek, and walk into the property, the new design will locate a new parking and reception area in the upper meadow area of the garden, close to SE 122nd Avenue. “It will be very accessible so people can get around this part of the garden without having to worry about going up and down stairs or steeply sloped trails,” Porter said. “People can come and enjoy themselves in our outdoor spaces.”

All of the paths in the garden, including the trail leading from the Upper Garden to the Manor House, will be improved for greater accessibility.

And, over time, the property will have larger indoor spaces for educational programs, activities, and community uses of various kinds. They’re also planning a new Visitor Orientation Center that will illustrate the story of John and Lilla Leach, and will have space for their partners, such as the Portland Audubon Society.

Providing and upgrading a facility such as Leach Botanical Garden is important for many reasons, Porter said – and he listed:

  • It preserves and shares plants with other botanical gardens around the world.
  • It provides public spaces that provide a healthy environment for the public.
  • It is a source of education, teaching people about plants and the relationship between plants and people.
  • It is a “community space” in which people can take pride, and can come to experience nature close at hand.


“We need to raise about $3 million, we believe, from the ‘private side’, to match the funding that we have,” Porter said. “We have about $2.6 million from grants and public sources, the City of Portland and Metro. We’re looking very hard at our list of supporters, and trying to bolster our list of supporters to build a garden that will serve the community for the next 100 years.”

At his desk, David Porter looks over plan suggestions coming from the Garden Design Project outreach.

Do your part, before June 30!
It takes only a few minutes to go online and complete their survey. CLICK HERE to open their survey page in English.

“The survey is also available in Vietnamese, Spanish, and Russian,” Porter pointed out. “Links can be found on the Leach Garden website, www.leachgarden.org.”

Attend an open house
Their first Garden Design Project Open House will be on Sunday June 7, from 1:00 until 4:00 p.m. Visitors will find display boards that show how design suggestions are being implemented. Knowledgeable volunteers will be on hand to answer questions and take suggestions.

They’re also holding a series of open house events on June 9, 10, and 11, from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

All of these Garden Design Project Open Houses are being held in the Manor House. Leach Botanical Garden is located at 6704 SE 122nd Avenue, a long, twisty block just south of SE Foster Road. For more information, see their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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