Leach’s ‘Upper Garden’ project progresses

Take a look, and you’ll agree that the Aerial Tree Walk will be a spectacular improvement to Leach Botanical Garden

At the foot of the still-under-construction “Grand Staircase”, by the Leach Botanical Garden Manor House, Friends of Leach Garden Executive Director David Porter admires the work of Ryan Sullivan and Gwen Sullivan of the Sparks Sullivan design firm, as they show the mockup of a wayfinding sign design they propose for the garden.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

It was a big day, on August 1st of last year, when officials and Leach Botanical Garden volunteers broke ground on the “Phase 1 – Upper Garden Project: Aerial Tree Walk & Pollinator Garden” in their unique public garden.

On that morning, at one the last public events he attended in his official role as Portland Park Commissioner, City Commissioner Nick Fish told East Portland News, “In about a year from now, there’ll be a new pollinator garden here – and there will be a unique elevated ‘Tree Walk’ for all to enjoy, as well as additional improvements – including bathrooms in the parking area.”

>> To read the article about the groundbreaking, CLICK HERE.

The project commenced, and continued even during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

>> CLICK HERE to see our update on the project, in May.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish clearly looked enthusiastic about the Leach Upper Garden project as he spoke with a constituent before last year’s groundbreaking ceremony. East Portland News archive image

Sadly, Commissioner Fish passed away before he could these Upper Garden improvements were built; he certainly would have been enthusiastic to see the plans realized.

Not long ago, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) and Leach Botanical Garden together gave East Portland News a behind-the-scenes look at the improvements, including an opportunity to stroll on the new, almost-completed Aerial Tree Walk.

Completing the welding on the Aerial Tree Walk is Nick Bezates of Bezates Construction Inc., that, with other contractors, constructed the amazing feature.

Paths below the Aerial Tree Walk have been smoothed out, widened, and consolidated.

“As you’ll notice, in the Woodland Garden we’re consolidating many of the smaller paths; it used to be a bit of a maze that left folks a little lost,” remarked our tour guide – PP&R Capital Project Manager Ross Swanson. “We’re hoping, with this path consolidation, that we’re providing a bit more of a ‘cognitive map’ one can build in their mind as they walk through the forest, and better understand the location.”

Although the ADA-compliant ramps had yet to be built at that time, we stepped up onto the grating for the about 300-foot circumference Aerial Tree Walk.

“Just as shown in our design, this walkway is an ellipse that starts and ends on level ground – making it handicapped accessible,” Swanson pointed out, as we slowly walked along the amazing structure, which appears to float up in the mid-level canopy of the trees, in some areas, 30 feet above the ground.

“This is truly everything that I’d hoped for,” says Portland Parks & Recreation Capital Project Manager Ross Swanson about the Aerial Tree Walk.

“When we pitched the idea of the Aerial Tree Walk, I thought it might have sounded a little crazy,” Swanson recalled. “As we continued working on the design, we developed a pathway with a minimal impact on trees which was exciting.

“The fact that we are able to make this installation with minimal impact to the trees, and managed to keep the forest intact – now to see it come to fruition, this is truly everything that I’d hoped for,” commented Swanson.

At one end of the Aerial Tree Walk, when completed, the Arbor – the framework has been constructed – and the Terrace with the fire feature will be gathering places for neighbors, as well as those here to attend events.

As we came off the aerial walk, Swanson pointed out that the framework for the Arbor had been erected, and the Terrace with the “fire feature” was about to be built.

Beyond that, to the north, other contractors were beginning to install the “pollinator garden”.

“All of these features work together, from an environmental education standpoint,” explained Swanson. “We’ll be able to teach classes in one area, and inform about the upper story of the forest along the walk, while students in the pollinator garden are learning all about how species of plants are pollinated. It’s also a great educational setting!”

It looks like a bare lot with pipes, but soon this area will be flourishing with plant life, as it becomes the Leach Pollinator Garden.

“Not only will this be a great educational setting, we also believe this is going to become a great set for public gathering,” Swanson observed.

In the new parking lot area, on our visit, we found contractors digging trenches and installing underground electric, water, and sewer facilities. “While part of Phase 1 is includes the new entryway and parking area, it makes sense to also build the all the underground infrastructure for both phase I and phase II,” Swanson said.

For the time being, during the pandemic, all Leach Botanical Garden public events and gatherings have been postponed; but this “place like no other” – as their slogan goes – is still open to visitors who practice safe social distancing, during its regular hours, in the Lower Garden area, including Johnson Creek.

Stay in touch with Leach Botanical Garden by visiting their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™

 

 

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