Major Leach Garden project breaks ground

Learn in what ways this notable outer East Portland public garden is getting a major upgrade to being fabulous, and how soon it will be done …

After making their way to the Pleasant Valley neighborhood, Leach Garden Friends Board Member Cici Polson points the direction to the “Upper Garden”, the location of the groundbreaking ceremony.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The sound of heavy equipment now echoes through the northeastern area of Leach Botanical Garden, signaling that the “Phase 1 – Upper Garden Project: Aerial Tree Walk & Pollinator Garden” construction is underway, having broken ground, in an official ceremony held at the site on August 1.

These improvements have been in the works for some time. To read our 2015 article about planning this project, “Leach Garden Design Project moves forward”, CLICK HERE.

As the Leach Garden Friends volunteers, elected officials, and invited guests began to arrive, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz shared her thoughts about the project’s start.

Because the improvements will make Leach Garden an international garden attraction, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz says she envisions it bringing economic development to the area, as well.

“Back when I was Parks Commissioner, I had a hand in getting funding dedicated to this project,” Fritz told East Portland News. “The Leach Garden Friends group showed tremendous enthusiasm for this project, and pledged to raise money for it; we put up a challenge grant – and they met the fundraising challenge in record time!

About 90 people who gather for the groundbreaking ceremony listen to speakers.

“I thought it was an important to advocate for this, because outer East Portland didn’t have a lot of special things,” Fritz observed. “However, over the years we’ve now improved many of the [East Portland] parks, adding Gateway Discovery Park and Luuwit View Park in Argay Terrace.

“In my opinion, Leach Botanical Garden will become known as the ‘Washington Park’ of East Portland; people will come from all over the world to see and experience all it has to offer,” smiled Fritz.

This expansion will make Leach Botanical Garden a “signature, destination park” says Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish.

“Today I’m so glad to be here, celebrating the groundbreaking for Phase 1 of the Garden’s Master Planned expansion,” exclaimed Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish.

“The City of Portland is a proud partner, with about $8 million invested in the project,” Fish told East Portland News, as guests browsed breakfast items offered at the celebration. “In almost exactly a year from now, there’ll be a new pollinator garden; there will be a unique elevated ‘Tree Walk’ for all to enjoy; and additional improvements – including bathrooms in the parking area.

The new “Aerial Tree Walk” will extend about 300 feet into the forest canopy arcing around and between trees. Project rendering courtesy of PP&R, Land Morphology, and Olson Kundig

“When they finish the Master Plan for the Garden, people will speak of this garden in the same way we speak of the Lan Su Chinese Garden and the Japanese Garden,” Fish predicted. “While most of our city’s ‘marquee amenities’ are west of the Willamette River, outer East Portland will have a signature, ‘destination’ park here at Leach Botanical Garden that  rivals other great legacy projects in Portland.”

The aim to have this project completed in a year is important, Fish pointed out, “So that in June, 2020, when the American Public Garden Association visit, they’ll be hosted here at Leach Botanical Garden.”

He still enjoys working on the expansion program, says Leach Garden Friends’ Executive Director David Porter.

Unable to contain his enthusiasm at the celebration was Leach Garden Friends’ Executive Director, David Porter.  “I’ve been a nonprofit executive director since 1978; I’ve been privileged to have four different impactful jobs in the community, and in the region.

“However, this job, here at Leach Botanical Garden, has all of those components of my prior posts, and adds such unique and special elements that it seems like a gift to me, to be able to be here and be part of this project,” Porter told us.

Pleasant Valley Neighborhood Association Chair Dale Shetler says he’s thrilled to see this along-awaited project under construction.

“I am so excited for our neighborhood!” exclaimed Pleasant Valley Neighborhood Association Chair Dale Shetler. “Both as a nearby neighbor, and as a member of Leach Garden Friends, we’ve been working on this with tenacity and love – looking forward to this day for more than 10 years.

“One of the notable things about this expansion is how it can help bring our neighborhood together,” Shetler remarked. “In addition to visitors from around the Pacific Northwest, our residents – as well as our neighbors to the north, in Powellhurst-Gilbert – will be able to use the new gathering space here for community events.”

This drawing shows the plan of how the arbor and fire pit will be constructed. Courtesy of PP&R

The gathering space of which Shetler spoke is part of the project. At the foot of the aerial tree walk, plans call for constructing a large granite slab, a gas-fired fire pit, and an arbor – providing a meeting area for as many as 90 people.

During the day’s formal program, many speakers extolled the virtues of the building project, including a representatives from Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office and Metro, and the new Portland Parks & Recreation Director, Adena Long, who proclaimed “This will be a destination for science and destination for people all over the city.”

Due to the rocky soil, not much ground was actually broken, but officials made a valiant effort to turn over dirt to signal the beginning of the project.

© 2019 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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