Mt. Tabor fountain’s majestic spray signals new Water Bureau attitude

Through a combined effort of involved citizens, Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard and the Water Bureau, a 50-foot high plume of water can again be seen rising above Reservoir #6. See all this, and a sample of Leonard’s poetry here ‚Ķ

Looking east at Portland Water Bureau’s Mt. Tabor Reservoir #6, we see the fountain spouting 50 feet into the air ‚Äì for the first time in a decade.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The event on November 18 was a reinstatement of an East Portland landmark‚Ķa statement about a city bureau’s new attitude‚Ķa poetry reading‚Ķ and a knighting ceremony, all rolled into one!

Portland Water Bureau’s Mt. Tabor Reservoir #6 ‚Äì just north of SE 60th Avenue ‚Äì is actually a giant reservoir split into two pools. The pools are divided by a concrete wall; each stores up to 37 million gallons of water. The pools were constructed with a fountain on each side.

We’re told freezing weather damaged some of the fountain installations that were originally built in 1911 as part of the reservoir system. Water Bureau Operating Engineers will manually turn off the fountain whenever severe winds or winter cold threaten.

Pageantry before (water) pressure
As the fountain was being readied for reactivation, Jay Fyre, Portland Water Bureau’s Southeast Operator, opened the gates, allowing an unobstructed view of the pool.

The Portland City Commissioner in charge of the water bureau, Randy Leonard, stepped forward to address the gathering crowd of about 200 neighbors.

Leonard told us, “What is important about this event is it shows the Portland Water Bureau is in the process of reclaiming its history, and finding itself and its roots.”

Portland Water Bureau Administrator David G. Shaff joined Leonard as the event began. Leonard said Shaff should be up front, because it was his birthday.

“It’s been a decade since this fountain ran,” Leonard began. “It is wonderful to reintroduce it to community. The Water Bureau has worked hard to restore trust and confidence in the bureau. Our historic traditions had been lost. Some have said this is ‘the new Water Bureau’ ‚Äì I’d argue with that. I’d say this is the ‘old’ Water Bureau that people respected for so long.”

The Commissioner thanked Friends of the Reservoir for their help. The group is said to be making monuments that reflect the city’s connections to the reservoirs.

Commissioner Leonard puts his feelings into words by sharing an original poem at the fountain’s re-commissioning.

Commissioner’s poetry
“I have a predilection for history ‚Äì especially history that helps explain who we are,” Leonard continued. “I looked for a poem about why people are connected to their water supply. I couldn’t find anything. So, I wrote a poem:

Mt. Tabor’s Fountain
The water falls to the lake so lone,
It gathers from the peaks about our home.

It begins its journey through majestic pipes,
With simplicity, captures nature’s immutable might.

We gather at its feet to watch its rebirth,
A glorious spouting from the magic earth.

It gathers again, to begin one last journey,
To the home if its people, the fortunate many.

Jay Fyre, Portland Water Bureau Southeast Operator, and Floy Jones, founding member of Friends of the Reservoir, open the valve that turns on a 50-foot high geyser in Reservoir 6 at Mt. Tabor. No pumps are required; the water pressure is supplied from Reservoir #5 located further up Mt. Tabor.

Reservoir friends pleased
“We’ve worked for years to save these Portland landmarks and wonderful engineering structures,” is how Floy Jones, founding member of Friends of the Reservoirs, put it to us, after she helped open the fountain’s valve.

Floy Jones, founding member of Friends of the Reservoirs.

“This is an important day, the culmination of requests we’ve made. It’s been a long journey to bring back the beauty and glory that has been part of these reservoirs for years.”

To her, personally, Jones continued, turning on the fountain signals that the Portland Water Bureau has taken a positive turn. “We went through an era in which there was a lot of mistrust of the bureau. I spent years of my life researching contracts and documents. It means we’ve turned the corner. In Randy Leonard, we have a leader who cares our water and history.”

Randy Leonard is “knighted” by Cascade Anderson Geller

The knighting of Sir Randy Leonard
As the water shot into the air in the background, Cascade Anderson Geller approached Leonard, ready to “knight” him.

She told the group, “This fountain is gravity fed; it takes no resources. It was designed and made during the movement, so many years ago, to combine utility and beauty. Restoring this fountain honors our ancestors who gave us these wonderful public works.

“I knight Commissioner Randy Leonard with stalks of yarrow ‚Äì it symbolizes courage and leadership throughout the centuries. I’m knighting him as ‘Champion of Portland’s Water System’.”

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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