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Portland passes tiny torch to Talent

Portland's Mill Ends Park is now the second tiniest park in the world. [Photo courtesy Portland Parks Commissioner Carmen Rubio]
The Talent Garden Club unveils the world’s smallest park, located off West Valley View Road in downtown Talent. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]

Leprechauns, fairies and other creatures sized for tiny parks populated recent correspondence between the cities of Talent and Portland.

Last week, Talent unveiled what it called the World’s Tiniest Park, a 374-square-inch “park” planted on city land downtown. Portland previously had the smallest park, 452-square-inch Mill Ends Park.

On Sunday, after reading about Talent’s new park, Carmen Rubio, Portland Parks and Recreation commissioner, sent a letter of congratulations to Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood, ceding his city’s claim to the world’s tiniest park.

"I congratulate you on the recent opening of your yet-to-be-named small park,“ Rubio wrote.

“In Portland, our own Mill Ends Park — the world’s smallest park since 1971 — is a tremendous asset in our system. A noted leprechaun sanctuary, Mill Ends is a destination for Portlanders and visitors alike. Parkgoers often post photos or write positively about their time in the park, and it maintains a near-perfect rating on Yelprechaun ...

“If parkgoers get too hot, they can enjoy one of the park’s shaded benches (provided they are under five inches), or they can cross the newly improved Naito Parkway — taking care to not get run over by the many bikes — for a dip in the Willamette River. If they get hungry, parkgoers can walk just a few blocks and enjoy one of Portland’s iconic food trucks, where just one item will feed the entire family — a family of leprechauns.

“Managing small parks poses distinct challenges,” Rubio continued. “I’m not sure whether you ... will be making the space available for leprechauns, elves, sprites or other magical creatures, but I would caution that you will need both more space and vegetation. Without these, and with Southern Oregon’s heat, you will certainly get poor reviews on Yelprechaun.

Mill Ends Park was created in 1946, according portland.gov, when newspaper columnist Dick Fagan looked out his window and saw a hole in the concrete outside, a perfect circle filled with weeds. The hole was made for a light post that was never installed. Fagan claimed to have seen a leprechaun in the hole and, running outside, to have caught him and earned a wish.

Fagan wished for a park of his own, but forgot to include dimensions in his wish, and the leprechaun mischievously gifted him the light post hole. Fagan planted flowers in the hole and claimed to have seen the leprechaun many times over the decades, frequently writing about it in his column.

“You are most kind to share your experience with Portland’s soon-to-be, former smallest park in the world,” Ayers-Flood said in a reply letter to Rubio.

Ayers-Flood said Talent’s “guardian angels and their fairies” will be working hard to keep the park healthy. Ayers-Flood touted the wee park’s contribution to what she calls the city’s higher calling — its commitment to the Bee City USA program.

Talent’s tiny park is designed to cater to pollinators, containing carefully chosen plants designed to feed the 620 species of bees native to Oregon.

Talent was the second city in the nation to join the Bee City USA movement advocating communal initiatives to bolster flagging populations of pollinators.

“It’s a well-known fact that where you find bees and butterflies, you will also find the mythical creatures living happily among them. After all, they have been caring for our pollinators long before mankind,” Ayers-Flood said in closing her response.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Morgan Rothborne at mrothborne@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.