Honey, they shrunk the park: Portland’s world record may soon be undershadowed
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
TALENT – Portland Parks & Recreation Commissioner Carmen Rubio congratulated Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood on Friday for her work in helping create what is now — unofficially — the tiniest park in the world.
Rubio took to Twitter to share a letter to Ayers-Flood one day after the city of Talent and the Talent Garden Club, in conjunction with Bee City USA Talent, unveiled the pint-sized patch of native plants to reporters and a couple dozen onlookers, with many marveling at the smallness of the new, whimsical landscape.
Gerlinde Smith of Bee City USA Talent and the Talent Garden Club reminded all at the unveiling that “Small is beautiful.” The city’s newest “park for pollinators” and its native plants to aid pollination was designed in hopes of gaining designation as the smallest park in the world from the Guiness Book of World Records.
Mill Ends Park, 452 square inches in the middle of a traffic median in Portland, currently holds the official title. Talent’s is 78 square inches smaller.
Rubio’s letter to Ayers-Flood shared light-hearted challenges of maintaining tiny parks:
“I’m not sure whether you, like Portland, 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,” Rubio said in the letter shared via Twitter. “Without these, and with southern Oregon’s heat, you will certainly get poor reviews on Yelprechaun.”
There may not be adequate room for Leprechauns to Portland standards, but less is more.
A Lego beekeeper and a lego lawn — a gift from Talent Maker City executive director Allie French — fits the small space perfectly.
Smith believes the Talent park, planted last Wednesday, is also the only biodynamic park in the world. It is located in a pedestrian plaza near the Talent Irrigation District Office on West Valley View Road.
“This whole project of the smallest park has been a huge collaborative effort,” Smith said at the park dedication, “where so many groups and individuals and groups came together.”
The Talent Public Arts Committee came up with the idea for creating the tiny park. While not certified just yet, Smith sounds hopeful it will become official, as the enclosed area of the city of Talent’s park is smaller than that of Mills Park, built in 1948.
Ayers-Flood and her wife, Heather Ayers, asked Smith if she could make the concept a reality.
“Without even thinking and batting an eyelid I said, ‘Of course,’” Smith said.
Work began in January and took five months, according to Smith.
Smith set out to investigate Mill Ends Park in Portland, which has a 2-foot diameter.
“I thought, we can do better than that,” Smith said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
The park, which rang up approximately $1,400 in costs with all materials, is defined by a hexagonal enclosure – “think honeycomb, think bees,” Smith said.
The shape is reflective of the city’s designation as the second Bee City in the U.S., after Asheville, N.C.
Jim Thompson with Bee City USA Talent created hexagon-shaped signage with a prominently placed large mosaic bee near the enclosed park.
Rick Evans created a wrought-iron fence to enclose the tiny space.
Talent Maker City, led by French, sought expertise from Portland artist Karen Rycheck. French coordinated Rycheck coming to Talent and leading a volunteer effort at Talent Maker City to make mosaic stepping stones, which were placed around the enclosed park.
French also presented Smith with a Lego figurine of a beekeeper on a Lego patch of grass to place inside the park’s enclosure.
Native plants abound inside the small space, including Mock Orange or “Illuminati Tower,” Yellow Eyed Grass, and Lewisia, named for Meriweather Lewis of Lewis & Clark, Monardella and Pussy Toes.
“In biodynamics, we don’t just merge the soil itself and plants, but we create little ecosystems where all living beings are being nurtured,” she said.
Smith, who donated the native plants and soil, will also water the park herself.
She said meditation at the park is an important spiritual component to the green space and that caretakers have meditated at the space for 20 minutes a day since it was planted.
“We want to create this as a sacred ground,” Smith said.
Smith also thanked contributions to the project by Talent City Council, Talent Public Works, and the Parks Department.
“Our community … has been absolutely savaged by the Almeda Fire and it’s really a miracle how much has emerged in terms of growth,” Smith said. “This is just, you walk by and you can’t help but smile … you look at these colorful things, and you go, aah, someone cares, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at firstname.lastname@example.org.