Photo credit: Robert Hyland & Portland Parks & Recreation
Portland Parks & Recreation and Leach Botanical Garden/Leach Garden Friends have completed major improvements which have greatly enhanced the iconic east Portland destination. Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), Prosper Portland, and Metro partnered with Leach Botanical Garden staff and supporters on the garden expansion and enhancements, including:
• An aerial tree walk
• A pollinator and habitat meadow
• A gathering green lawn
• An outdoor gathering arbor with a fire feature on a terrace
• A new central pathway between the Manor House and Upper Garden
• Enhanced woodland plantings
• A new public pathway leading from SE Claybourne Street down to the SE 122nd Avenue bridge
• A new entrance at SE Claybourne Street
The entire garden has now reopened under a timed ticketing system with reservations available online. Please visit LeachGarden.org to learn more about admission and parking at the Garden.
A grand reopening celebration will be held on a future date.
“Leach Botanical Garden is a special place for relaxing, reflecting, and for connecting with nature,” says new Portland Parks Commissioner Carmen Rubio. “It’s delightful that these improvements are the result of robust fundraising by the Leach Friends as well as public dollars from development fees. An expanded and enhanced Leach Botanical Garden helps further our equity efforts for people in East Portland, and throughout the Northwest.”
The project is the culmination of more than six years of planning and design, in partnership between Leach Garden Friends and Portland Parks & Recreation. Early in the planning stage, the now-retired former Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz issued a challenge to the Leach Garden Friends – and they responded by raising more than $1.25 million in private funds for the project. The City also thanks the late former Parks Commissioner, Nick Fish, for his support of the project. Other funding included about $9.2 million in Parks System Development Charges (development fees from construction – SDCs are development fees, NOT General Fund tax dollars), $2 million from Prosper Portland, and a $188,000 grant from Metro.
“While Leach Botanical Garden has always been a hidden gem, now it will be the world-class destination that East Portland deserves,” says recently-retired Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “Commissioner Nick Fish was the Council champion for Leach and for these improvements, and it gives me great satisfaction to have partnered with him, Prosper Portland, the Leach Garden Friends and staff, and Metro to get the project completed.”
Portland Parks & Recreation assisted in the Leach Botanical Garden master plan, which called for this project to expand the iconic gardens, and add new features including an aerial tree walk, pollinator garden, new pathways, and parking. The tree walk offers a view of the forest visitors have never experienced – and will never forget. The pollinator meadow features 144 different species of shrubs and grasses, and about 30,000 bulbs thanks to Metro’s grant. The improvements are appealing to visitors and well-suited for field trips and lectures, for durability and function, and for a sense of tranquility and connection to nature.
“We need our parks and green spaces now more than ever,” says Portland Parks Director Adena Long. “And Leach Botanical Garden is a unique urban sanctuary. Thanks to enthusiastic private fundraising – which leveraged City and partner funding – we have a world-class botanical treasure. Leach is and will continue to be a place for reflection, science, and recreation.”
“Where flowers bloom, so does hope,” says Mae Lin Plummer, Leach Botanical Garden Executive Director. “The opening of the new Upper Garden and Aerial Tree Walk comes at a pivotal moment in time, after over a year of managing the hardships and adversities of the pandemic. Leach Botanical Garden welcomes and invites all to share in the reimagining of our garden and a new chapter of exciting growth, but also the fulfillment of hope in the comforting emergence of spring when plants and nature remind us of the resiliency and endurance of life.”
Portland Parks & Recreation staff featured Project Manager Ross Swanson, who wishes to recognize the efforts of PP&R Construction Manager Reid Blanchard. The PP&R Capital Projects Manager is Britta Herwig.
System Development Charges (SDCs), which helped fund this project, are one-time fees assessed on new development. SDCs help ensure that Portland’s quality of life keeps pace with our growing and changing city by providing additional parks and recreation facilities needed to accommodate growth.
The Leach Botanical Garden is spread over 16 tranquil acres and is home to more than 1000 species of plants. A community celebration will be held at a future date, pending public health guidance. When the Garden reopens, visitors must practice physical distancing, wear face coverings, wash their hands regularly, and stay home if they don’t feel well for any reason. Find the latest information on PP&R COVID-19 related closures and cancellations at portland.gov/parks/covid-19-updates-closures-and-postponements.
Leach Botanical Garden History
Pharmacist John Leach and botanist Lilla Leach donated their prized garden to the City in their will. In 1981, then-Parks Commissioner Charles Jordan moved to acquire the property and saved it from being sold. The Manor House and gardens were preserved for, and continue to serve, all Portlanders and visitors. Now Leach is moving forward to its next chapter, one which presents spectacular opportunities to connect with nature, for education, culture, gatherings, and recreation.
The enhancements at Leach Botanical Garden build on efforts to close the play gap still evident in east Portland, which has fewer parks and green spaces than some other areas of town. Portland Parks & Recreation has made robust and recent investments at sites including Gateway Discovery Park, Gateway Green, Lents Park, and Luuwit View Park.