Spring welcomes Leach Botanical Garden's growth
An expanded Leach Botanical Garden could be a beacon of solitude and open space on the east side of the metropolitan area when it reopens in April sometime.
Five acres have been added to Leach Botanical Garden, located at 6704 S.E. 122nd Ave., making it 16 acres, an expansion that included the construction of a new staircase to access the new area, an aerial tree walkway, a pollinator and habitat meadow, a gathering arbor space with a fireplace and a big lawn. There'll also be a new entrance on Southeast Claybourne Street.
Total cost was $12.6 million, including $1.3 million from Leach Garden Friends, said Adena Long, director of Portland Parks and Recreation. It's part of a huge investment by Portland Parks and Recreation into East Portland; former commissioners Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz stressed the importance of improving Leach Botanical Garden.
"It's impactful for East Portland," Long said. "It's been park- and open-space deficient. It's righting wrongs." The inequity of quality park space between the west side of Portland and east "is huge."
She added: "People on the east side have something of their own."
"We want to be a center of the community," said Mae Lin Plummer, the new executive director of Leach Botanical Garden.
Much of Portland has been closed down or limited during the COVID-19 pandemic. With vaccinations helping bring down case numbers, it's a time of spring renewal for Portlanders.
"It's a symbol of how we're reopening," said Carmen Rubio, Parks Commissioner for Portland Parks and Recreation. "We're embarking on a new year, and we have the levy resources to reach into East Portland.
"Especially during COVID, there's nothing more important than green space in a community."
Though the arbor and fireplace gathering area and open space in the expansion will be well-used, nothing catches the eye more than the aerial tree walk.
"It's really special and unique," Plummer said.
The pollinator garden includes 30,000 bulbs with 144 different species. Trillium and Hellebore are two of the species.
And, only four trees had to be removed for the project.
Before the expansion, "it was more of a patchwork, not a cohesive flow," Long said.
Long hopes Leach Botanical Garden, which has accepted 50 visitors at a time during the pandemic (around Manor House), attracts people from all walks of life and backgrounds, especially once the new upper space opens. The Leach Garden Friends group has been a valuable partner, she said.
"It's a weekend destination," she said. "We also want to welcome school groups."
The 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.
Ross Swanson, a PP&R project manager, proclaimed, "We want it to be a legitimate garden — not that it wasn't before."
Parks officials are asking members of the public to refrain from visiting the expanded area until it's opened in April.
Some people have pushed aside fencing and ignored signs to access the area under construction.
Perhaps people are really excited to visit Leach Botanical Garden?
It was supposed to be open in March, but the recent storm set back the timeline.
Said Rubio: "Leach Botanical Garden is a special place for relaxing, reflecting and for connecting with nature. It's delightful that these improvements are the result of robust fundraising by 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."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.