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Portland Parks & Recreation restores water to Open Space Sequence with help from Halprin nonprofit

COURTESY PARKS & REC - FROM LEFT: Park Ranger Rhonan Eshoo, Halprin Landscape Conservancy Executive Director Karen Whitman, HLC board president Bob Naito, Commissioner Nick Fish, Parks Director Adena Long and Park Ranger Vicente Harrison cut the ribbon at Keller Fountain on Tuesday, July 30.A confluence of city Parks & Recreation funds and donated dollars has restored the gentle babble of downtown Portland's famed four-fountain quartet.

City and nonprofit officials put the final touches on the city's Open Space Sequence — comprising Keller Fountain Park, Pettygrove Park, Lovejoy Fountain Park, and the Source Fountain — during a parade and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, July 30.

The series of linked plazas and water features are more than urban scenery. According to the Halprin Landscape Conservancy, it's a piece of Portland history worth preserving.

"You get a big ah-hah when you see all the fountains running," said Karen Whitman, the nonprofit's executive director. "But at night, at Keller, you'd also see the drama of the lights."

Designed by acclaimed architect Lawrence Halprin and his firm in the 1960s, Whitman describes the fountains and reflecting pools as becoming little more than barren springs in recent years, due to deferred maintenance and budget cuts.

"There was just more and more degradation," she said. "With some extra attention and ongoing care, we'll never go back to the days when it looked so horrible."

The total cost of the project was $3.85 million, with $2.15 million supplied by a unique variant of the local improvement district, which only collected funds on a voluntary basis. The remainder, $1.7 million, came from City Hall.

Whitman says a driving force for the repairs was local developer John Russell, who owns the "black box" 19-story high-rise at 200 S.W. Market St.

The major restoration work that began in July, 2018 included fixes to underground utilities, drainage, wiring and pumps — one of which supplies 13,000 gallons per minute to the Keller Fountain — as well as new plantings, scrubbing off graffiti, sealing joints, paving, accessibility and security improvements and shoring up concrete walls.

While some Portlanders may not have noticed the Cascade Mountain Range and Columbia River motiff, the Open Space Sequence truly is meant to be experienced in order. Start at the Source Fountain, at Southwest Lincoln Street and 1st Avenue, then trek north on the pedestrian trail to Lovejoy Fountain and Pettygrove Park. The sequence ends across the street from the Keller Auditorium at 4th Avenue and Clay Street.

"It's just been hidden," said Whitman, but "there is a sequence." COURTESY PARKS & REC - The Lions of Batucada, a local Brazilian style samba ensemble, perform at Pettygrove Park during the grand re-opening of the Open Space Sequence in downtown Portland.

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