Mill Ends Park: The Mysterious Tale Of The Smallest Park In The World

Placard at the Mill Ends Park warning about the Leprechaun's curse.
Placard at the Mill Ends Park warning about the Leprechaun's curse.

The Smallest Park In The World

At 452 square inches, Mill Ends Park is the smallest park in the world. It has held this distinction since 1971, when it was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records. This park, established in 1948, is located in Portland, Oregon in a median along southwest Naito Parkway. It is managed by Portland's Parks and Recreation Department.

History Of Mill Ends Park

This park was originally designated as a site for a light pole. However, the city failed to have it installed. As something of a practical joke, an Oregon Journal newspaper reporter, Dick Fagan, decided to plant flowers in the space. The park’s creator, whose office overlooked the median, named the park after his newspaper column, “Mill Ends.” Mill ends is a term used to refer to the unused scraps of wood left over at lumber yards. The story about the park caught on, and on St. Patrick's Day in 1948, the city celebrated the park’s official dedication ceremony. At the time, they can refer to it as the “only leprechaun colony west of Ireland.”

Mystery Surrounding Mill Ends Park

In order to increase the park’s popularity, Dick Fagan created a legend surrounding its beginnings. He claimed to have caught sight of a leprechaun digging a hole in the park when he looked out of his office window. According to his story, Fagan ran down to the street and trapped the leprechaun, earning himself a wish. He wished to have his very own park. The leprechaun, however, being true to his trickster nature, gave him the hole to fulfill his wish because Fagan had not been specific about how big he wanted his park to be.

Dick Fagan carried on his story over the next 20 years, writing about the park and its leprechaun in his newspaper column. Patrick O'Toole, the park’s leprechaun, could only be seen by Fagan. In one of his articles, the reporter published a protest that Patrick O'Toole had made against the city's 11 o'clock curfew for parks. in his statement, O'Toole threatened to cast a leprechaun curse against the mayor if he tried to keep him out of Mill Ends Park after 11 o'clock at night.

Changes At Mill Ends Park

Since Fagan's death in 1969, local residents have taken care of and maintained the park and in 1976, the city government registered Mill Ends as an official park. Over the years, it has undergone a number of changes. One of its most notable additions was a butterfly swimming pool which had a diving board, a piece of the old Journal building, a horseshoe, and a miniature ferris wheel.

The city continues to hold St. Patrick's Day celebrations at Mill Ends Park. In 2001, for example, the park was filled with children’s drawings of leprechauns and visited by a leprechaun and his pot of gold. Other St. Patrick's Day festivities here have included concerts by the Clan Macleay Pipe Band, various bagpipers, and picnics.

As part of the Occupy Portland movement of 2011, the park was decorated with small army figures and protest signs. In 2013, the small tree in Mill Ends Park was stolen. The Parks and Recreation Department quickly replaced the tree and the next day a passerby reported seeing the stolen tree uprooted next to the new replacement tree. In April of 2013, the municipal government of Burntwood in the UK lodged a complaint with the Guinness Book of Records.They argued that Mill Ends Park should not be considered a park because it lacked a fence as well as other typical park-like features. Instead, they suggested that Prince’s Park (the smallest in the UK) should hold the record for world's smallest park. Volunteers in Portland responded by building a fence around Mill Ends Park and placing an armed guard at its entrance. Mill Ends park has retained its title.


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