Construction in the Washington Park International Rose Test Garden is limiting visitor access for now, but will soon open up the park's mobility to a more diverse crowd — just in time for blooming season.
The ongoing project will remove ADA accessibility barriers from the main promenade inside the Rose Garden and improve the connection to the parking lot. Upgrades are estimated to last 100 more years.
"Some of the walkways in the Rose Test Garden presented physical barriers to visitors with mobility challenges," said Robin Laughlin, bond project manager with Portland Parks & Recreation. "The project will remove those barriers by repairing and replacing existing walkways, ramps and steps."
In April, construction closed off access to the ramp near the Rose Garden Store to excavate the pathway, regrade and repave it, and install a handrail.
"We're pouring concrete now and putting on the final touches for the walls," Laughlin said.
Concrete pours occurred last week on Tuesday and Thursday following a May 18 pour, supplied by Ross Island Sand & Gravel.
The project scope includes improving sloping and grading, adding new handrails and removing stairs leading into the main promenade area near the Beach Memorial Fountain. It will improve access from the parking area to the garden, and add accessible viewing areas to the top of the Amphitheater.
The job is funded by the Parks Replacement Bond, and the construction bid was awarded at $954,927.
"Initial Replacement Bond project identified with community input included making accessibility improvement to the Washington Park Rose Test Garden," said Laughlin. "Equity and equal access is such a high priority for (PP&R)."
The Parks Replacement Bond was passed with the support of more than 73 percent of voters in November 2014. Its primary focus is on repair and replacement of the most critical needs in the parks system. The total bond is for $68 million, and work has begun on the first list of 33 Bond projects citywide.
"The 2015 Parks Supplement report to the citywide ADA Transition Plan listed the barriers at the International Rose Test Garden as a high priority primarily because many impeded access paths of travel to and within the garden," Laughlin said.
"The garden is a unique site in the park system, and the garden receives a very high number of visitors. It is one of the top free attractions in Oregon year after year," Laughlin said. "Making these improvement will enhance the safety of park users and will facilitate the use of the site by users with mobility challenges including those with strollers and small children."
The 4.5-acre garden is the oldest official continuously-operated public rose test garden in the United States, with over 10,220 rose bushes and 607 varieties of roses. It serves as a testing ground for new rose varieties.
Led by the Garden's curator, many dedicated volunteers help care for the roses and lead daily free tours during the summer.
The Garden is free and open to the public year-round, and more than half a million people visit every year.
Despite this, the main promenade of the Garden features many ADA accessibility challenges including steep slopes, uneven pavement, and stairs leading into and out of the fountain area. This project will correct these issues so that the main promenade through the garden is much more accessible for all ages and abilities.
"Washington Park's International Rose Test Garden hosts thousands of visitors every year. Folks come from across town, across the country, and from around the world to see this special place," Laughlin said. "The accessibility upgrades currently underway will open access to the northern portion of the garden."
"Renovating a 100-year-old garden has presented unique access challenges," Laughlin said. "A pumper truck was used to deliver the pours to the site, reaching over existing stone walls and garden spaces."
Some areas are currently closed off and certain garden paths are shared with construction equipment and vehicles, moving around to pour concrete.
Concrete pouring vehicles are taking up space in the parking lot some days, using a giant hose and crane to pour concrete into the garden from above.
"The project design was developed using a unique 3-day charrette model that included stakeholders from the public, from our maintenance staff and from the design team," Laughlin said. "This allowed the team to move the project into the permit and bid phases quickly, allowing construction in time for the garden's centennial summer bloom season."
As for materials, CLSM — controlled low strength material, a weak, runny, nonstructural concrete — was used below the promenade in an effort to balance the cut fill weights (which means a higher bearing capacity is placed on top of the obstacle in order to carry the weight of the pathway and reduce differential settlement.)
"This was necessary (because of) the site's special geotechnical issues," Laughlin said.
About 10 workers are laboring on site at a time.
"Our biggest challenge has been the weather: heavy and record-setting continued rains have delayed aspects of construction," Laughlin said. "The contractor has done a tremendous job adjusting their work plan in response to challenging weather conditions and is on track to meet the original project deadlines."
The project broke ground in February, and substantial completion is slated for mid June — in time for the garden to celebrate its centennial anniversary this year on August 26.