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A quiet park is the point

by: Courtesy of, Letter writer Mike Houck left the hubbub of crowded Jamison Square in the Pearl behind when he walked two blocks over to Tanner Springs Park to snap this photo of park users who might want to skip the crowds and noise.

I am writing in response to comments attributed to Fred Kent of New York City's Project for Public Spaces in 'Visit, but don't play' regarding the design of Tanner Springs Park (July 14). Kent says, 'Take it out and put in a park people will use.'

Unfortunately, he falls into the trap of judging every public space by how heavily it is used, not by the function it serves or the experience it provides.

He asserts that the designers of Tanner Springs are on an ego trip. In my opinion, Tanner Springs' design - by members of Portland's own GreenWorks landscape architecture firm - reflects not their egos but the attributes that Pearl District residents and others who live nearby asked for.

Kent also fails to consider the park's context. One block from Tanner Springs, Jamison Square abounds with people of all ages, particularly children. Anyone who visits the park, especially on a hot sunny day, knows there are oftentimes 200 to 300 people lounging on the grass or playing in the water with their kids.

Unlike Jamison Square, Tanner Springs is a place for one to sit, stare and enjoy a peaceful respite.

Additionally, as the article pointed out, there is a third, much larger park planned closer to the river that will serve other needs and perform other functions. Taken together, the three parks will create distinct public spaces that provide both local residents of the Pearl District and those from around the city with a variety of experiences.

Mike Houck

Director, Urban Greenspaces Institute

Northwest Portland

Park fits in 'slightly Stepford' district

Your article on Tanner Springs Park perfectly illustrates the larger, endemic situation in the Pearl District. The headline, 'Visit, but don't play,' is so strong a statement on the Pearl that it nearly brought me to tears.

To many inhabitants of Portland, the Pearl District exemplifies waste and hype. The condominium buildings there are much like Tanner Park: impersonal, expensive and pretentious. The Pearl itself is a sort of bubble of ignorant affluence, slightly Stepford, filled with the meandering wealthy and their spoiled dogs.

I worked in the Pearl for a number of years. I had to leave. It felt as though I was going insane, because everyone I met was exactly the same. All the women wore the same tans and Louis Vuitton purses. All the men were broad-smiling glad-handers without one ounce of authentic humanism.

Tanner Springs Park, the neighbors that pass it by, and the neighborhood they live in, all hand over the same message. That message is one of condescending, overblown affluence.

Jeffrey Gillespie

Northwest Portland

Pausing is what park is for, not play

Your 'Visit, but don't play' headline accurately reflects the planning and design of Tanner Springs Park, but you seem to think that the many hours of planning and public meetings somehow got it wrong.

As one who attended two of the public meetings, I can attest that the designers far exceeded the hopes of local residents. Tanner Springs provides peace and an ability to contemplate nature.

What you did not explain fully is the reason pets are not permitted in Tanner Springs Park.

The block is as isolated from the city infrastructure as is feasible. It can and is sometimes drained and refilled with city water, but the intention is to have it collect and use rainwater nearly exclusively. For that reason, animal waste has to be kept to an absolute minimum; the occasional bird dropping won't do much damage, but even one dog urinating will add more ammonia than the system can handle.

Charles Ryberg

Northwest Portland

Park reflects desires of local residents

I grew up in Northwest Portland, and as a youth loved to walk through what is now the Pearl District, then filled with historic buildings, warehouses and loading docks. I never tired of walking on the old cobblestones, now all but lost to the westward march of condos.

Nonetheless, as a low-income renter in the industrial ghetto of inner Southeast, I happily moved to the Pearl four years ago, around the same time that architect Maya Lin's proposal for Tanner Springs Park was made public. As I recall, what she thought the neighborhood needed was one big field of rubber mounds!

Note to Project for Public Spaces President Fred Kent: It is because the public need was put before that designer's ego and 'iconic design' that we ended up with a very different Tanner Springs Park.

I wholeheartedly agree with Andrea Clinkscales that this densely populated, intensely trafficked neighborhood needed 'access to some contemplative nature scene.'

Without the oasis of relative peace and quiet that is Tanner Springs Park to escape to in the evenings, I'd have a much tougher time dealing with the 19-story construction project just yards from my apartment.

Nan Wilder

Northwest Portland

Natural oasis makes a welcome refuge

I take exception to much of what was said about our newest park, Tanner Springs.

I live in the Pearl and on daily walks I always include Tanner Springs, where I can sit and rest awhile, watch the many birds playing in the stream, dragonflies whizzing by, and the minnows and goldfish in the pond.

I love to walk on the boardwalk and dock and then descend into the park. The stream of water is so clear with its little waterfalls, and the blooming wildflowers and swaying tall grass are restful to the soul. I see many people sitting on the terraced grass areas reading, sunbathing and talking among themselves.

I think that we need to give Tanner Springs time to settle in, just as we did with Jamison Park. When it first opened, no one knew how to find it, either.

Sue Beardwood

Northwest Portland