Mt. Tabor Park

170 acres in S.E.Portland
Portland, OR

Submitted by: Barbara Grimala

This city park is constructed around Portland's municipal reservoirs.

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Why It Works

With their picturesque structures and decorative wrought iron fences and lamp posts, the reservoirs are vital landscape elements to the park. The reservoirs are integrated into the park via a series of promenades, walking paths and open areas which provide viewpoints of both downtown Portland and Mt. Hood.

The romantically designed gate houses, along with the whimsically designed restrooms and other park buildings, draw one to believe that they are in a unique space defined far beyond their utilitarian use and provide a civic context that this is an important park for the City of Portland. It has had very few alterations since the turn of the century; however the City is planning to bury the reservoirs and cover them, significantly altering this national treasure. We are in crisis and need national exposure.

What Makes Mt. Tabor Park a Great Place?

The park is surrounded by many residential housing tracts that are located around the volcanic butte. There are four road entrances into the park. Many people walk up to the park to use the numerous walking paths. It is possible to drive through portions of the park, but one must walk to reach the top. The design is so unobtrusive and organic that you rarely feel like you are in a city park. A great deal of bicyclists also use the park, and there is a paved loop from the bottom to the top. The park has very few sidewalks and much of it is closed off to vehicles, so people can walk on the roads or paths.

The park also attracts a lot of bird watchers. An extinct volcanic cinder cone is located in the center of the park. This area is used for free public concerts in the summer underwritten by the City and Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association. The park also has a Soap Box Derby Tract with races held every year. People circulate through all areas of the park at this time.

The park located on a volcanic butte can be viewed from downtown Portland. It draws you with its rich green hue, which is due to the density of trees and naturalistic landscape. It is maintained by the City of Portland, who actually has offices on site. In addition, there is a non profit group “Friends of Mt. Tabor Park” who lobby and protect it, and a group of volunteers does regular foot patrols to monitor the area. The park is clean, safe and well loved. Vehicles do not dominate the space, which increases the sense of uniqueness about it. It is truly a sanctuary.

This park is well loved and provides space for a variety of uses and needs. All ages use the park, including children who use the play area. There are sheltered picnic areas, and informal groups, such as Tai Chi groups, bird tours and walkers, meet on a regular basis.

A great many people use the park on a regular basis, in particular to walk their dogs. This space is a tourist site due to its glorious views and landscape context of curvilinear roads and walking paths. Many people come to just relax and read.

History & Background

Mt. Tabor Park is an Olmsted-influenced park developed around a series of architecturally significant reservoirs and associated buildings. Constructed between 1894 and 1910/1911, the reservoirs located within the 170 acre park are significant not only as functioning components of the municipal water system, but also as symbols of the importance of the reservoirs to the development of the city from a small town to a large metropolis.

Contact Info:

Steve Reinemer: 503-774-7521
Portland Parks and Recreation: 503-823-PLAY

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