Earth Day Land Announcement

Earth Day 2024 marked a big development for Portland Botanical Gardens (PBG), and we’re excited to share that we signed a Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) for a potential site to build the Gardens. The PSA gives PBG one year to conduct due diligence, raise funds, and develop a collaborative plan with local and city-wide organizations. 

Advocating for Restoration and Public Access

The piece of land in question is the McCormick & Baxter (M&B) Superfund site located along the shore of the Willamette River in North Portland. Formerly a creosoting wood treatment plant for railroad and telephone poles, the M&B property was designated a Superfund site in the early 1990s, with cleanup and remediation completed in 2005. The property features 42 acres of riparian land and upland habitat and 18 acres below water. Over 30,000 tons of contaminated soil was removed and the entire site was re-landscaped with around 6 feet of clean soil and native plantings. The property is managed and closely monitored by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Bird's eye view of the McCormick & Baxter site

Healing the Land

Over the past two decades, swathes of native plants have returned to the site including Oregon white oaks (Quercus garryana), ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa), and Pacific madrones (Arbutus menziesii) thanks to extensive restoration efforts. These native trees and plants provide additional habitat for migrating bird species native to the Pacific Northwest’s coastal regions. The M&B site is the oldest and largest restored habitat in the Portland Harbor.

Engaging the Community and Neighborhoods

The prospective site is adjacent to the University of Portland in the University Park neighborhood, right along the 44’s route. While part of the land will be used for the botanical garden, PBG envisions that significant portions will be open-to-the-public greenspace that provide direct water access along Willamette River. By landing here, PBG will also be able to contribute to the extension of the North Portland leg of the protected bike and pedestrian Greenway that is currently in the works. The riparian and upland areas around the trail could provide up to 10 acres of new public open space to North Portland. This stretch of trail would connect local neighborhoods to the waterfront, other greenspaces along the river, and the rest of Portland. This collaborative Greenway development will allow PBG to provide a space of interconnectedness to bring plants and people together, from Portland and beyond.

Bluffs behind the McCormick & Baxter site

Finding a Home for PBG

In 2020, our team began researching M&B to ensure it would be a safe and viable candidate for a botanical garden, community greenspace, and native habitat restoration project. It’s been a long journey to get to this point, but we couldn’t have done it without our generous donors and our team of hardworking volunteers. As a grassroots effort, PBG will continue to team up with public agencies, nonprofits, neighborhood organizations, environmental activists, local small businesses, cultural organizations, and others to ensure that this becomes a legacy project for the city.

Building the Gardens

It’s critical that any development on the site is done sustainably and thoughtfully so the restoration of its native habitats can continue. As a new prospective steward for M&B, we welcome input and guidance from the EPA, DEQ, and other regional environmental organizations. The land itself acts as a testament to the resilience of nature, and serves as the perfect spot for an education and conservation-based organization like PBG. It commemorates the longstanding efforts and collaboration of organizations that were involved in the clean up, and their devotion to restore the site.

McCormick & Baxter site plan for Portland Botanical Gardens
Proposed PBG site layout done in collaboration with NNA Landscape Architects

Forming the Vision

We have a lot of ideas for what PBG can be, but so do you! With this prospective space secured, we’re looking to our surrounding communities to join us as we determine what the Gardens can be. If you’re interested in getting involved, you can reach out to info@portlandbg.org.

Starting with the Basics

We envision visitors enjoying the scenic waterfront, picnicking on its shores, and delighting in the large greenspaces dotted with flourishing plants. Delving deeper into the Gardens, they’ll venture along accessible outdoor pathways to visit various conservatories, pavilions, research collections, and the Willamette waterfront. Beyond scenery and greenspace, visitors will be able to explore abundant collections of significant and endangered plants of Oregon and beyond under watch of the Fremont, Burlington, and St. Johns Bridges. And, for those interested in enjoying some sun and getting active, the Willamette Greenway trail will connect PBG to the rest of Portland.

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