Is it any surprise that something as quirky as the world's smallest park is in Portland, Oregon? The little recreational area known as Mill Ends Park is a miniscule 452 inches square, and it's located on SW Naito Parkway's median strip. Unfortunately, there's enough room in the park for just one visitor at a time.
The tiny little park first sprouted up in 1948-- it was originally intended to be the site of a light pole, but when the pole didn't arrive, the hole dug for it became overgrown with weeds. Reporter Dick Fagan's office overlooked the median, and after watching the hole sit abandoned for awhile, decided to do something about it. On St. Patrick's Day in 1948, he held an official dedication for his new park, which he called "Mill Ends" after his column in the Oregon Journal.
However, an abandoned lightpole hole doesn't make for a very interesting story, so Fagan decided to embellish the tale of how the park came to be-- just a little bit. As the story goes, he captured a leprechaun named Patrick O'Toole hiding in the hole one night. Leprechauns are required to grant wishes to humans who catch them, and Fagan asked Peter O'Toole for a park of his very own. However, just because leprechauns grant wishes doesn't mean they aren't sneaky little creatures-- because Fagan never said anything about the size of the park, Patrick O'Toole gave him the hole.
The leprechauns who lived in Mill Ends, which Fagan dubbed "the world's largest leprechaun colony West of Ireland", have been known to appear from time to time when their presence is needed-- for example, when the city of Portland passed an 11pm curfew on all parks, Fagan published a letter from Patrick O'Toole threatening to put a "leprechaun curse" on the mayor if he attempted to evict O'Toole and his merry band of fictional followers. As Wikipedia so eloquently puts it, "Subsequently, no legal action was taken, and the leprechauns were allowed to stay in the park after hours."
In 1971, Mill Ends was officially declared the world's smallest park by Guinness, and in 1976 it was named a city park. Over the years, Mill Ends Park has contained various plants, trees, and other things. For a while it was a swimming pool for butterflies, complete with tiny diving board. Another time it had a mini Ferris wheel, delivered by a full-sized crane. It was even once moved 80 feet during road construction before being returned to its original location. It's still (somehow) the site of St. Patrick's Day celebrations, and an Occupy Portland protest occurred there in December 2011-- all the protestors were plastic army men holding tiny little signs. It's definitely one of Portland's more Portland-y attractions, and totally worth a visit...just maybe one person at a time.
Looking for another offbeat park? Check out the hoodoos at Goblin Valley State Park, take a whiff of the delicious-smelling trees at Bryce Canyon National Park, or explore the art at Laumeier Sculpture Park & Museum!
Header via Wikimedia Commons