Elizabeth Caruthers Park

Elizabeth Caruthers Park

Elizabeth Caruthers Park is the central park of Portland’s bustling South Waterfront Redevelopment District, the largest urban renewal project in the city’s history.  Over the past decade the South Waterfront has been transformed from a largely-isolated industrial brownfield into a high-density mixed-use transit-oriented urban neighborhood, defined by a commitment to sustainable urban living.  The park supports the expanding neighborhood and encourages full buildout of the city’s long-term redevelopment strategy. 

The 2-acre park was developed by Portland Parks and Recreation and Portland Development Commission.  Jacob Petersen was Principal-in-Charge of the Caruthers Park Design Team from Schematic Design through Construction Observation, with prime firm Hargreaves Associates.  Lango Hanson Associates served as the local landscape consultant.    

Photo: Bruce Forster

Elizabeth Caruthers Park

Elizabeth Caruthers Park

The serpentine grain of the park’s plantings and paths references the adjacent meandering Willamette River.  The Urban Garden occupies the sunnier downtown end of the park, integrating three shaded program nodes within a rich 4-season perennial garden: a Community Gathering space with movable tables and chairs and a bocce court, an Environmental Play Area with a small interactive fountain and play logs, and a Garden Retreat for reading and relaxing.  The Naturalized Landscape occupies the shadier and windier edges of the site, with boardwalks traversing undulating topography and a mosaic of native woodland plantings.  The Multi-Use Lawn is the heart of the park, accommodating outdoor events and activities, dog walking, and all types of informal recreation.  The landform along provides a seating slope overlooking the lawn, and views to the river basin.  

Photo: Bruce Forster      

Urban Garden

Urban Garden

The Urban Garden occupies the sunnier downtown end of the park, integrating three shaded program nodes within a rich 4-season perennial garden: a Community Gathering space with movable tables and chairs and a bocce court, an Environmental Play Area with a small interactive fountain and play logs for neighborhood kids, and a Garden Retreat with stone terraces for reading and relaxing.   

Photo: Bruce Forster

Urban Garden

Urban Garden

The Urban Garden occupies the sunnier downtown end of the park, integrating three shaded program nodes within a rich 4-season perennial garden: a Community Gathering space with movable tables and chairs and a bocce court, an Environmental Play Area with a small interactive fountain and play logs for neighborhood kids, and a Garden Retreat with stone terraces for reading and relaxing.   

Photo: Bruce Forster

Environmental Play Area

Environmental Play Area

The Environmental Play area encourages children to create their own play through interface with natural elements of wood, stone, and water.  The centerpiece of the Environmental Play Area is the interactive fountain, a shallow circular pool of water with randomly scattered jumping stones - a concept derived from regional Cascade streams.  Motion-activated water jets enliven the fountain when children approach.  Overlapping play logs, referencing regional coniferous forests, invite children to jump, balance, and chase, while providing informal seating for parents.  

Photo: Bruce Forster

Environmental Play Area

Environmental Play Area

The Environmental Play area encourages children to create their own play through interface with natural elements of wood, stone, and water.  The centerpiece of the Environmental Play Area is the interactive fountain, a shallow circular pool of water with randomly scattered jumping stones - a concept derived from regional Cascade streams.  Motion-activated water jets enliven the fountain when children approach.  Overlapping play logs, referencing regional coniferous forests, invite children to jump, balance, and chase, while providing informal seating for parents.      

Photo: Bruce Forster

Multi-Use Lawn

Multi-Use Lawn

The Multi-Use Lawn occupies the center of the park, accommodating outdoor events and activities, sun bathing, dog walking, and all types of informal recreation.  A landform provides sloped seating overlooking the lawn with views out to the adjacent Willamette River basin.  The park is a prime neighborhood event venue and hosts a weekly farmer’s market and seasonal movie and music series.      

Photo: Bruce Forster

Multi-Use Lawn

Multi-Use Lawn

The Multi-Use Lawn occupies the center of the park, accommodating outdoor events and activities, sun bathing, dog walking, and all types of informal recreation.  A landform provides sloped seating overlooking the lawn with views out to the adjacent Willamette River basin.  The park is a prime neighborhood event venue and hosts a weekly farmer’s market and seasonal movie and music series.      

Photo: Bruce Forster

Neighborhood Events

Neighborhood Events

The park is a prime neighborhood event venue and hosts a weekly farmer’s market and seasonal movie and music series.    

Photo: Bruce Forster 

Naturalized Landscape

Naturalized Landscape

The Naturalized Landscape occupies the shadier and windier edges of the site, with boardwalks traversing undulating topography and a mosaic of native woodland plantings.  Song Cycles designed by public artist Doug Hollis, convert breezes into a delicate chimes within the tree canopies, as a play on Portland’s bicycle heritage.  All on-site stormwater is consolidated and conveyed to infiltration gardens set within the Naturalized Landscape, minimizing runoff to the adjacent Willamette River.  

Photo: Bruce Forster

Naturalized Landscape

Naturalized Landscape

The Naturalized Landscape occupies the shadier and windier edges of the site, with boardwalks traversing undulating topography and a mosaic of native woodland plantings.  Song Cycles designed by public artist Doug Hollis, convert breezes into a delicate chimes within the tree canopies, as a play on Portland’s bicycle heritage.  All on-site stormwater is consolidated and conveyed to infiltration gardens set within the Naturalized Landscape, minimizing runoff to the adjacent Willamette River.  

Photo: Bruce Forster

Sustainability

Sustainability

The park’s sustainability features represent the values of the larger Portland community.  All on-site stormwater is consolidated and conveyed to infiltration gardens set within Naturalized Landscape, minimizing runoff to the adjacent Willamette River.  Low-energy fluorescent and induction lighting minimizes electrical consumption, and the motion-activated water feature operates only when children are present.  Irrigation and maintenance are minimized through the use of native and regionally adapted plants.

Photo: Jacob Petersen