Mt. Tabor Lamp post removal
Friends of Mt. Tabor Park is deeply concerned about the removal of the lamp posts in the park. We're working on getting as much information as we can right now and will make a plan of action once we know more about what can be done!
We've sent the following letter to Mayor Wheeler and Commissioner Ryan:
March 13, 2023
Mayor Ted Wheeler
Commissioner Dan Ryan
1221 SW 4th Avenue
Portland, OR 97204
Dear Mayor Wheeler and Commissioner Ryan:
The Friends of Mt. Tabor Park (FMTP) is writing with great concern and urgency about Portland Parks and Recreation’s announced plans to remove hundreds of historic lamp posts from Portland parks, including 81 lampposts in Mt. Tabor Park. As you see from our logo, the iconic historic lamp posts are a signature part of the Mt. Tabor experience. We request that Parks slow down the removal process to allow for a public discussion and for our organization and others to be involved as productive partners.
The Friends of Mt. Tabor Park (FMTP) is a community group comprising several hundred Portland volunteers who nurture Mt. Tabor Park as a healthy and thriving urban oasis. We serve as public advocates who inspire love and stewardship for the park’s natural environment, history and recreational opportunities. We collaborate with Portland Parks and Recreation, complementing its services where needed. Our 2022 annual report is enclosed.
Salient points for this request include the following.
Safety: The FMTP understands and concurs that Parks must ensure the safety of the lampposts. However, eliminating the majority of lights in the park for several years also creates substantial safety concerns. Many, many people walk, run, bike, skateboard and visit after dark on Mt. Tabor. Turning off the lights is likely to lead to more crime and injuries, and more lawsuits. More visitors will get lost. It is unrealistic to say the Park is closed at 10 p.m.—in theory that is true now even with lights—and it is also not realistic to depend on Park Rangers to increase response as they are already overstretched. Plus, darkness comes well before 10 for most of the year. 190 acres of darkness in the middle of the city is a hazard.
History: Since 2004 Mt. Tabor Park has been included on the National Register of Historic Places. Here are some citations relevant to the lamp posts from the National Park Service: NPS Form 10-900 (Oct.1990) United States Department of the Interior National Park Service National Register of Historic Places Registration Form OMB No. 10024-0018
Adding distinctive charm and illumination is the period lighting system comprised of eighty eight single concrete standard lampposts that follow the drives and some of the main interior pathways throughout the park. These lampposts give off a soft, friendly light, reminiscent of gaslights, especially in the interior forested areas where they serve as a reminder of the original
design of accessibility. The lighting encourages pedestrian exploration of the hills and dells throughout the park even in the short days of the colder months. Originally topped with a single, white, glass globe, polygonal lantern-style shades have replaced the globes….The lampposts are serviced via underground conduits. The lighting system dates from 1924 and 1925.
Mount Tabor Park contains one contributing site, seven contributing buildings, five contributing structures, and one contributing object. In addition, Mount Tabor Park contains ten non contributing buildings and six noncontributing structures. A sketch map and key delineate these features. The park land was counted as one contributing site; infrastructure such as driveways, paths, maintenance yard, and the lighting system, as well as those areas with loose physical definition such as play and picnic grounds, and the nursery, are included as part of the site. Full document available at: https://catalog.archives.gov/id/77851155
Clearly, the lighting was considered an integral part of the Historic designation. As such, organizations such as the State Historic Preservation Office, Architectural Heritage Center and the Historic Landmarks Commission in Portland should have the opportunity to be part of decision making about any changes. A stated purpose of the Landmarks Commission is: Reviewing demolition and relocation requests for certain Historic Landmarks, Conservation Landmarks, and resources in Historic Districts and Conservation Districts in quasi-judicial reviews.
Exploration of Alternatives and Community Partnership: Before the lamp posts are removed The FMTP and others would like PPR to make a concerted and transparent effort to understand alternatives including potential repair, a staggered timeline, and designs for replacement. We urge PPR to undertake an inclusive discussion and to engage the community in finding solutions, including funding, that will promote safety, preserve history and beauty, and will meet needs for the next 100 years. The FMTP would like to be a partner in this effort.
Thank you for your prompt reply. The FMTP annual membership meeting will be held on March 27. The membership will be keenly interested in this topic and in our report.
Steve Law for The Friends of Mt. Tabor Park Board of Directors
Steve Law, Chair
Kathleen Cornett, Vice Chair
Thor Hinkley, Secretary
Rachel White, Treasurer