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Portland Parks and Recreation
Portland Parks and Recreation

11 Fun Facts About Mill Ends Park, Portland’s Leprechaun Colony

Portland Parks and Recreation
Portland Parks and Recreation

“Ireland” may be the most popular first answer given when someone is asked about where leprechauns live, but Portland, Oregon, has its very own population of little green-clad Irishmen, too. And they’ve even got a dedicated area—Mill Ends Park—to prove it. Here are 11 fun facts about what has been described as “the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland.” 

1. THE PARK IS THE CREATION OF JOURNALIST DICK FAGAN.

Upon his return home from World War II in 1946, Dick Fagan went back to work as a journalist with the Oregon Journal, with a second-floor office overlooking what is now known as Naito Parkway. Amidst all the traffic and hustling that took place outside of his window, Fagan became fascinated with one element of his view: a tiny hole that had been placed in the median for a light pole. 

2. THE LIGHT POLE NEVER MATERIALIZED.

Fagan watched as weeds began to fill in the spot where the light pole was meant to be placed. But he wasn’t happy with that either, and so he planted some flowers there. 

3. FROM THERE, FAGAN’S IMAGINATION ONLY GREW.

Making that tiny hole in the ground pretty was only the beginning of the attention Fagan began lavishing upon the space. In his Oregon Journal column, “Mill Ends”—which, like the irregular pieces of leftover lumber it was named for, shared interesting little stories— he often referenced the leprechauns who lived in the park. 

4. THE HEAD LEPRECHAUN’S NAME WAS PATRICK O’TOOLE.

Fagan, conveniently, was the only person who could see Patrick O'Toole, the leader of the leprechaun community. He also apparently spoke to him: When the mayor of Portland proposed an 11:00 p.m. curfew on all city parks, Fagan published a response from O’Toole, who threatened a leprechaun curse upon the mayor. (The leprechauns were subsequently allowed to stay.)

5. MILL ENDS PARK WAS DEDICATED IN 1948.

Due to Fagan’s Irish heritage, and the leprechauns who purportedly inhabited the park, Mills Ends Park became dedicated as such, quite appropriately, on March 17, 1948. 

6. IN 1976, IT BECAME AN OFFICIAL CITY PARK.

Twenty-eight years after its dedication, Mill Ends Park became an official city park in 1976, again on St. Patrick’s Day. Each year, various holiday-themed events take place on the site.

7. IT IS THE WORLD’S SMALLEST PARK.

Mill Ends Park measures just two square feet. Which seems an adequate size for what Fagan was fond of describing as the “only leprechaun colony west of Ireland.” Guinness World Records has recognized it since 1971.

8. FAGAN ISN’T THE PARK’S ONLY FAN.

The park has become something of a must-see oddity in Portland, and many residents and visitors have made their own contributions to its growth (at least culturally speaking). A tiny swimming pool (with a butterfly diving board), statues, and a pint-sized Ferris wheel—which was delivered by a normal-sized crane—are just a few of its amenities.

9. THE PARK HAD TO BE MOVED IN 2006.

In order to accommodate construction on Naito Parkway in 2006, the park had to be moved temporarily. It moved back in on March 16, 2007—the day before St. Patrick’s Day—with bagpipers playing and Fagan’s wife looking on (Fagan passed away in 1969).

10. A MAN WAS ARRESTED FOR PROTESTING AT THE PARK.

In December 2011, the Occupy Portland movement installed a flash mob of plastic army men and tiny signs at the park to illustrate their mission. One of the demonstrators, Cameron Scott Whitten, was arrested when he refused to leave.

11. THE PARK WAS ROBBED IN 2013.

A week before St. Patrick’s Day in 2013, someone stole the park’s one and only tree … only to return it one week later. 

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Harry Trimble
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Delightful Photo Series Celebrates Britain’s Municipal Trash Cans
Harry Trimble
Harry Trimble

Not all trash cans are alike. In the UK, few know this better than Harry Trimble, the brains behind #govbins, a photo project that aims to catalog all the trash can designs used by local governments across Britain.

Trimble, a 29-year-old designer based in South London, began the series in 2016, when he noticed the variation in trash can design across the cities he visited in the UK. While most bins are similar sizes and shapes, cities make trash cans their own with unique graphics and unusual colors. He started to photograph the cans he happened to see day-to-day, but the project soon morphed beyond that. Now, he tries to photograph at least one new bin a week.

A bright blue trash can reads ‘Knowsley Council: Recycle for Knowsley.’
Knowsley Village, England

“I got impatient,” Trimble says in an email to Mental Floss. “Now there’s increasingly more little detours and day trips” to track down new bin designs, he says, “which my friends, family and workmates patiently let me drag them on.” He has even pulled over on the road just to capture a new bin he spotted.

So far, he’s found cans that are blue, green, brown, black, gray, maroon, purple, and red. Some are only one color, while others feature lids of a different shade than the body of the can. Some look very modern, with minimalist logos and city website addresses, Trimble describes, “while others look all stately with coats of arms and crests of mythical creatures.”

A black trash can features an 'H' logo.
Hertsmere, England

A blue trash can reads ‘South Ribble Borough Council: Forward with South Ribble.’
South Ribble, England

A green trash can with a crest reads ‘Trafford Council: Food and Garden Waste Only.’
Trafford, Greater Manchester, England

Trimble began putting his images up online in 2017, and recently started an Instagram to show off his finds.

For now, he’s “more than managing” his one-can-a-week goal. See the whole series at govbins.uk.

All images by Harry Trimble

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Why a Train Full of New York City Poop Was Stranded in Alabama for Two Months
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iStock

Residents of Parrish, Alabama probably aren't too fond of New Yorkers right now. That’s because the town is currently home to a full trainload of poop courtesy of the Big Apple, as Bloomberg reports. Some 200 shipping containers of treated sewage have been stuck in Parrish for more than two months while the town takes landfill operators to court.

New York City doesn't keep its own sewage sludge to itself, and it hasn't for decades. In the 1980s, New York City was dumping its "biosolids"—the solids left over from sewage treatment, i.e., your poop—into the Atlantic Ocean, where it settled on the bottom of the sea floor in a thick film stretching over 80 square nautical miles. When the government banned the practice of dumping waste straight into the ocean, the city had to get creative, finding a way to get rid of the 1200 tons of biosolids produced there every day.

Enter the poop train. As a 2013 Radiolab episode taught us (we highly recommend you listen for yourself), treated sludge was eventually shipped out to other states to use as fertilizer in the 1990s. After farmers in Colorado began noticing better growth and fewer pests in the fields they grew with New York City's finest sewer sludge, growers in other states began clamoring to take the big-city poop by the train-full, too. That tide has turned, though, and now no one wants the city's poop. Because of the cost of running the program, the train to Colorado stopped in 2010.

Now, biosolids are instead shipped to landfills upstate and in places like Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to The Wall Street Journal. And Alabama. For more than a year, the Big Sky landfill near Parrish has been accepting New York City biosolids, and the locals who have to deal with trainloads of rotting waste aren’t happy.

Normally, the sludge would be loaded onto trucks and then driven the last stretch to get to the landfill. But Parrish and its nearby neighbor of West Jefferson aren't interested in playing host to those messy poop transfers anymore. As the two towns take the landfill operators to court over it, the trains are stuck where they are, next to Parrish's Little League baseball fields. The trainload of sludge is blocked from either being sent to the landfill or back to New York City. While the city has stopped shipping more waste to Big Sky, it essentially said "no takebacks" regarding what they've already sent south. Short of a legal decision, that poop isn't moving.

Needless to say, the residents of Parrish would really, really like to resolve this before summer hits.

Update: Parrish residents can officially breathe easy. The last of the sludge has now been removed from the town, and Big Sky has ended its operation there, according to a Facebook post from Mayor Heather Hall. The containers that remain have been emptied of their smelly cargo and will be removed sometime before Friday, April 20.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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