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Portland Parks and Recreation

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

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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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National Geographic Ranks The 25 Happiest Cities in the Country
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iStock

Feeling unhappy? Maybe it's time to move. National Geographic recently released rankings of the 25 happiest cities in the U.S. The results: Eight of the 25 locations are in the Golden State, but the honor of No. 1 happiest city goes to Boulder, Colorado.

The rankings are based on 250,000 interviews conducted in 190 metropolitan areas between 2014 and 2015. The survey—developed by Dan Buettner, author of the new book The Blue Zones of Happiness, and Dan Witters, a senior scientist at Gallup—looked for data points that are correlated with life satisfaction and happiness, like whether or not you exercise, if you feel safe in your community, whether you feel like you live within your means, and whether you feel like you are reaching your goals.

A map of the U.S. showing which cities made the top 25 happiest cities index.
Courtesy National Geographic

Of course, all that isn’t necessarily the result of your geographical location. But you don’t see cities like Los Angeles or New York—where wealth is also clustered—on the list, so presumably San Franciscans are doing something a little differently.

Take a look for yourself. Here are the 25 happiest places in the U.S., according to the results.

1. Boulder, Colorado
2. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California
3. Charlottesville, Virginia
4. Fort Collins, Colorado
5. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, California
6. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
7. Provo-Orem, Utah
8. Bridgeport-Stamford, Connecticut
9. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts
10. Anchorage, Alaska
11. Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida
12. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, California
13. Salinas, California
14. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
15. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii
16. Ann Arbor, Michigan
17. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California
18. Colorado Springs, Colorado
19. Manchester-Nashua, New Hampshire
20. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California
21. Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria, Virginia/Maryland/West Virginia
22. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota/Wisconsin
23. San Diego-Carlsbad, California
24. Portland-South Portland, Maine
25. Austin-Round Rock, Texas

You can grab a copy of November’s National Geographic to read more about the world’s happiest places.

The cover of Dan Buettner’s The Blue Zones of Happiness and the cover of November 2017’s National Geographic.
National Geographic
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These LED Crosswalks Adapt to Whoever Is Crossing
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Courtesy Umbrellium

Crosswalks are an often-neglected part of urban design; they’re usually just white stripes on dark asphalt. But recently, they’re getting more exciting—and safer—makeovers. In the Netherlands, there is a glow-in-the-dark crosswalk. In western India, there is a 3D crosswalk. And now, in London, there’s an interactive LED crosswalk that changes its configuration based on the situation, as Fast Company reports.

Created by the London-based design studio Umbrellium, the Starling Crossing (short for the much more tongue-twisting STigmergic Adaptive Responsive LearnING Crossing) changes its layout, size, configuration, and other design factors based on who’s waiting to cross and where they’re going.

“The Starling Crossing is a pedestrian crossing, built on today’s technology, that puts people first, enabling them to cross safely the way they want to cross, rather than one that tells them they can only cross in one place or a fixed way,” the company writes. That means that the system—which relies on cameras and artificial intelligence to monitor both pedestrian and vehicle traffic—adapts based on road conditions and where it thinks a pedestrian is going to go.

Starling Crossing - overview from Umbrellium on Vimeo.

If a bike is coming down the street, for example, it will project a place for the cyclist to wait for the light in the crosswalk. If the person is veering left like they’re going to cross diagonally, it will move the light-up crosswalk that way. During rush hour, when there are more pedestrians trying to get across the street, it will widen to accommodate them. It can also detect wet or dark conditions, making the crosswalk path wider to give pedestrians more of a buffer zone. Though the neural network can calculate people’s trajectories and velocity, it can also trigger a pattern of warning lights to alert people that they’re about to walk right into an oncoming bike or other unexpected hazard.

All this is to say that the system adapts to the reality of the road and traffic patterns, rather than forcing pedestrians to stay within the confines of a crosswalk system that was designed for car traffic.

The prototype is currently installed on a TV studio set in London, not a real road, and it still has plenty of safety testing to go through before it will appear on a road near you. But hopefully this is the kind of road infrastructure we’ll soon be able to see out in the real world.

[h/t Fast Company]

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