By Nancy Tannler

The Friends of Mt. Tabor Park (FMTP) held a celebration marking the fifty thousandth visitor to the visitor center since it opened in 2011.

On Saturday, September 15, Don and Anna Wesley from Milwaukie, Oregon brought and their six month old baby and Don’s visiting parents from Ashland to Mt. Tabor Park for a morning stroll. Little did they know they would be making park history.

On hand to present a plaque and to hand out cake and coffee, was First Chair of the FMTP, Dave Hillman; long time volunteer Randy Lowler; park photographer Andrew Halliburton and his wife Mel, and  a few other visitors at the park.

Friends of Mount Tabor Park pioneer and Portland resident Dave Hillman describes the connection to Mount Tabor’s namesake in Israel.

FMTP was established in 2000 when a group of locals decided to help out the beleaguered park crew by maintaining and improving park conditions using all volunteer help.

Over the past eighteen years, subsidiaries of FMTP has included the Foot Patrol and the Weed Warriors. These services have received the Volunteer Service Award and the Spirit of Portland Award.

It was while attending a park budget meeting at Hoyt Arboretum that Hillman first noted the nice visitors center the park has. His first thought was how much that was what was needed at Mt. Tabor Park. Other members of the FMTP were in agreement as was Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R).

In 2001 the first official meeting of the Friends of Mt. Tabor Park was held. The building where the visitors center is located now was being used for storage, so PP&R was happy to let them use the space. It was easy to transform with elbow grease and a coat of paint.

The success of the visitor center is due to the evolving relationship between the FMTP, PP&R, the Water Bureau (PWB), the Portland Police and the people who have donated time, talent, money and services.

Jan Caplener has donated a series of his historical photographs that portray a visual history of early Portland and the park. Greg Bunker of KB Frames, has generously framed posters and photos, Rick Slagter of Natural Furniture donated a bookcase and PWB donated office furniture.

Other contributions that have enhanced the presentation of the visitors center/gift shop are the topical brochures available thanks to the contribution of Warner Pacific University and the Caplener Group; stickers and paper imagery from Elena and Jeremy of Ninja Stickers; cards and postcards from Andrew Halliburton; postcards by watercolor artist Georgina Ottaviano, t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats with the Mt. Tabor logo, magnets and a few other items that help support the park. Last year they made $5k.

“We started out with six brochures and now have around one hundred,” Hillman said.  For any tourist visiting the park they can find out about local events and activities in the Portland area as well as other parts of the state. There are specific brochures that describe the parks timeline, the geological history of the park, the trees of Mt. Tabor Park and more.

FMTP has ten regular volunteers and a few other spontaneous ones who man the center six days a week for a total of 30 – 35 hours.  Because of all the research that has been gathered over the years, school classes sometimes come up to the park and volunteers take them on a walkabout explaining different types of trees and the geological history.

“It’s so great to be here and meet all the different people and share this information with them,” Hillman said enthusiastically.

The other very effective service programs started through FMTP are the Weed-Warriors whose monthly endeavors keep the invasive species to a minimum, keep the park clean, maintain paths and reroute any areas that are being over-used.

The Foot Patrol is another active group that Dennis Puetz is orchestrating these days. This volunteer patrol keeps the park safe and alerts the police or PP&R to any potential situations that need to be addressed.

Another feature of the park are two sets of wooden posts painted red, green and blue, with directional arrows  that mark the three defined trails in the park. Installed around 2010, the yellow posts with the numbers routed and painted are for the 57 different species of trees in the park installed around 2012.

There are maps at the Visitor Center for both the trails and trees and every  third Sunday of the month, there is a tree walk presented by Bob Rogers at 2 pm.

The new handrails were recently installed and they are beautiful and so smooth.

The butte got its name, Mt. Tabor, from the residents who purchased land on and around what came to be known as Mt. Tabor. These were the Plymptons, Prettymans, Stephens, etc. They were fairly religious people, and thought the name should be the same as Mt. Tabor in Israel.

Mt. Tabor Park dates back to 1888 when Buell and Helen Lamberson dedicated a tract of land to the city as a designated park. This land was located approximately where Reservoir 1 is on the south side of the park above the dog park.

In 1903 John C. Olmstead recommended that the city acquire this beautiful hill known as Mt. Tabor for a park. In 1905, coinciding with the Lewis and Clark Exposition, Mt. Tabor was annexed to the city.

In 1906, more than forty properties were procured or deeded to the city to be used as a public park. The acquisition of parkland in Portland coincided directly with President Teddy Roosevelt’s campaign and policies for conservation that helped implement the National Parks Service and the U.S. Forest Service.

Another notable event at Mt. Tabor was the formation of the Friends of the Reservoirs and the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association, led by advocates Cascade Geller Anderson and Floy Jones.

They successfully stopped the city’s plans to cover the reservoirs and eventually got Reservoirs 1,5 and 6 and the entire park listed in the National Register of Historic Place.