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Columbia Children's Arboretum

Columbia Childrens Arboretum Path
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Please Join us for a Re-Opening Celebration!

Sunday, June 11th

1-4 pm

Live music, refreshments and kids activities!

Celebration located at the East End off of Meadow Lane

Please enter at the West End off of N 6th Drive. Parking available on NE Middlefield Road. Take a walk through the Arboretum and see the added improvements while you make your way to the party!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Project Updates

May 2023

The Arboretum has been fully open since February 3rd. A few weather dependent items remain to be completed due to the cool and wet spring weather we have been experiencing.

A community celebration is being planned for June once the weather warms up.

February 2023 

The east side of the park up to the central bridge opened on Friday, December 16, and the community gained access to the new section of concrete path, picnic area, benches, nature nodes, as well as the eastern and southern portion of the park untouched by the pathway project.

Work continued through December and January on the 6th Ave street frontage improvements to close out the street permit with both PBOT and BES. There were a number of weather dependent items that had to align, as well as City inspections and acceptance.  Fences at the west entry came down Friday, Feb 3, making the remainder of the park open and available for the community’s use. 

There will remain a short list of weather-dependent items that will need to occur a little later in the spring, which will be localized work and require only limited duration protection of the immediate vicinity. 

January 2023 

The east side of the park up to the central bridge opened on Friday, December 16, and the community has access to the new section of concrete path, picnic area, benches, nature nodes, as well as the eastern and southern portion of the park untouched by the pathway project.

Work is continuing on the 6th Ave street frontage improvements to close out the street permit with both PBOT and BES. There are a number of weather dependent items that need to align, as well as City inspections and acceptance.  Once all the west side work is completed, we will be able to open that end for the community’s use. 

There will remain a short list of weather-dependent items that will need to occur a little later in the spring, which will be localized work and require only limited duration protection of the immediate vicinity. 

December 2022

The weather change in November slowed the contractor’s progress a bit on some of the final items, but they’ve continued working on what they can.  Parks staff did a Substantial Completion walk through of the east side the last week of November, noting for the contractor items remaining to be finalized. 

Work is continuing in the 6th Ave right-of-way to close out the permit with PBOT. Staff will walk the west side later in December, and then determine when the work is complete enough that it is safe to open the park for the community’s use.  The park is anticipated to be able to open in late December or early January.

There will be a short list of weather-dependent items that will need to occur in the spring, such as various painting work, concrete joint sealant, asphalt repair, reseeding, and installing irrigation valve boxes that won’t arrive until March due to supply chain issues.  That will be localized work only requiring protection of the immediate vicinity. 

October 2022

The NE 6th Drive street frontage work is beginning. The stormwater planter areas, street sidewalk, and curb will be installed.

The west side progress has included additional concrete pours, infill soil along the shoulder areas, and installation of irrigation, benches, bollards, and nature-themed engraved boulders and other landscape boulders.  oil for planting areas will begin being prepared soon.

The east side pathway and picnic pad concrete has all been poured, benches are installed, nature-themed engraved boulders are being placed, and the shoulders are being infilled with soil.

September 2022

East Side Pathway concrete work progressing

The majority of the west side concrete driveway, pathways and parking lot have been poured. Work is underway to fill in the shoulder areas where excavation to prepare the site for the concrete occurred. The west side temporary irrigation system is beginning to be installed, which will help the new native plantings get established.

The east side pathway concrete work is progressing. The dedication plaque boulder will be reinstalled soon. 

The boulders with nature inspired graphics meant to inspire discovery are being engraved off-site, and will begin being installed at various points of interest throughout the project in a few weeks.

August 2022

PLEASE NOTE: Beginning the week of August 1st, the east side of the park from NE Meadow Lane will be closed to begin construction there, while work also continues on the west side. At that point, the entire park will be closed to the public until the project is completed this fall.

July 2022

The Contractor has continued building up and stabilizing the gravel sub-base layers under the new path, moving from the bridge toward NE 6th Dr.  Concrete forming and reinforcing work is underway.  This week, concrete pouring began, starting from the central bridge, and they will work their way toward the west out to the parking lot and NE 6th Dr. 

June 2022

Work overall progressed slightly behind schedule due to the heavy May to early June rainy period. The bulk of the storm connection work in NE 6th Drive was done early to mid-June.  Repaving over the utility work should occur in early Aug.  On the park site, work from mid-May to June involved excavating for the new path and bus turn around.  They encountered certain ‘soft spot’ areas of poor soil composition, requiring over-excavation and filling with 12 to 18 inches of 3 to 4” diameter rock to stabilize those areas.  The excess soil resulting from the over-excavation was hauled to another PP&R project that needs the fill soil. 

May 2022

Construction is beginning and fencing will be installed the week of May 9th. We’re happy to share that construction fencing will be isolated to the west side of the park (west of the bridge in the middle of the park) ​and the parking area on NE 6th Drive will be closed.  This will allow for the east side of the park, accessed only from Meadow Lane and Lija Loop, to remain open to visitors until approximately July or August at which point the east side of the park will also become closed for construction.

Work occurring through the month of May will include contractor mobilization onto the site, utility locates, tree protection fencing, tree pruning, erosion control, surveying, clearing and grubbing, earthwork and storm sewer work in NE 6th Drive. Please note there will be a one lane closure on NE 6th Drive for several weeks to complete this work.

April 2022

After an extensive community engagement process and years of planning, Portland Parks & Recreation is excited to share that construction at the Columbia Children’s Arboretum is projected to begin in early May 2022 and will continue through Fall 2022.

For the public’s safety, this park will be fully closed through the duration of construction.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to make the following improvements:

  • ADA-accessible path through the park
  • Bus drop-off and turnaround
  • ADA parking
  • Portable ADA restrooms in enclosures
  • Picnic areas
  • Nature exploration spots
  • Drinking fountain
  • Benches
  • Trash receptacles
  • Native plantings

Columbia Children's Arboretum Improvement Project

Portland Parks & Recreation is conducting an improvement project at the Columbia Children's Arboretum. The Columbia Children's Arboretum Management Plan outlines a long-term vision for the park: to protect the site's natural resources while providing needed recreational opportunities.

This improvement project will address the following elements identified in the 2004 Management Plan:

  • Access and circulation improvements including an accessible main trail through the park, bus drop-off and turnaround, and ADA parking.
  • Park signage at park entry points, along with bicycle and vehicle parking.
  • Invasive plant removal and replanting.

The project is also planning to provide:

  • ADA porta potties in enclosures
  • Nature interaction area
  • Upgraded picnic area
  • Seating
  • Drinking fountain
  • Irrigation and plantings

During this improvement project, PP&R will work with the community and design consultants to:

  1. Identify a detailed scope of project elements within the project budget
  2. Develop a design that fits the landscape character of the Children’s Arboretum
  3. Develop construction drawings and specifications
  4. Take the project through Environmental Land Use Review and obtain Building Permits
  5. Go through a bidding process to identify a construction contractor
  6. Build the designed improvements

Project Schedule

Community outreach and inputConducted throughout the entire project
Project start-upFall 2017
Site assessmentsWinter 2018
Listening sessionsSpring 2018
Design alternativesSummer 2018
Final concept designFall 2018
Construction documents and Land Use ReviewWinter 2019 – Winter 2021
PermittingWinter 2021 - Spring 2021
Bidding and ContractingSummer 2021 - Winter 2022
ConstructionMay 2022 - Fall 2022
Anticipated CompletionFall 2022

Community Engagement Process
Our community engagement process included a Public Advisory Committee offering guidance to the design team throughout the design process, stakeholder listening sessions, 2 community gatherings where we reviewed design alternatives and the final design.

Technical Advisory Committee (TAC)
A team of PP&R and City staff is working throughout the design process to identify needs and issues from an operations perspective.

Design Consultant
NNA Landscape Architects has worked on a number of Portland Parks & Recreation Projects including the Powell Butte Nature Center.

Improvement Project Community Engagement

May 9, 2018 - Open House

May 19, 2018 Listening Sessions

May 30, 2018 PAC Meeting

July 19, 2018 Open House

Improvement Project Final Design 

A rendered drawing of the final design for the Columbia Childrens Arboretum Improvement project
Year acquired
Size in acres

In 1900, the area along the Columbia River northeast of Portland was primarily farmland. It flooded every spring with heavy rainfall and melting mountain snows. In the dry summer and fall, water remained in shallow lakes and narrow sloughs. The land between the waterways formed great meadows surrounded by massive cottonwoods and other riparian plants.

John Charles Olmsted looked at this land with foresight. Although most considered it valueless for any other purpose than farming, he proposed acquiring a large acreage in the Columbia Slough region for future parkland. He wrote about the potential of this landscape as a contrast to the hills and river frontages in other parts of town to provide ". . . great stretches of meadow land bordered and diversified by groves of trees. No other form of the park has ever proved so attractive and so useful to the masses of the people as the meadow park, particularly when there can be associated with it long reaches of still water as a landscape attraction and for boating purposes."

Olmsted proposed that Columbia Slough Park would not only provide still waters for boaters unsure of the Willamette River's strong currents, but also broad meadows for recreation such as picnicking, strolling, fast driving, horse racing (as long as gambling could be prevented), and golfing if it should retain its popularity. He suggested that the City secure hundreds to several thousand acres while this land remained inexpensive because of its regular flooding and its great distance from city development.

The land Olmsted proposed for Columbia Slough Park surrounds Switzler’s Lake. Much of this land was farmed by a family named Delminico in the early 20th century. Along with other farmers in the area, they built the original levees between 1917-1919 to reduce yearly flooding from the river. By 1920, enough families had moved into the area that an educational facility was needed for the neighborhood children. Columbia School District #33 was organized and land was purchased for a grade school and high school along NE Sixth Ave. An elementary school was built on the property located at the corner of NE Sixth and Marine Dr. The high school property one block west, which was never developed, is now the Columbia Children’s Arboretum. The Columbia School District was annexed by Faloma District #33 in 1935, then reorganized as Columbia District #33 again in 1944. Portland Public Schools finally annexed the land and school in 1964.

When Portland School District acquired Columbia School, it was designated as a middle school. The local youth who attended the school was primarily a very transient population, well below the city average in both education achievement and economic levels. In a goal to strengthen the basic curriculum through science-centered projects, Principal Bill Warner proposed a new program titled Growth through Research, Organization & Work (GROW). Students studied math, language arts, social studies, health, and science as they worked on the 28-acre site that became known as the Columbia Children’s Arboretum.

The land started out as a tangle of blackberries in 1965, but by 1970, students and families had planted 8,000 trees. Students began by planning three different scenarios for the development of the land. An orchard and organic garden were chosen for the area adjacent to NE Sixth Ave. An arboretum was designed for the land on the south side of the drainage ditch with intentions to solicit and plant trees from every U.S. state. The area furthest from Sixth Ave was planned as a natural area where indigenous plants and animals could provide a tranquil setting for study.

Before long, the creation of a garden and arboretum became a community project. Organizations of all sorts began to help the school create its dream. Edward Maddix, a Tigard architect provided construction drawings for the site. Students and staff approached the U.S. Marines for assistance with heavy land moving. Bulldozers were brought in to remove the blackberries and create a pond with an island. The Oregon Association of Nurserymen supplied trees, the Rose Society donated roses for the garden, the pond was stocked with fish by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the Rotary Club provided tree labels, and the list goes on. The architect worked with students to design a study shelter that was adopted by Women in Construction. Remnants of the beginning of the shelter still remain, although its construction was limited by the fact that utilities could not be brought to the site.

In 1977, Portland Public Schools built a bus barn on the site of the organic farm area. Eventually, changing demographics in northeast Portland reduced the need for Columbia Middle School, and it closed in 1983. Classes at Whitaker School, located three miles from the arboretum, adopted the GROW program in the 1980s, and planting increased. However, the distance between the school and Arboretum became a problem and the program only lasted until the early 1990s. A few classrooms around the district continued to use the Arboretum for field trips. The most constant visitors were neighbors from the new housing developments on the east side of the Arboretum. The neighborhood association created a Columbia Children’s Arboretum Preservation Committee to develop goals and activities in the Arboretum. It has sponsored work parties on a monthly basis for over 10 years. In addition, the committee funded aspects of the East Columbia Wetlands Management Plan to include plans for the Arboretum site. The very first Natural Resources Management Plan in the city, it has guided development and promoted the environmental activities for the Arboretum and adjacent areas since 1988.

In 1999, Portland Parks & Recreation acquired the Columbia Children’s Arboretum land from Portland Public Schools for use as a park. Working closely with the community, a management plan for the site was developed in March 2004.

Park Location or Entrance

10040 NE 6th Drive
Portland, OR 97211

Upcoming Events

Park amenities/activities

Nature-Based Play Area

Park policy

  • All dogs must be leashed in this park.


City section