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Parks Bond Project enhances accessibility at PP&R's International Rose Test Garden

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100 years of roses! World-famous garden celebrates centennial in 2017, events planned
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100 years of roses! World-famous garden celebrates centennial in 2017, events planned


(Portland, OR) –

Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R)’s iconic International Rose Test Garden (IRTG) in Washington Park is celebrating its centennial this year (1917-2017). It was in February, 100 years ago, that Portland received official notice the American Rose Society had selected the city as the location for the national test garden, in part to help preserve European roses threatened by World War I. Now, a century later, the renowned site is the oldest continuously operating public rose test garden in the United States. Around 700,000 visitors come to the world-famous rose garden each year. The garden will remain open during construction.

Photo: the world-famous International Rose Test Gardens in Portland's Washington Park.

WHAT: Groundbreaking celebration for Rose Garden accessibility improvements

WHEN: Friday, February 24, 2017, 1pm-2pm

WHERE: Int’l Rose Test Garden store, 400 SW Kingston

Free and open to all guests, including children. Speakers include Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz and PP&R Director Mike Abbaté, who will welcome friends, staff and partners.

The IRTG will benefit from a Parks Replacement Bond project to improve accessibility from the nearby parking areas into and near the site. The project will remove ADA accessibility barriers from the main Garden promenade and improve the connection to the parking lot, allowing all visitors to enjoy one of the top free attractions in Oregon. Construction starts in March 2017 and is expected to be substantially complete by this coming June.

The project includes:

  • Improving slopes and grading
  • Adding new handrails
  • Removing stairs leading into and out of the area on the main promenade by the Beach Memorial Fountain

“Washington Park’s International Rose Test Garden has been a centerpiece of our City for 100 years,” says City Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “Entering the next century with greater accessibility for all is an equitable and appropriate way to celebrate one of the Rose City’s signature attractions. Our hope for the Centennial Year is that our citizens and visitors see this as a chance to reignite their love for the garden or to visit for the first time.”

“The International Rose Test Garden is a source of pride for all of us at Portland Parks & Recreation,” says PP&R Director Mike Abbaté. “We are proud to be the steward of this world-renowned jewel and look forward to the next 100 years. We give many thanks to the many partners and volunteers who have given countless hours to develop and maintain the gardens since its beginnings in 1917.”


Portland Parks & Recreation and dedicated partners in the rose community are celebrating 100 years of Portland roses in Washington Park with commemorative events throughout the year, culminating in a Community Celebration Day on Saturday, August 26. This free, fun and large public celebration will include family-friendly activities staged among the roses during the day, ending with an evening concert in the adjacent Int’l Rose Test Garden amphitheater.  It will be an opportunity for all Portlanders to celebrate a signature attraction which helps define the Rose City.

Other garden enhancements include the coming installation of interpretive signs and a monument to honor the garden curators of the past 100 years, scheduled for installation in September.

“PP&R rose gardens have been my ‘office’ for 29 years,” says International Rose Test Garden Curator Harry Landers. “Through that time and continuing today, I'm especially proud to showcase the garden’s unique role in Portland's history and what it offers today to visitors from all around the world.”

Landers will spearhead the planting rows of a special yellow centennial rose, currently in the process of being named by the Friends of the Washington Park International Rose Test Garden, and which will be available for sale to the public. The Friends formed to preserve and enhance the rose garden as a heritage resource and destination for the Portland community and visitors from around the world.  Hundreds of Friends volunteers care for the roses through pruning and deadheading, as well as provide tours. Around 700,000 visitors come to the world-famous rose garden each year.  The Friends will be hosting a ticketed Wine and Roses Gala as a fundraiser for the garden in August.  PP&R thanks the Portland Rose Society, Royal Rosarians and Rose Festival Association for their partnerships, which are represented via features within the grounds. These advocates have a key role as historic contributors to the IRTG’s development, as well as to the cultivation of Portland’s noted passion for roses.

The primary purpose of the IRTG is to serve as a testing ground for new rose varieties (hence the word “test” in the garden’s formal name!) However, the garden’s original creation served two significant historic purposes – a sanctuary for roses during World War I that European hybridists feared might be wiped out in the bombings, as well as a crown to Portland’s campaign in the early 1900s to secure the reputation as the City of Roses. Over the last 100 years, millions of visitors from every corner of the globe have contributed their own stories to the garden’s history, and 2017 will be a year to celebrate it all. More history about the Int’l Rose Test Garden is available here.

Take public transit to Washington Park

Please note that reservoir construction has significantly reduced parking in and around Washington Park. Visitors are encouraged to take MAX to the Washington Park stop. Starting in April, the free Washington Park free shuttle runs through the park each weekend, including a stop at the IRTG. The shuttle then runs seven days a week from May through September.

More help is needed to close the play gap

Portland Parks & Recreation remains grateful to Portland voters for the $68 million Parks Replacement Bond, which takes aim at a $258M funding gap for major maintenance needs over the next ten years.  Further, PP&R anticipates $480M in unfunded growth needs during that period.  That adds up to a $738M funding gap over the next decade, which Commissioner Fritz will continue to work with City Council to address. Currently, 19% of people living in Portland do NOT have access to a park or natural area within a 15-minute walk, and the bureau is working hard to close this “play gap”.  PP&R data show that pools are one of the bureau’s most widely utilized features, and we recognize their importance to the community.

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