02 June 2024

Tsuru Island-Gresham's Japanese Garden, Part One

4145I was about two months ago years old when I found out about Gresham's Japanese Garden. The fact that it exists at all is because of a strong volunteer base and a lot of local affection.

It's a delightful thing we're going through in this household; we are discovering Gresham, parts of which are closer to us than parts of Portland we've frequented over the course of decades, and from our point of view, it's gone through a lot of changes - from the bland, banal edge-city that we used to dismiss it as, to a warm and charming place full of unexpected depths and surprises. 

Tsuru Island is one of those unexpected surprises, at least to us. It's located in a corner of Main City Park, which is directly across the street from downtown Gresham, occupying about twenty-two acres in the southwest quarter of the intersection of Powell Boulevard and Main Avenue (it's not Main Street because it runs north-south and streets in the Gresham grid follow the N-S Avenue classification that the greater Portland area employs). To get there, one just goes south into the park; it's on the left just before the bridge over Johnson Creek.

The access to Gresham's Japanese Garden - Tsuru Island - from Main City Park

The access is a bridge from the south end of the main parks' parking area. Tsuru Island is an island because early in the 20th Century, Johnson Creek, which runs along the south part of Main City Park, was altered by having a meander straightened. The result was a semi-circular swale on the north side of Johnson Creek, which isn't submerged in water all of the time, but creates a small knoll of land which may as well be an island. 

And, coincidentally, a lovely little bit of land that is isolatable in the way that provides a feeling of seclusion in the middle of the fourth-largest city in Oregon.

The swale separating Tsuru Island from the rest of Man City Park. In the middle distance, Johnson Creek passes under a bridge providing access to the southern part of Main City Park.

Once over that magnificently-charming bridge, one finds themselves in a place replete with deft landscaping, charming flora, and in general a place that does encourages a contemplative, or at least quieter, frame of mind.

And this is why, personally, I love Japanese gardens.

The pond with Japanese red maple overlooking it is one of the first things one sees as one crosses over to the island

Immediately after crossing onto the island one comes upon a small, shallow pond surmounted by a Japanese red maple. According to the lore of the history of this place, that maple came from the property of a local who came to the conclusion that the maple had grown too large for the place that contain it so it was donated. What I learned about the history of this garden speaks of a proud history of volunteerism and donation and care from people who care about heritage and the history of Japanese people in east Multnomah County.

The history is recounted in thumbnail on the Garden's official page thusly:

In the early 1970’s, a group of local farmers and members of the Japanese-American Citizens League (JACL) Gresham-Troutdale chapter created a Japanese garden with peace, tranquility, and longevity as its theme. They named it Tsuru Island. Tsuru (Su Do) means “crane” in Japanese.

Despite such inspired beginning, though, after that initial period of birth and growth, the Island went though a period of neglect, until about 2010, when Tomiko Takeuchi - who was, at the time, a board member with the Gresham Sister City Association - and Jim Card, a local landscaper, decided to step in and organize a comeback. The results speak for themselves, with an active volunteer history over the past decade-plus, including expansion to a nearby plaza where interested people can purchase an inscribed paving brick, and a building that's now an event center.

On this small Island, there are curving paths you can get lost in the foliage on ...

... and what Japanese garden would be complete without a Zen garden? Tsuru Island has one.

This is merely the first go at showing of pictures from our visit. I have more pictures, and there'll be more visits, because one of the charms of Japanese gardens is that they really change, if only in subtle ways, from season to season.

The fact that it's so accessible and free of charge to enter are just bonuses really.

No comments: