Albert Kelly Park

A History

by the Foulecourt Press 2004 Portland, Oregon

Rev. Albert Kelly 1814-1873

Albert Kelly was an early settler in Oregon, a pioneer minister or "circuit rider". He was born in 1814, descended from an old colonial family, which had settled in Pulaski County, Kentucky. In 1848, Albert and three of his brothers set out for Oregon. He and brother Clinton got as far as Independence, Missouri, when Albert's livestock were scattered by a storm and lost. Brother Clinton kept on going, but Albert turned back and delayed coming west until the next year. In 1849, Albert and his family joined with a military party under one Capt. Jones, being sent west in response to the Whitman massacre. Albert first scouted the area now known as Holladay Park, but was discouraged by the lack of a reliable supply of water. Later, he and one Finice Caruthers explored the area west of the hills, and found it much more to their liking. Albert made his land claim including what is now designated Section 17. In 1850, Albert and his sons put up a cabin of logs and shakes, and moved into it in September, 1850 - just in time for the birth of his daughter Martha (later, Mrs. O.P.S. Plummer), in November, 1850. Albert and his family farmed the land, and Albert served his church as a circuit-riding minister until his death in 1873. Two of Albert's brothers also are remembered in local landmarks: Kelly Butte and Kelly Butte Park just east of I-205 are named for older brother Clinton Kelly, who had a donation land claim east of the Willamette river. And Kelly Creek, which runs through Gresham, is named for brother Gilmore Kelly, who had a land claim in that area.

Albert Kelly Park

Albert Kelly Park came into being as the result of an offer from Mrs. Hildegarde Plummer Withers in 1956 to the then Parks Superintendent Buckley, to provide some 9 acres of land in Section 17, Township 1S, Range 1E, Willamette Meridian, if it would be dedicated as a park and named after her grandfather, Albert Kelly. The offer was accepted, and for the sum of $25,000, the city of Portland took title to the land. Through a series of land swaps and changes in 1959, 1963 and 1965, the park was somewhat reshaped and enlarged to its present size of 12.8 acres.The enlargement to the north, to the former S.W. Lee Street, permitted establishment of the playing field in the Northwest corner of the park, and setting up a backstop for softball in 1976. In 1977, rowdy late-night alcoholic parties in the park provoked a petition from neighbors for the city to prohibit use of the park after midnight. A city ordinance was enacted in response, and the park today is closed between midnight and 5 AM. Over the years, various improvements have been made, including the swings, slide, teeter-totter and merry-go-round in the play-ground area, a picnic table, soccer goal frames and a volley-ball net. The little bridge* over the creek was Marshal Alberton's Troop 229 Eagle Scout project in early 2000, with bridge materials donated by Parr Lumber Co. One improvement, a small playfield area in the southeast corner of the park, was created recently over the protests of adjacent property-owners. Its construction aggravated a long-time problem in the park, of underground water seepage, causing basement flooding of at least one house on S.W. Boundary Street.

Flora and Fauna

Most native species of birds and animals populating the area in the 19th century have long ago yielded to the pressures of urban existence. The park now is principally populated with crows, squirrels and a small colony of gophers in the swale at the western end of the park. Native trees include a substantial stand of firs in the southeast portion of the park, several pines in the southwestern part, and a few deciduous varieties scattered throughout the park. By the 1990's, many areas of the park had been overgrown by invasive species - non-native plants introduced by human agency, which tend to choke out the native species. The most serious have been the Himalayan blackberry and English ivy. The latter was responsible for killing many of the trees along the banks of the creek. In 2003, a neighborhood association, the Bridlemile Creek Stewards, undertook to clear out the blackberries, ivy and holly from the creek area in the northeast area of the park, and replace them with more appropriate native trees and shrubbery. With a grant of $5000 from the Community Watershed Stewardship Program and the cooperation of the Portland Parks and Recreation Department and the Bureau of Environmental Services, the program started in early summer by clearing much of the creek area, and climaxed in January 2004 with the planting of hundreds of seedlings of more appropriate species. The new tree plantings include ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, grand fir, western hemlock, white alder, Oregon white oak and pacific willow. In addition, several varieties of roses, Oregon grape, flowering currants, a Chilean strawberry and other shrubs were planted along the banks of the creek. The little creek in Albert Kelly park is named Restoration Creek. (Bridlemile Creek runs along the east side of Hamilton Park, and Kelly Creek is in east Multnomah county is named after Albert's brother Gilmore Kelly.) A pictorial history of the replanting program can be viewed online by visiting the Albert Kelly Creek Restoration web site, which has links to blog pages with more details. Other details of the Bridlemile Creek Stewards activities can be found at the Bridlemile Creek Stewards web site.

* "The bridge was built by my cousin, Marshal Alberton, for his Eagle Scout project while attending Wilson High School. Marshal grew up in SW Portland, attending Capitol Hill Grade School, MLC, and Wilson. He is now 21 years old and currently stationed in Iraq with the Marines. It took awhile, his sign was finally posted on the bridge this past Fall." - Jon Cohen