Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a 36.59 acres (148,100 m2) park located in downtown Portland, Oregon, along the Willamette River. After the 1974 removal of Harbor Drive (a good example of freeway removal), the park was opened to the public in 1978. The park covers 13 tax lots is owned by the City of Portland (Portland Parks and Recreation). The park was renamed in 1984 to honor Tom McCall, the Oregon governor who pledged his support for the beautification of the West Bank of the Willamette River—harkening back to the City Beautiful plans at the turn of the century that envisioned parks and greenways along the river. The park is bordered by RiverPlace to the south, the Hawthorne Bridge to the north, Naito Parkway to the west, and Willamette River to the east. In October 2012, Waterfront Park was voted one of America's ten greatest public spaces by the American Planning Association.
The most common uses for the park are jogging, walking, biking, skateboarding, fountain play, lunching, basketball, fireworks viewing, and boat watching. Due to its recreational use, lunch hours (11:00 am to 1:00 pm) are peak-use hours for the waterfront park. In addition to recreational use, the park is also highly used by bike and pedestrian commuters during rush hours (3:00 pm to 5:00 pm) because the park is easily accessible to the downtown Portland workforce and provides a pleasant, off street thoroughfare away from vehicular traffic. It is currently home to the Waterfront Blues Festival, Oregon Brewers Festival, Gay/Lesbian Pride Festival and The Bite of Oregon Festival. The park is also the host of many Rose Festival events.
The park can generally be divided into five distinct zones.
The Esplanade is paved walkway along the river, part of a riverfront corridor extending on both sides of the Willamette River within which “river recreational” uses are promoted. Greenway regulations define this zone as 25' from the top of the bank. In Waterfront Park, the greenway zone includes the walkway and part of the adjacent lawn areas as well.
The Bowl is a relatively wide grass-lawn area that slopes down to the water just south of the Hawthorne Bridge. It anchors the southern end of the park, abutting the RiverPlace residential and commercial development. It functions as an informal amphitheater for concerts, including Oregon Symphony concerts and the Waterfront Blues Festival. The bowl also serves as the site of annual dragon boat races during the Portland Rose Festival.
Salmon Street Springs
Salmon Street Springs and the John Yeon building anchor the area north of Hawthorne Bridge. The fountain is set in a concrete plaza, which includes a set of sitting steps that leads to a viewing area over the river.
John Yeon Building
McCall’s Restaurant, the current occupant of the historic John Yeon building, abuts the fountain to the south and is the major permanent commercial user of the park. This area also acts as the moorage and embarking site for the Portland Spirit, a small cruise ship that provides 2-hour trips on the Willamette River.
The Central Lawn
The central lawn is a dominant feature of the park, extending from Salmon Street Springs to the Burnside Bridge. The lawn is used most intensively during the summer by a series of outdoor festivals and events.
Battleship Oregon Memorial
The USS Oregon was constructed in 1893. This memorial erected in 1956 honors this "Bulldog of the US Navy" and its heroic fight in many naval battles. Underneath the memorial lies a time capsule: Sealed on Independence Day, 1976, it will be unearthed and opened July 5, 2076.
Bill Naito Legacy Fountain
This interactive fountain is dedicated to the memory of Portland businessman Bill Naito. It was opened in 2009 next to the Saturday Market Pavilion.
This memorial honors William Pettygrove and Asa Lovejoy, who tossed a coin to determine the city's name. Had the outcome gone the other way, Portland would have been named after Boston, Massachusetts instead of Portland, Maine.
Friendship Circle, located at the north end of Waterfront Park, was dedicated in 1990. It celebrates the sister city relationship between Portland and Sapporo, Japan. The Friendship Circle includes a pair of 20-foot stainless towers that generate electronic tones.
Japanese American Historical Plaza
This memorial was dedicated on August 3, 1990, in memory of Japanese immigrants and native-born U.S. citizens of Japanese descent who were deported to inland internment camps during World War II. The memorial includes artwork and sculpture that tells the story of Japanese people in the Pacific Northwest. There are one hundred ornamental cherry trees to the north of the plaza.
The police memorial was constructed in 1993 at Southwest Jefferson adjacent to the Hawthorne Bridge. It is dedicated to Portland Police who have laid down their lives in the line of duty.
The Portland Rose Festival Foundation headquarters are located in a historic Northwest Modernist building designed by noted Portland architect John Yeon in 1948 to be the Portland Visitors Information Center.
Salmon Street Springs
This artistic and play fountain is extremely popular in the summer. It was dedicated in 1988 and recycles up to 4,924 US gallons (18,640 L) of water per minute through as many as 137 jets.
Saturday Market Pavilion
A contemporary open-sided pavilion just north of the Bill Naito Legacy Fountain shelters Portland's Saturday Market on the weekends from March until December.
The 1947 sternwheeler Portland, docked at Waterfront Park, houses the Oregon Maritime Center and Museum.
The park has also been used as a speaking place during U.S. Presidential campaigns in recent years. In the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election, an estimated 50,000 people gathered in the park to see John Kerry, and in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election, an estimated 75,000 people (the largest gathering in the campaign) gathered to see Barack Obama.