Introducing Portland Wild

I’m excited to share with you, a new visual guide to Portland’s public art murals, its Heritage Trees and Little Free Libraries:

portland public art murals, heritage trees and little free libraries

Portland Wild – A guide to the city’s urban landscape

The Inspiration

During my time in Portland, I’ve been amazed by its beautiful trees. When I came across a Giant Sequoia with a small plaque on it, I learned that Portland has an extensive program which designates its special trees for a limited range of protections. I thought it would be a cool idea to build a map-driven website to raise awareness for the program and help people find them. But then I discovered its public art. This dragon mural is one of my favorites.

dragon mural portland

Dragon mural behind Longfellow’s on Division Street & SE 14th

Soon I realized my website would need to include murals.

Maps and Street View

As I began coding, I realized there are some really cool things you can do with GPS and Google maps. For example, each item provides a street view link to its location. Here’s an example with street view link for the dragon.

Here’s an example with a street view link where you can go back in time and see a mural in the period while it was being painted, a mural that has since been deconstructed due to Portland’s rapid development. I believe this mural is now gone.For the heritage trees, we’ve included a link to Google Street View 3D (not available on iOS mobile devices), which you can reach from each item page. Hint: Hold the Ctrl key down as you drag the mouse to change the perspective of the 3D.

giant sequoia portland

Google 3D Street View of the Giant Sequoia Tree

How the Site Works

Browsing the Map

As visitors drag and zoom the map which is Portland Wild’s home page, they can click on individual items. This pops up an info window. For example, I added Little Free Library listings as well. Here’s Andy’s Little Free Library in SW Portland:

Little Free Libraries of Portland

Andy’s Little Free Library in SW Portland

Detail Pages for More Images and Interactivity

When multiple photos are available for an item, such as this incredibly beautiful off the beaten path Musician’s Union building mural, we allow visitors to see more imagery:

musicians union mural portland

Must See Musician’s Union Building Mural

On the detail pages, visitors can browse multiple images and share the pages via Facebook and Twitter. They can also see nearby items which enhances the explorative nature of the site:

portland wild public art murals and heritage trees

Explore nearby murals, trees and Little Free Libraries

For example, here’s a mural by Cambodian-American artist Andrew Hem which I didn’t know about but that is now on my must visit list.

Interactive Options

After you login via your Facebook or Google account, you can designate favorites by clicking the star. Click the route map icon in the middle and we actually will help you plan an optimized path to see your favorite murals, with directions. And, finally click the Passport icon for items you’ve already visited.

portland wild passport

Pick murals, trees and libraries as favorites or to go and see

Your selections drive the most popular and most visited pages for each category e.g. the Popular Murals page:

portland public art murals

The Popular and Most Visited Murals

Visitors can also comment on murals, trees and Little Free Libraries to share details or information about the items. For example, finding some of these trees can be quite difficult … notes from other experts can assist novices.

For example, here’s a google directions map optimized for my Sightseeing plan:

Example of Google Directions Optimized for Sightseeing Plan

There are also pages for Portland’s tallest Heritage Trees and the trees with the greatest circumference.

Source of the Data and Photos

I have so many people and organizations to thank for this project. You can read the detail on the about pages for the site’s distinct elements.

The iOS Apps that Predate Portland Wild

Matt Blair at Elsewise Media had once created an iOS Trees app, now defunct, and also an ongoing iOS Public Art app (which includes more medium than Portland wild e.g. sculptures). He generously shared data and connected me with related civic groups. He’d always had a vision of a site like Portland Wild for the open web and he fully supported my concept. Thank you Matt!

Heritage Trees

Gina Dake at the Portland Parks Urban Forestry division and incipient nonagenarian Dr. Phyllis Reynolds gave permissions to use the Heritage Tree data and imagery.

Dr. Reynolds is a well known expert on Portland’s Heritage Trees. She wrote the book Trees of Greater Portland (1993, Timber Press), which was planned by her and Elizabeth Dimon. It is now out of print and has been replaced by Trees of Greater Portland: New Edition (Reynolds, 2013, Macrophyllum Press). It has 273 new photos and measurements of 137 species in the city and is available at Powell’s, Hoyt Arboretum, Audubon, and Oregon Historical Society.

Read more about Matt Blair and Dr. Reynolds on the About the Trees page.

Public Art Murals

The Regional Arts and Culture Council shared their database of public art murals with me. Any mural page with title, multiple photos and details with a link to the RACC art directory is largely their content. Thank you to Public Art Collections Registrar Danielle Davis for her great assistance on the project.

The  majority of other murals I took photos of walking around Portland. Honestly, seeing RACC’s collection just re-inspired me to use my own website to build my own sightseeing plan.

Little Free Libraries

Lastly, thank you to Little Free Library for use of their public data and imagery. Last week, its founder and Executive Director Todd H. Bols died of pancreatic cancer. You can share your thoughts and memories and donate to his legacy here.

If I may be so bold, I’m the most successful person I know because I stimulate 54 million books to be read and neighbors to talk to each other. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the very definition of success.
Todd H. Bol after his diagnosis

What’s Next?

First, please try out Portland Wild and share it with your friends and neighbors. There’s an easy to use Feedback page for comments. I’m interested in whether people would like to see and participate in crowdsourcing the quality of listings and photos as well as it’s breadth. I would certainly like to provide more information about the artists and their intent for all of the pieces — this is a clear gap in the initial release. You can also contact me directly.

There is a tremendous wealth of art, nature and community in Portland. I hope greatly that Portland Wild will make the city’s urban wealth more accessible to everyone. Portland Wild is a small gift back to Portland for my time spent here.

Thank you to Portland’s urban wilds, its artists, its tree finders and Todd H. Bol and the Little Free Library stewards for making this site possible.


Posted by Jeff Reifman

Jeff is a technology consultant based in the Pacific Northwest.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *