Mills End Park in Portland, Ore., is two feet in diameter, has one Douglas Fir Tree, a small fence, and three toy figurines of a sheep, a pig and a toy soldier. Since 1971, it’s held the Guinness World Records title of World’s Smallest Park.
But that may soon change. With a fence, a bench and three trees (named Faith, Hope and Charity), Princes Park, in Burntwood, in Staffordshire, England, is giving Mills End a run for its money.
The controversy began with a reporter’s phone call to Mark Ross, spokesman with Portland Parks and Recreation.
“A writer for one of [London's] newspapers asked me if I would engage in some banter, because he was trying to promote the world’s shortest fun run within their park, and wanted to drum up some publicity, and boy, did that happen,” Ross told ABCNews.com. “Our park, however, is still the smallest.”
Kevin Wilson of KP Events, based in London, is the one organizing the world’s run in Princes Park. He said he’s convinced the London park is the smallest park based on the dictionary definition of the word “park.”
“According to www.dictionary.com, a well respected web based dictionary, a park is an area of land, usually in a largely natural state, for the enjoyment of the public, having facilities for rest and recreation, often owned, set apart, and managed by a city, state, or nation. Princes Park has a fence around it, a bench and 3 trees, it’s managed by Lichfield District Council, it is by any definition a park,” he wrote in a post. “Mill Ends Park in no way can be classed as a park, it’s a glorified flower pot!”
Ross disagrees. “It is a city park and has been since 1948, and we are very proud of our park,” he said. “It is weeded, watered, and maintained just like any other park. We have embraced our weirdness and are enjoying the debate [Wilson] is stirring up. It has become the world’s most benign international dispute.”
Mills End was originally going to be the site of a light pole, but when the light never came in, a journalist named Dick Fagen decided to plant foliage there, and he began writing about the happenings in the garden.
“Fagen’s office overlooked the park, and he would write columns about leprechauns that lived there, their antics and episodes and created a land within the park,” Ross said. “Some say there are tiny shamrock plants that grow within the other plants.”
Last month, the tiny park sparked national media attention when someone stole its only tree.
“We ended up replanting the tree, but when it was originally stolen, I was called by various news outlets asking if a press release would be sent out,” he said. “I honestly thought I didn’t think this was a big deal. But it was.”
The original tree was eventually returned and planted in another park in Portland.
Wilson said he is asking the Lichfield District Council to contact Guinness to make a formal judgment. Ross said he is ready to fight.
“We have a pretty good track record in the past of taking on the Brits,” he said. “Either way, we are up for the challenge.”