From the website:  Tsuru Island or better known as Gresham’s Japanese Garden was completed in the Spring of 2014 by hard-working board members of the Gresham-Ebetsu Sister City Association and countless volunteers dedicated to the revitalization of this landmark in Gresham, Oregon. The mastermind behind the garden is Jim Card, a retired professional landscaper. His expertise and connections in the industry made this project a huge success for Gresham. We can’t forget too the City of Gresham. Their partnership with this monumental endeavor was invaluable.

Finding Tsuru Island is quite simple. Head to Historic Downtown Gresham and enter through Main City Park off of Powell Blvd and Main Street. When entering the garden area, you will be greeted by a landmark in its own right—the beautiful arching bridge. The park and island are open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Since the garden re-opened last June, citizen visits have increased substantially. Although we do not have a ticket system that allows an exact attendance count by the hour or by the day, (the garden is open 24/7) we can see the increase at certain times of the day and general feedback from people when they stop to say “thank you”. Watching the people come and go during the week or on the weekend allows one to realize that they are not just coming to the garden while visiting the park but rather they are visiting the park while coming to the garden, it has become a destination. The garden gets dozens of visitors every day and we have noticed that on especially nice days all the benches (5) will be filled with individuals that have found it to be enjoyable at lunch time. You can imagine there are weekly if not daily challenges with the progression and maintenance of the garden, but GESCA does have a revolving group of volunteers who help.

Tsuru Island Master Plan

Design Process

With previous efforts to provide information about the garden we have told the story of the cleaning up of the area and the efforts to promote certain improvements, with many of them being completed or put into some stage of development. How we get to the desired result is detailed because there are two sides to the process of achieving a desired result in Tsuru Island. One is the design process that is more than a landscape design function. The design process relates to the Japanese culture and yet must have privacy but openness, and provide a presentation that is an extension of nature and the area around the island. The second process is the construction of the garden. Although the garden is not a traditional Japanese garden, we wish to present a Sukiya-style garden making it feel special and separate from the outside world. The foundation of the garden is stone and boulders with a stream bed running through. This type of garden construction began with some degree of the unknown. Areas need to look natural and balanced achieved by manipulating boulders, shaping berms and placing plant materials so it looked balanced. Every item and material used is natural and irregular and each with its own characteristic. Download the Master Plan.

The Stream

The stream is an important part of the garden that allows the division of certain sections of the garden “rooms” providing a calming effect even though water may not be present all of the time. The first component is the beginning of the feature, which includes the small pool area and has a minimal depth of 8-inches. The next component includes the stream bed that continues from the beginning and meanders through the garden, picking up some slope to allow the movement of the water when present and with enough volume. The stream bed works its way to the area in front of the specimen maple and ends as a small pond area planted with water iris. This minimal amount of water depth eliminates the need for cleaning and people and animals from using the feature in undesirable ways that could otherwise increase maintenance and supervision. Irrigation & Drainage The irrigation is designed as a high-end drip irrigation system capable of far more coverage and volume that the garden requires at this time. A drainage system collects standing water and prevents it from moving to the edges and running down to the creek. Several spots on the island show history that this has been happening for decades. The materials that have been incorporated into the system are called wick drain or site drain and is designed to allow for the water to be taken into the outer skin of the product and even out in the trench allowing the water to flow to a low point or to be absorbed into the porous area under the top grade. This drain product along with the process provided for in an erosion grant. Additional grading work that was included in the installation process, allows the flow of water to the outer edges of the island to be eliminated, and captured in the stream bed and functions as a rain garden would. Tsuru Island Bridge The new bridge will be constructed in the same design, but we will do so making upgrades to include current standards and codes. Considering that one of our intents of the garden and bridge redesigns has always been to do so with the most longevity and least amount of maintenance in mind, we have decided to construct the bridge using a hardwood known as Purple Heart. This wood comes from Brazil and is commonly used for docks and bridges, for the up fit of crabbing and fishing boats while it is considered one of the hardest woods available. We are intending for this bridge to be near maintenance free and lasting 200 years and beyond. The wood for the bridge is being machined over the next few months and the assembly will take place during June and July of this year.

The Azumaya

Another construction project includes the pavilion that will be machined and assembled along the northerly side of the island and will offer conditions for tea ceremonies and quiet sitting out of the rain or sun, it will be adjacent to our cleansing area which is found in traditional tea gardens in Japan. The wood for the pavilion was coordinated and donated through the efforts of Dino Rocha and Carl Diebold Lumber Company/Patrick Lumber Company. Through other donations we have been able to purchase the machining plans and program which would allow us the ability to enlist a local high school wood shops to machine the wood on a school owned CNC machine. This is in process.

The Re-building of the Bridge

The re-building of the bridge, which is the focal point of Tsuru Island, has been in the Master Plan since 2011— the same time as the planning for the rejuvenation of the Japanese Garden. Between 2011 and 2015, Jim Card, retired professional landscaper and jack-of-all-traits extraordinaire researched the best building material for longevity and proper construction to stay true to the original construction and Japanese culture.

In 2014, Jim Card purchased purple heart wood with 75% of the materials funded by the City of Gresham, the planning and construction of the bridge was to begin. The original intent was to solicit a local high school wood shop to construct the bridge, but after many attempt by Jim to find the correct skill sets within the high school setting became unobtainable, Jim reached out to local businesses. With the magnitude of the project, not only space was needed, but the proper equipment was as well. Doug Mullins at Quality Woodworking provided materials space and equipment to allow the project to move forward.

Jim Card and numerous volunteers sawed, machined, and glued all the pieces to construct the bridge—in Jim’s home workshop. This endeavor took roughly six months to complete. By June of 2015, demolishing of the old bridge was ready to happen. Once again, volunteers made this happen under the meticulous direction of Jim Card.

In July of 2o15 the bridge was completed with the finishing touches of a finial to each post called a Gaboshi— a standard for bridges in Japan.

To read the entire bridge construction journal written by Jim Card, download here. It’s a wonderful read.