Keyword Site Search

Magnolia Park

by Mark Hadley, RLA, ASLA, Project Manager, WHPacific, Inc., Portland, Oregon

The splash pad, play ground and picnic shelter combine to create the activity hub of Magnolia Park in Hillsboro, Oregon. The stone mounds and seat walls are constructed from the local Oregon basalt. The mosaic artist set her creations into the four-foot center medallion, as well as encircling the three organic shaped basalt mounds.
Photo: Kevin Zuercher
Rain bird
Rain bird
Came America Teak Warehouse

Water shooting up from the splash pad, children laughing and dancing in the water, parents talking and listening to music on a beautiful, warm day—a typical scene of Hillsboro’s newest park, Magnolia Neighborhood Park.

Magnolia Neighborhood Park is a 3.5-acre urban park situated in a busy, fast growing and high-density neighborhood of Hillsboro, Oregon, a community of 90,000 in the Tualatin Valley on the west side of the Portland metropolitan area. The city is home to many high-tech companies, such as Intel, and is known as “Silicon Forest
The park’s amenities include play structures, a zero-depth splash pad, a custom designed picnic shelter with barbecue facilities, a tennis court, a basketball half-court, checkerboard game tables, .43 miles of paved paths and a sustainable rain garden. It’s the city’s first park to have a splash pad fountain and to incorporate public art.


The interactive splash pad incorporates Enviro-flow low-water use spray nozzles, an interactive activator and multi-valve controls. Excess water from the splash pad’s drain collects and diverts to the rain garden, where it is cleansed. An almost endless array of water effects is possible by mixing and sequencing the different spray nozzles. The integral colored concrete is separated with aluminum strips.
Top Photo: Mark Hadley - Bottom Photo: Loren Nelson


Community Vision
Acquiring the property in 2006, Hillsboro Parks and Recreation began six months of planning in January 2007. The master plan was based on input from the surrounding neighborhood. A questionnaire was sent out to all the neighbors, and a follow-up public open house was held to gain consensus on elements to include in the park, including suggestions for naming the park. In September 2007, Hillsboro Parks and Recreation started the 10-month construction, which included planting approximately 180 trees, including four species of magnolias, 68,000 square feet of grass, and over 1,000 perennials and flowers. Magnolia Park neighbors submitted comments and ideas during the design work and were supportive, engaged (and observant, with watchful eyes!) during construction.


Three water jets converge at the central four-ft. dia. mosaic medallion. Artist Lynn Adamo’s mosaic interpretations of magnolias, a year in the making, are constructed of thousands of half-inch unglazed anti-skid French tiles in rich colors that change intensity when wet.
Photos: Loren Nelson

Interactive Splash Pad Water Feature

Splash pads have become extremely popular park features. When envisioning a splash pad for Magnolia Park, WHPacific evaluated various water systems. The design team recommended a potable water conservation approach using Enviro-flow low-water use spray nozzles, an interactive activator and multi-valve controls. Excess water from the splash pad’s drain-to-waste is collected and diverted to the rain garden, where it is cleansed for water quality.

The design team programmed the choreography of the water dance into the control system, the heart of the fountain’s interactivity and water conservation. It’s a big hit with children and adults alike.


Three “mop-top” ground sprays, each with eight individual tubes of water, reach out in all directions. The spray angles are field adjustable, yielding 8 ft. to 25 ft. diameter patterns.
Photo: Kevin Zuercher

Endless water effects are possible by mixing and sequencing the different spray nozzles. There are nine “pop-it” nozzles along the colored concrete concentric spiral of the splash pad.

“Designing with pop-its was like creating a light show with strobe lights, only doing it with water instead of light,” said Mark Hadley, the lead landscape architect and project manager. “Each nozzle can be programmed to release a split second ‘pop’ of water.”


Detailed vignettes of various magnolia flowers are sequenced together to form the artistic bands around each of the locally sourced grey basalt stone play mounds on the splash pad.
Photo: Loren Nelson

Kids delight in the irregular spray pattern, a kaleidoscope of marble-size water droplets shooting into the air and showering down.

Three “mop-top” ground sprays, each with eight individual tubes of water that reach out in all directions, are the most prominent water displays. The spray angles are field adjustable, yielding 8 feet to 25 feet diameter patterns.


The custom designed shelter is the hub of the park. Its architectural styling gives the neighborhood an identity. The glulam (glue laminated) beams were custom fabricated and installed by Western Wood Structures. Basalt post bases and seat walls match the basalt used throughout the park. The four-gabled roof is capped with an elegant finial.
Photo: Kevin Zuercher

Three wave nozzles, each with six openings, were placed around the perimeter, strategically located between the basalt mounds, shooting inwards and converging in the center of the water feature.

To conserve water, the splash pad is activated with a ground-mounted switch. Children delight when they discover this secret sensor. They activate the water flow when they tap this smooth, circular dome with their little feet. Ta-da! The fountain comes alive!


The park’s tennis and basketball courts echo the blue and green hard court colors at the U.S. Open (USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows, N.Y.).
Photo: Kevin Zuercher


Commissioning a Mosaic Artist
A key design feature of this urban park is the magnolia-themed mosaic art in the splash pad area. The Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department commissioned mosaic artist Lynn Adamo to design and craft mosaic artwork for the park’s water feature. The Society of American Mosaic Artists has featured her work nationally. Inspired by the park’s name and collaborating with WHPacific and Hillsboro Parks and Recreation, Lynn incorporated the images and names of magnolia species in her design. Her mosaic interpretations of magnolias are set into the four-foot center medallion and encircle the three organic-shaped basalt mounds. A year in the making, the Magnolia Park mosaics are constructed of thousands of half-inch, unglazed, anti-skid French tiles in rich colors that vary in intensity when wet.


The rain garden is a functional stromwater management facility and an attractive riparian interpretive garden. Stormwater runoff from the park and splash pad flow into three tiered-basins separated by basalt rock weirs. The plantings are native to the Pacific Northwest: red twig dogwood, oregon grape, Douglas spirea, Nootka rose and Oregon iris.
Photo: Kevin Zuercher

Rain Garden
Stormwater runoff from the park is diverted to an innovative, three-tiered rain garden, where it flows through wetland plantings and is cleansed for water quality and allowed to infiltrate and recharge the ground water. The technical stormwater management category for the rain garden is “vegetated infiltration basin.” The basin is designed to collect and hold stormwater runoff, allow pollutants to settle and filter out as the water infiltrates into the ground. The infiltration rate of the native soil was a key element in determining the size of the basins. Particular attention was given to avoid soil disturbance and compaction during construction to retain the soil’s natural infiltration ability. Wetland and riparian plantings help improve infiltration and stabilize the side slopes.

The design of Magnolia Park pioneered rain garden construction in Hillsboro, as the city’s low impact stormwater design standards were not yet complete. WHPacific prepared a stormwater management plan, justifying the water quality benefits of the vegetated infiltration basin. With the help of the city park’s staff, the facility was approved as a demonstration project.

Contrary to the perception that it rains all the time in Oregon, July and August are hot, dry and prime time for heavy use of the zero-depth splash pad. The added benefit of collecting excess water from the splash pad fountain during the dry summer season and sending it to the rain garden is that the water can feed the indigenous riparian plantings, keeping the rain garden naturally lush and vibrant all summer long.


The trash receptacles were custom cut (Waterjet Design) with magnolia flower images to emphasize the park's namesake. The park benches are by Timberform.


Role of the Landscape Architect
With a project site of only 3.5 acres, WHPacific’s landscape architects worked closely with the city to maximize use of the limited green space, including detailed design work for the signature features; the splash pad and picnic shelter. The firm assisted the city with the restoration of the site, which was an abandoned orchard and previously used for cultivating nursery stock. The challenge was to implement the city’s and neighborhood’s vision for their park. Locally available vernacular grey basalt stone was selected as a unifying element throughout the park. It’s used in the shelter, seat walls, splash pad and rain garden weirs. The in-house team designed the picnic shelter as the functional hub of the park, an iconic architectural image giving identity to the neighborhood.

The signature activity element of the park is the interactive splash pad. It was the landscape architect’s collaboration with the city, the artist, the fountain equipment supplier and the contractor that made the water feature so successful. The WHPacific in-house design team, led by the landscape architect, provided the park shelter design, civil engineering, stormwater management, public road improvements, lighting, sport court design, planting and irrigation.

The Hillsboro Parks and Recreation Department staff played a key role from beginning to end. The successful collaboration between the owner and WHPacific made the process seamless. The city’s project manager and landscape architect Laurie DeVos was instrumental in working with the neighborhood to develop the original master plan. Laurie spearheaded the commissioning of the mosaic artist and engaged contractors during construction to bring the finishing touch to the details.

The park’s landscape is a combination of open-play lawn areas with surrounding grassy berms, diverse flowering shrubs, a virtual arboretum of 180 trees and native interpretive riparian plantings in the rain garden. The park boasts four species of its namesake: Magnolia denudata, Magnolia grandiflora ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’, Magnolia x liliflora ‘Nigra’ and Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’. Plantings of majestic northern red oaks and tulip trees will bring shade and flowering interest in the spring and summer. Japanese Snowbell Trees and Japanese Stewartias fill in the understory.


The playground for the park sports GameTime play elements. The checkerboard game tables (DuMor) offer more cerebral pursuits.


It’s a Community Gathering Place
Magnolia Neighborhood Park has been adopted by the local Hillsboro Trader Joe’s through the city’s Adopt-a-Park program. The park has become a magnet for residents, especially for families and children in the summer months with the popular splash pad. There have been many community events hosted here. A local retirement center has held a series of free concerts in the park, providing the community with enjoyable live music in the open-air park environment. The park is an ideal lunch spot for workers from the nearby shopping centers and offices, with benches, a covered picnic shelter and checkerboard game tables. Hillsboro Parks and Recreation is honored to receive such a positive reaction from the community.

“The response to the park has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Laurie DeVos, RLA, project manager for Hillsboro Parks and Recreation. “On warm summer days especially, it’s the very picture of a vibrant gathering space. We regularly see senior citizens walking the perimeter sidewalk loop, teenagers lounging on the grass and seat walls, and whole generations of families and friends enjoying the picnic shelter, sports courts, playground and especially the splash pad.”

The park has become immediately popular for many parks and rec programmed events, including the Hillsboro World Expedition and the Great Pumpkin Hunt. With its amenities, lush plantings and green space, Magnolia Park will enhance the neighborhood by serving as a community gathering space for years to come.

“I have really enjoyed watching this project evolve, from a great concept plan, to an extremely clean set of documents and bid process, to physically getting it built in the field,” said Kevin Smith, development manager of Hillsboro Parks and Recreation, at the park’s grand opening ceremony. “I believe there’s probably never going to be a perfect project, but thanks to all of your efforts this one was pretty darn close, even with some challenging site conditions. This neighborhood and the entire community is already excited about this park. Thanks to the dedication each of you and your teams had for this project, this site will be a focal point for this neighborhood for a long time after we are all gone.”

For a high-density neighborhood, the park is so much more than just trees, grass, flowers and fun amenities. It’s a community gathering place, a magnet for families and children, a place where people of all ages can come to connect with neighbors, play, relax and enjoy the outdoors. A neighborhood park is an amazing phenomenon, and contributes greatly to the ambiance and livability of the city.



About WHPacific
WHPacific, Inc.,, the lead consultant firm on Magnolia Neighborhood Park project, specializes in the design of outdoor recreation projects, from parks to athletic facilities and recreation-oriented developments, public and private. The Portland, Oregon office of WHPacific was ranked #1 of the Portland-area landscape architecture firms in 2010 by the Daily Journal of Commerce’s “A” list. The firm has recently won two design awards from the Oregon Recreation and Parks Association for park design. The Portland office is one of 16 WHPacific offices across the western U.S., with three offices in Oregon serving clients in land development, transportation, survey and water resources.


Project Team
Owner: City of Hillsboro Parks and Recreation
Laurie DeVos, RLA, Project Manager

Landscape Architect & Prime Consultant: WHPacific, Inc.
Mark Hadley, RLA, ASLA, Project Manager
Matt Kilmartin, RLA, ASLA, Project Landscape Architect (Now with Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District)

Civil: WHPacific, Inc.
Structural: Lewis & Van Vleet, Inc.

Stone Mason: Builders Masonry

General Contractors: Paul Brothers, Inc.

Mosaic Artwork: Lynn Adamo Fine Art + Architectural Installations


Plant Material: Alpine Nursery

Play Equipment: GameTime

Play Equipment Installation: City of Hillsboro Parks and Recreation staff

Shelter Construction: Western Wood Structures (custom fabricated and installation)

Site Furniture
Benches: Timberform
Bike Racks: CycLoops
Checkboard Game Tables: DuMor

Magnolia Trash Receptacles: Waterjet Design
John Groth, Owner/Artist

Water Feature Equipment: Waterplay Solutions Corp.

Related Stories

November 18, 2019, 11:46 am PDT

Website problems, report a bug.
Copyright © 2019 Landscape Communications Inc.
Privacy Policy