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Portland’s Mount Tabor wins unique honor as first ‘Urban Quiet Park’ in the United States

A woman and dogs walking in a park with large trees.
April Ehrlich
Shelly Lufkin and Olivia Lufkin walk their dogs in Portland's Mount Tabor park on Friday.

Portland’s Mount Tabor Park has been designated the first Urban Quiet Park in the United States by Quiet Parks International.

The park in southeast Portland spans 176 acres and sits on an extinct volcano. The nearly 640-foot peak and towering trees that cover it help people find solitude, even during summer holidays or dance parties, according to Quiet Parks International volunteer Jacob Schmidt.

“It’s a community park,” Schmidt said during a small awards ceremony at the park’s visitor center on Friday. “It brings everybody together. And what we want to emphasize with our Urban Quiet Parks is, it’s not the perfect serene solace that you expect to find.”

As part of the designation process, Schmidt visited the park 14 times and recorded sounds in different locations to measure their average decibels.

“I was finding spots below 40 DB, below 35 DB, which is very quiet,” Schmidt said.

For comparison, a quiet library can measure around 40 decibels.

Quiet Parks International is a nonprofit that aims to “save quiet for the benefit of all life,” according to its mission. It offers quiet designations for urban parks, wilderness parks and trails.

Schmidt said anyone can nominate a park, and anyone can volunteer to help measure sound at those locations. He said the program doesn’t come with rules or noise sanctions; rather, the designation is a way to spread awareness and appreciation for silence.

“I don’t want you guys to feel obligated to keep it quiet or anything like that,” Schmidt said. “Just bring the attitude and the mindset of, ‘This is quiet. If I keep this space quiet, then it will propagate around me and maybe others will be inspired to be quiet, as well.”

April Ehrlich began freelancing for Jefferson Public Radio in the fall of 2016, and then officially joined the team as its Morning Edition Host and a Jefferson Exchange producer in August 2017.