Teeny-tiny Portland park has an itsy-bitsy theft

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A tiny Portland, Oregon, park loses its only tree to theft

At just 2 feet across, Mill Ends Park is billed as the world's smallest

A newspaper columnist started the park in an abandoned street light hole in 1948

The city took it over in 1976

CNN  — 

The last time Mill Ends Park was in the news, it was full of teeny-tiny plastic police officers, a whole lot of teeny-tiny protest signs, and one scrawny evergreen tree.

That’s the kind of place it is, all 452 square inches of it.

What’s billed as the world’s smallest park, tucked inside a concrete circle just 2 feet across, is a quirky Portland kind of place.

It’s the site of itty-bitty protests – including that 2011 Occupy Portland protest covered by CNN affiliate KATU – teensy-weensy swimming pools and way small diving boards – for the diminutive butterflies, of course.

And then, for a short time it seems, someone stole its lone tree. The diminutive evergreen disappeared sometime last week from the downtown street-corner park, KATU reported, citing the Portland Parks and Recreation Department.

It was more of a crisis than you might think: The place is also reputedly the home of leprechaun Patrick O’Toole, whom the late Oregon Journal columnist Dick Fagan claimed granted him a wish of having his own park.

According to the parks department, Fagan planted flowers in an unused hole in the median outside his newsroom office way back in 1948.

He frequently wrote about it in the years before his death in 1969, frequently weaving in fanciful tales involving O’Toole and other leprechauns, according to numerous accounts of the celebrated little park.

The city took it over on St. Patrick’s Day in 1976, and good-natured park workers have tended to the tiny plot ever since.

So, on discovering the tree was gone, of course they quickly scraped up $3.25 for a new one, hurried downtown and planted the replacement before the notoriously fickle-tempered leprechaun could make any trouble, KATU reported.

The new tree is a Douglas fir sapling, CNN affiliate KPTV reported.

“It was important to replace it so the leprechaun there had some shade from the sun,” a suitably deferential park official, Mark Ross, told KATU.

But just after the tiny replacement tree was planted, the old tree returned.

A driver noticed the diminutive tree Friday “roots and all, lying on its side just outside the park,” Portland Parks & Recreation said.

Some wondered if tree bandit had felt remorse.

“Whatever the motivation, we are relieved,” says Portland Parks & Recreation Director Mike Abbate.

But police were still on the case.

“Remorse does not mean case closed’,” says Portland Police Bureau Sergeant Pete Simpson. “We will pursue … our investigation and hope that justice is served, and served swiftly”.

Read more about the theft at KGW

Read KATU’s special on the park from 2011

CNN’s Jake Carpenter contributed to this report.