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Portland seeks input on King memorial; waterfront spot eyed for fisherman statue

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Portland seeks input on King memorial; waterfront spot eyed for fisherman statue

PORTLAND — The city is looking for ideas from the public about how best to pay tribute to slain civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Meanwhile, a group that has been working for six years to erect a monument to honor Portland's fishing heritage is gaining momentum.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Commission has scheduled two public forums this month to discuss its memorial. A little more than a year ago, the commission, then a task force, submitted a report to the City Council suggesting a memorial be built at the new Bayside Trail.

The suggestion gained unanimous support from the council.

Now the MLK Commission is seeking information from the public regarding what kind of memorial the city should build in honor of King. The memorial is expected to be built near the intersection of Sommerset and Chestnut streets, where a Maine Health/United Way office building and parking garage was once planned.

Rachel Talbot Ross, a co-chairwoman of the committee and the city's director for multicultural affairs and equal opportunity, said she has been working with the Bayside Trail Public Arts subcommittee on a master plan for art work along the trail. Ross has also met with the National Parks Service to discuss Portland's planned memorial and traveled to Atlanta to meet with the MLK Memorial Committee there, along with other Atlanta officials.

Ross said a national request for qualifications will go out in mid-March. She said the committee hopes to attract teams of artists with landscape as well as practical art expertise.

"There will be opportunity for the public to weigh in all along the way," Ross said, including reviewing submissions from artists.

The first forum is scheduled for Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress St. The second forum will take place Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. at Shaarey Tphiloh Synagogue, 76 Noyes St.

For more information, go to mlkportlandmaine.org.

The Fishermen's Monument Committee is asking the city to commit property next to the Ocean Gateway Terminal for its monument.

Members of the committee met with the City Council Community Development Committee Jan. 27 to go over details of their plans.

The committee wants the city to devote approximately 5,000 square feet of land within the parcel it owns at the corner of Thames and Hancock streets to the statue. The committee is seeking the council's commitment so it can go forward with private fundraising.

Originally, the monument was supposed to go in Bell Buoy Park, on Commercial Street near the Maine State Pier, but several problems came up regarding utilities and access for public safety officials to the waterfront. The monument was then going to be combined with the public art tidal pool next to Ocean Gateway, but concerns over disturbing dredge fill quashed that plan.

The committee has been looking for a new site for the past year or so.

The statue, designed by Eliot artist Christopher Gowell, depicts two fishermen in a row boat battling rough seas. It is approximately 14 feet by 20 feet at its base. Steven Carpenter of Eliot would design landscaping around the monument.

The City Council is expected to take up the land request at a future meeting.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net