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City, residents hope to bridge impasse over Ferry Village park in South Portland

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City, residents hope to bridge impasse over Ferry Village park in South Portland

SOUTH PORTLAND — City officials are looking to create a park in Ferry Village in an effort to end a standoff with residents over the fate of an existing asphalt park at the corner of High and Sawyer streets.

Assistant City Manager Erik Carson said he is exploring the possibility of creating a new park on one of several city-owned properties in Ferry Village. Two sites under consideration are a parcel on School Street and one on Pierce Street. 

"We haven't finalized anything," Carson said. "We will talk with the Ferry Village neighborhood association on a going-forward basis."

In 2007, a $15,000 grant was awarded to the neighborhood group for the renovation of the High-Sawyer street park through the Community Development Block Grant Program. But no work has been carried out because of a disagreement over whether a basketball half-court should remain in the park. 

The Ferry Village Neighborhood Conservation Association wants the court removed, claiming it is a hang-out for vagrants. Instead, the group submitted plans for a greener space that would have sheltered benches at the bus stop and an informational kiosk about the village. However, city officials and the CDBG advisory committee, which makes funding recommendations to the City Council, are insisting that the basketball court remain.

 "There are some enhancements that could be made to make (the court) integrate better with the neighborhood," Carson said.

He said the city would like to create the park envisioned by neighborhood at another location within walking distance from existing park. Depending on the availability of funds, a $25,000 grant could be added to the project to pay for a new park and upgrades to the existing park to make it a better fit for neighbors, who complain about profanity and drug use on the court. 

FVNCA President David Jacobs said the community is steadfast about implementing its vision for the park at the corner of High and Sawyer streets; so much so, that the group may withdraw its grant request.

"Putting a park somewhere else in Ferry Village that is not on the major thoroughfare is not the point of the grant," Jacobs said. 

Jacobs said he drove through the village with Mayor Tom Blake to find another location for the basketball court and he thinks School Street, where there is already a playground, would be an ideal location. But Carson said the only way the city would consider moving the court to that location would be for School Street neighbors to agree to the arrangement.

"If the city is willing to remove the hoop and put it on School Street, I would encourage the association and the neighborhood to fully support that," Jacobs said. "If the goal is to keep the hoop on the corner of Sawyer and High, then we probably will just ask to rescind our grant, because it's not what the neighborhood wants; it's not what the neighborhood needs."

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net