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Portland's Longfellow Park gets long-overdue improvements

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Portland's Longfellow Park gets long-overdue improvements

PORTLAND — While the city has debated the future of open spaces such as Congress Square Plaza, improvements have quietly been made to a lesser-known space in the Oakdale neighborhood.

The city is working to upgrade Longfellow Park, a third-of-an-acre triangular patch of grass, trees and walks bounded by Longfellow, Noyes and Oakdale streets.

"It's a wonderful little green space, just a gem," said Carol Schiller, who has lived in the neighborhood for 23 years. "My kids learned to ride their bikes here, and now you see young families bringing their children here. There's a real sense of ownership about the park."

The park was built in 1927 with land sold to the city for $5,000 by the Noyes family. In the 1960s, neighborhood residents persuaded the city to install several benches and paths criss-crossing the park.

Since then, however, the park was sometimes neglected.

Planters that used to be planted with tulips became overgrown, Schiller said. The adjacent sidewalks cracked. The benches began falling apart.

University of Southern Maine student volunteers spruced up the park in April as part of a service project. But there was only so much they could do.

An informal group of about 10 neighbors began asking the city years ago to pay more attention to the park's maintenance. Now the effort seems to paying off. A sidewalk ramp has been installed; new benches have been ordered and expected to be installed in a few weeks. Other improvements, such as sidewalk and path repairs and tree pruning, should also be made soon, according to Troy Moon, the city's environmental programs and open space manager.

The improvements are part of the city's ongoing park maintenance and had always been on the city's "to do" list, Moon said. But with more than 30 parks covering hundreds of acres, it's a long list.

But he's glad Longfellow's turn has finally come.

"It's a great little park," Moon said. "You see  everyone here, from families to kids to USM students playing Frisbee."

Schiller said neighbors are considering holding a ribbon-cutting event or a block party when the work is complete.

She said, "It's nice that a park in this end of town has gotten some attention. We just want the park to be at its highest performing level."

A passer-by, Amy Shulman, said she was new to Portland and hadn't realized the existence of the park until she was biking.

"I'm so glad I discovered this place," she said. "It's a treasure."

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.