Portland task force: Rename Bayside Trail for Dr. King

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PORTLAND — After more than a year of study, a task force is recommending renaming the Bayside Trail in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The task force will report on its recommendation Wednesday, May 16, to the City Council Sustainability & Transportation Committee, led by Councilor Spencer Thibodeau. The meeting begins at 5:30 in City Hall.

The recommendation comes a decade after a separate task force reached the same conclusion, according to the task force report to the committee. The prior task force said the trail was well suited because of its visibility, accessibility and location.

“The current Task Force determines that these conditions still exist and it remains appropriate to rename the Bayside Trail in honor of Dr. King,” the report concluded.

Led by Councilor Pious Ali, the task force includes local artist Daniel Minter and Danielle Conway, dean of the University of Maine School of Law. It was formed in March 2017 by city councilors and met seven times. The task force deadline was extended earlier this year.

While meeting, task force members also considered renaming one of three other areas: Portland Landing near the Ocean Gateway Terminal, Fort Sumner Park on North Street, and Congress Square Park at High, Congress and Free streets.

A part of Portland Trails, the Bayside Trail extends from Elm Street, parallel to Marginal Way, and connects to trails around Back Cove and the base of the Eastern Promenade. The city plans to extend the trail to Deering Oaks Park.

The task force concluded Fort Sumner Park is less suitable for renaming because of its military history and place as a neighborhood park providing views around the west and south of the city.

Portland Landing, where plans are underway to create Amethyst Park, was seen as suitable by the task force because it is adjacent to the Eastern Prom Trail and is on the waterfront. It is also just blocks away from the Abyssinian Meeting House on Newbury Street, the third-oldest African-American meeting house in the country, with members who played a role in the city’s maritime history.

“It was clear that plans for the the park were well developed and would be difficult to modify,” the task force concluded.

The same conclusion was reached about Congress Square Park, now being redesigned as an open public space that will include a stage, seating areas and sculpted work by artist Sarah Sze.

Also eliminated by the task force was renaming Franklin Arterial, which runs from Commercial Street to Interstate 295. That suggestion was made in early 2017, and drew support from Thibodeau and Councilor Jill Duson.

The Franklin Arterial proposal was also criticized in a public hearing because expansion of the street nearly 50 years ago as an urban renewal project bisected neighborhoods and eliminated housing.

It had been hoped the city would designate a spot in honor of King in time for the 50th anniversary of his assassination on April 4.

The task force formed in 2008 by state Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross, leader of the city chapter of the NAACP, and former Councilor Dan Skolnick sought bidders to create a memorial for King, but no project moved forward.

King is not known to have made a public appearance in Portland, but did speak at Bowdoin College in Brunswick in May 1964.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

A Portland task force has recommended renaming the Bayside Trail in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.