Portland to host community forum on parks initiatives

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PORTLAND — The city will host its annual community discussion of parks and public space initiatives, the Green Space Gathering, on Thursday, May 3.

The forum, now in its third year, will provide an opportunity for the Parks Commission to present its work over the last year and its plans for the future. It also offers the chance to have a public dialog with the parks community, Troy Moon, the city’s environmental programs and open space manager, said.

The conversation is part of a renewed focus by the city in recent years to increase the quality of public life through environmental means, athletic facilities manager Ethan Owens said.

“Quite frankly, 10 years ago the city was not green at all,” Owens said. Now the city emphasizes recycling, reducing energy consumption and reducing emissions, “and we’re really trying,” he said.

One of the issues to be discussed at the forum is the need to identify space to expand the city’s community gardens, Moon said. The city has 130 plots in four gardens, and a waiting list of more than 100 gardeners, he said. Gardens run by neighborhood groups in Riverton, Deering, and on Peaks Island also have waiting lists, he said.

The city is also in the process of completing an inventory of trees on public land.

“There’s a huge need for maintaining the city’s street trees and some of the park trees,” and while the parks budget, like most in the city, have been tight, this years budget did allow for that to continue, Moon said.

Work over the next year will include the restoration of Fort Allen Park on the Eastern Promenade, which was approved by the Historic Preservation board last week, he said.

Over the last year, the city has made improvements to a number of its parks, Owens said, including:

• Replacing bleachers at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

• Building basketball courts in East Bayside.

• Building playgrounds at the Taylor Street Park and Ocean Avenue Elementary School.

• Creating fitness trails at five city schools and an adult fitness course at the Preble Street field in Back Cove.

• Moving the baseball and softball diamonds at Dougherty Field.

• And completing construction of the city’s concrete skatepark.

City staff will be joined by community leaders including Barb Hagar, a force behind the Eastern Cemetery preservation effort, and Kara Wooldrik, the new head of Portland Trails, and Anne Pringe of the Green Spaces Coalition, at the meeting Thursday.

The Green Space Gathering will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the East End Community School, 195 North St.

Andrew Cullen can be at 781-3661 ext. 100 or at acullen@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @ACullenFore.