Portland preserves 27 acres of open space for public use

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Randy Billings, Portland Press Herald, Maine
·3 min read
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Apr. 19—Portland has preserved 27 acres of land as public open space, the city announced in a news release Monday.

The forested parcel at 204 Rand Road has been a preservation priority for the city's Land Bank Commission, which is charged with preserving and expanding public open space. The land acquisition helps achieve the city's goal of ensuring that publicly accessible open space is available to all residents within a 10 minute walk from their homes, according to Pat Bailey, the chair of the commission.

"We think this is a huge addition to open space" in Portland, Bailey said.

The parcel was purchased from the Avangrid Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the international energy company that owns Central Maine Power Co. The land will be added to existing preserves at the Fore River Sanctuary and Jewell Falls, the city said.

The purchase was approved by the City Council in November. The sales price was $325,000, but the city only spent $50,000 to acquire it because Avangrid gave the city a $275,000 credit toward the closing costs, according to city records.

"At the Avangrid Foundation, we look for unique opportunities to partner with our local communities and pursue our mission of environmental stewardship, and this was the perfect opportunity to do both," Avangrid Foundation Executive Director Nicole Licata Grant said in a written statement.

Bailey said the Land Bank, like the city's Public Art Committee, is funded through a designated appropriation equal to one half of 1 percent of the city's Capital Improvement Project budget.

The land partly overlaps the Fore River Sanctuary and contains popular walking trails that are maintained by Portland Trails and will now be publicly owned and preserved.

Trails on the newly acquired property can be accessed on Rowe Avenue, Starbird Land and Rand Road. Public access to the property also will continue through links to the broader trail network maintained by Portland Trails, which can be reached from Rowe Avenue, Starbird Land and Rand Road.

The city said in a news release that the varied land cover, topography and soil type makes the area important for the regional flow for species moving to adapt to climate change. Development would not only represent the loss of an opportunity to protect a unique and important natural area, it would degrade the value of adjacent conservation lands by fragmenting the large undeveloped acreage, it said.

"This is a big deal for Portland to be able to preserve this 27-acre parcel that helps the city accomplish so many goals at once — from preserving our existing tree canopy and habitat areas, to getting us closer to 100 percent of our residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park or trail, to creating outdoor recreation and exercise opportunities for walkers, bikers, students, commuters, and dog-walkers," Director of Parks, Recreation & Facilities Director Ethan Hipple said in a written statement. "One hundred years from now, when Portland may have grown or changed so much, residents will be thankful that this gem of a property was set aside for the public to share and enjoy forever."