Community Sees Draft “Treatment Plan” for the Eastern Promenade; View Questions Continue to Spark Dissent

By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,099)

Consultant Martha H. Lyon gave a power point history of the Eastern Promenade and its development over the years and how it has gotten to this point – a public park in need of treatment to restore it somewhat to its glory days – between 1980 and 1930.

Lyon told the audience of about 50 at the East End Community School last night that as far back as 1796, Portland began planting trees along the Promenade. By 1890, the city began to consider the Promenade an important area in Portland. In 1891, William Goodwin, city engineer, designed the park as we know it today. Between 1890 and 1896, the city invested large amounts of money there. There was a house on the Promenade during this time. In 1904, the city hired the Olmstead Brothers, the company of the then deceased, F. L. Omstead, nationally renowned landscape architect, to hire a plan for the park which is still in effect today. In 1913-1915, the city started using the area for the location of memorials and still does. But, by the 1930s, the city had begun to think about removing some of the features of the Promenade. In 1968, the Portland House was built. In 1984, Portland did a “rehab” and removed two paths that ran toward the water and parallel to the loop. Returning those paths to the Promenade are part of the current draft plan drawn up by Lyon with the city’s input.

What has become controversial and sparked dissent is the type of tree that is planned to line those two reinstated paths – between 10 and 12 Winter King Hawthorne trees. Ron Welton, a Promenade resident, said that because of the growth of these trees, views of the water will be impacted. No one knows exactly how tall these will grow, Welton said. “There will be a hedge of trees with a negative impact on the Prom.” Colleen Bedard likes the plan overall, but “cannot support the planting of the trees. These views are unique. We need to do everything we can do to preserve these views,” she said. Crandall Toothaker, another Promenade residents, said he liked the overall plan, but that the Winter King Hathornes have become a sticking point for neighbors. Don’t plant tall trees along Portland House,” he said.

Diane Davison, president of the Friends of the Eastern Promenade, the non-profit spearheading this rehab said the final figure has not yet been determined, but so far the cost of this work will cost around $900,000. The Friends hope to get some money from CDBG and CIP funds. A major fundraising effort will commence soon.

The plan is expected to go back to the Historic Preservation Committee again on April 18th.

Please see post # 1,086, dated 2/20 for more background information.