Posted: August 23, 2016
Portland’s in-town parks
Written by: Leslie Bridgers
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From the controversy over Congress Square to plans for a new waterfront park, it seems like Portland’s open spaces have been getting a lot of press. But there shouldn’t have to be breaking news for us to take note of these urban oases. So, we’ve put together a list of Portland’s in-town parks, along with the amenities and people you’ll find there. After all, there’s got to be a reason people are getting so worked up about their parks. If you’re not already among them, it might be time to find out what you’re missing.
Eastern Promenade/Fort Allen ParkOn the eastern edge of the Portland peninsula lies a nearly 70-acre park, largely defined by a long, wide lawn that slopes down from the street, which is also called Eastern Promenade, toward the water, creating a natural form of stadium seating for looking out on Casco Bay. While some park-goers simply sit and admire the ocean and islands, others use the expanse for Frisbee games, yoga classes and even hill sprints, surely made at least a little easier by the peaceful setting. The park also features tennis and basketball courts, baseball fields, a playground and a path along the water that's popular with walkers and runners and connects to the Back Cove Trail and the Old Port. On the city side, the prom turns into Fort Allen Park, which features a Civil War monument, a gazebo and benches overlooking the water. Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
Fort Sumner Park
Nestled between apartment buildings on Munjoy Hill's North Street, this small neighborhood park is known for having what's possibly the best view of the city, though a proposed condo project could put that in jeopardy. Dogs play fetch on the tree-studded acre of grass, which is also used for tai chi and tightrope-walking. A path from the street leads straight back to a concrete viewing area with benches where you can find anyone from tourists to rowdy teenagers taking in the sweeping view of downtown Portland and Back Cove.
Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
Lincoln ParkThis 2.5-acre park between Congress Street and the Cumberland County Courthouse was created to keep fire from spreading from downtown Portland up Munjoy Hill, as it did 150 years ago, when much of the city burned to the ground. It was originally named Phoenix Square, but was later renamed to honor President Abraham Lincoln. More recently, it was the home of the Occupy movement's Portland encampment. A diagonal path through the park, where there's also a fountain and benches, leads from the corner of Congress and Franklin streets into the Old Port. Photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer
Post Office Park/Tommy's ParkThese two small parks on either side of Exchange Street are right in the heart of Portland's Old Port, providing a place for local youths to hang out, shoppers to rest their feet and performers – from buskers to fire jugglers – to put on a show for everyone passing by. Among the laid bricks that make up most of Post Office Park, you'll find stone benches and landscaped islands. During the day, at Tommy's Park, you're likely to come across Mark's Hot Dogs, a long-established food cart with a following of regulars who hold court nearby. The park is also home to a visitor information kiosk and sits in the shadow of a mural painted to make the side of a building look like the facade of a mansion. Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
Congress Square ParkThis park became the subject of debate a couple years back, when a group of investors unveiled a plan to purchase the neglected half-acre property at the corner of High and Congress streets to build a ballroom and events center for the hotel next door. Residents, however, voted to increase protections on parks, thwarting the sale. Since then, a friends group has been conducting regular cleanups, added tables and chairs for public use and is offering a variety of programming to make the concrete park that sits a few steps below street level more attractive. Regular events include exercise classes, salsa dancing, knitting, movie screenings and musical performances. Photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer
Harbor View Memorial ParkOverlooking the Fore River and Casco Bay Bridge, the 2.5-acre grassy park stretches along York Street in the West End neighborhood of Portland. Benches by the lawn – or the lawn itself – make for the perfect spot to enjoy a coffee or sandwich from nearby Ohno Cafe or the new Clark Street Deli. This park also serves as the terminus of the city's annual St. Patrick's Day parade. Photo by Doug Jones/Staff Photographer
Western PromenadeEncapsulating the western end of Portland's peninsula, this 18.5-acre park stretches from Danforth Street to Maine Medical Center. Stroll down the brick sidewalk by the beautiful West End homes, then cross the street and take a seat on a bench overlooking the Fore River. Wooded trails, a walking path and an old cemetery make for plenty to explore. Photo by Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer
Deering Oaks ParkJust off the peninsula below Park Avenue and beside State Street is a 55-acre wooded wonderland. You can frolic on grassy lawns and explore gardens, splash in a pond (or skate on it in the winter), buy fresh produce at a farmers market on Saturdays and even get waited on at the new Tiqa Cafe that's inside a castle in the middle of the park. There's also a playground, a baseball field and tennis, basketball and sand volleyball courts. Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
Payson ParkThis is the jock park. Covering nearly 50 acres between Back Cove and Ocean Avenue, Payson has a bunch of ball fields, tennis courts and a playground. It's a popular spot for rec sport leagues in the warmer months and for sledding in the winter. It also plays host to community events, often as the starting and end point (and site of the after-party) for fundraising walks and races around Back Cove. Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer