With the success of the Tuesday, June 11 “Yes on One” vote in Portland, my commitment to improving and expanding public parks has been affirmed. I first understood the need to maintain and utilize our parks during the Occupy Maine movement in Portland in 2011. I remembered when Occupy Maine started hosting “General Assembly” meetings at Congress Square Park in early 2012 when the rumor circulated that the park could be sold to Rockbridge Capital and the Westin.
After Occupy, I decided to run for Portland School Board and was elected to represent district two. To my delight, this year I was appointed onto the “Mayor’s Initiative for Healthy Sustainable Food Systems Committee”. During one recent meeting, it was mentioned that the waiting list for a community garden plot in Portland was about three years long!
While walking through Boston a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon over 500 community garden plots which were originally “Victory Gardens” started during WWII. While no one can deny that our precious parks are neglected and often underutilized, it occurred to me while visiting the Fenway gardens that Portland needs “Victory Gardens” too. Instead of relying upon the City and our dissolved Parks department, we could have our own citizenry growing more food and flowers and spending time with their families in our parks.
Despite the June 11 vote, the future of Congress Square Park is still uncertain. We need stewardship of our parks by the people, and radically expanding our community garden plots and creating “Victory Gardens” is an economical and common sense way to instantly beautify and sustain our community spaces.