Caitlin CAMERON and Jeff TARLING
Institution: City of Portland, Maine – USA
Keywords: Co-Designed Forest, City Arborist, Maintenance, Local Government, Cultural Heritage, Public Art, Spiritual Forest, Grassroots
Portland, Maine was given the nickname “The Forest City” in the early nineteenth century and had a reputation as a city blessed with an abundance of trees. Unfortunately, the city’s urban forest has suffered over the years from disease, depletion, and the stress from a growing urban environment. It is difficult in 2019, to look across the skyline and understand where the moniker “Forest City” came from. The urban forest has been impacted by the great fire of 1866, rapid development in the 1800s, Dutch Elm disease in the 1960s, urban renewal efforts in the 1970s, and now, popularity of this waterfront city has led to strong and steady building development. Portland is the largest city in the state of Maine – a rural state where the forest economy continues to be an economic engine, though this, too, is fading in importance compared with tourism and tech industries. Remarkably, this small historic city has 70 miles of trails and green space; the City owns and manages roughly 20,000 trees on streets and in parks. The City struggles to balance the 21st century needs of new development, transportation, utilities, and sidewalk and snow maintenance with the desire to re-establish the “Forest City” identity and heritage. These competing interests within the public realm do not have to be at odds. An innovative array of efforts are being deployed to re-forest “Forest City.” And the City does not do this alone – the City’s Forestry Division and the Parks Department are aided by community partners such as the Tree Trust, Portland Trails, Friends of Forest City Trees, Cultivating Community, the Portland Resilience Hub, the public school system, and the Portland Public Art Committee. In this oral presentation, City of Portland Urban Designer Caitlin Cameron and City Arborist Jeff Tarling will outline specific strategies being used by the City and community partners to co-design a rejuvenated urban forest for the 21st century. In a small, New England town balancing historic infrastructure, climate change, and a new-found popularity, the urban forest is actively being regenerated with public art installations, grassroots food forests, and tree trusts. Where resources are constrained, maintenance and stewardship is being enhanced with GIS tools and partnerships with non-profits and volunteers. Through partnerships, the community of Portland is working to ensure the urban forest remains a significant feature of our city landscape.