PORTLAND – Artists have until the end of this month to submit their ideas for taking it easy on Portland’s new Bayside Trail.

The city’s Public Arts Committee is seeking proposals for public seating along the 1.2-mile trail. The deadline is Aug. 31. The project’s time line calls for the committee to make its selections in October. City Council approval is planned for December, and the installation is planned for May.

“One of the great things to do in public art is to do practical, functional things,” said Alice Spencer, a committee member who chairs the commissioning panel for the project.

The Bayside Trail runs along the former Union Branch railroad easement to link the Eastern Promenade and Back Cove trails to Deering Oaks.

The first phase — getting the trail on the ground — has been completed.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony today will mark that milestone, beginning at 4 p.m. on the trail at the Elm Street Plaza, off Marginal Way.

The second phase will involve landscaping, seating, drinking fountains and other amenities that will turn the former rail corridor into a linear park, said Nan Cumming, executive director of Portland Trails. The timeline will depend largely on fundraising.

Another $1.5 million is still needed.

The cost of the entire project, including the city’s purchase of the land, will be about $6 million, Cumming said.

The public seating designs are expected to relate to the landscape — both built and natural — around the trail, but the parameters are fairly wide.

The seating must be designed for permanent placement along the trail and have a life expectancy of at least 25 years.

Artists are strongly encouraged to incorporate at least one of several themes: neighborhood history and diversity; immigration, human rights, peace and justice; the planned Martin Luther King Jr. memorial; sustainability in an urban context; and references to water to reflect the connections between the sea and Back Cove.

The pieces can be designed with a particular location in mind, or not. The committee is encouraging the use of native materials, salvaged materials that reflect the area’s history, or “innovative” materials made in the state.

The budget for the seating project is $42,500, which the committee hopes will fund four to six pieces.

While the seating could be a bench, don’t expect the typical slabs of wood on a frame.

The committee has been in touch with other communities that have pursued similar projects and has looked at other examples of public seating, ranging from a bench supported by giant “books” near Camden’s library to mosaic structures on Chicago’s waterfront to sandstone and cast bronze seating that resemble trees, said Terry DeWan, a committee member.

The exercise helped the committee members realize how broad the possibilities could be, but they don’t know yet know what they will see when they open the proposals.

“That’s what’s interesting about working with artists. You never know what their vision is going to be,” DeWan said.

Submissions that meet the selection criteria will be displayed at the Portland Public Library in the fall.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

[email protected]