An urban park nestled in Portland’s North Deering neighborhood will remain closed for the next two weeks while a forest management team thins the wooded area of diseased white pine trees and pine trees that are in danger of falling on private property.

The decision by the city of Portland to close Pine Grove Park – located between Ray and Virginia streets – for safety reasons means that a popular half-mile-long hiking trail that cuts through the park will also have to be shut down.

Pine Grove Trail connects Lyseth Elementary School with Lyman Moore Middle School, according to a map posted on the Portland Trails website.

“You hear a lot of stories about forest fires and trees falling from wind damage. We’re trying to get ahead of that with this project,” said Mike Bobinsky, director of public services.

Pine Grove Park is an “even-age” stand, meaning that all the trees in the park are about the same age, according to a news release from the city.

In 1929, the Chapman Land Co. donated the 6.5-acre parcel to the city of Portland. Bobinsky said little has been done since then in the way of forest management.

Most of the white pine trees in the park are mature or overmature and will continue to decline. The city is targeting the removal of weak and declining trees with thin crowns. Once they’ve been removed, it should allow more sunlight to reach the forest floor and provide room for new tree growth.

“This project is intended to improve the health of the forest and to remove sick and dying trees,” Bobinsky said.

The city is warning people who use the park or trail that it will look “messy” when the foresters have finished their work. That’s because it will be necessary to leave coarse, woody debris on the ground, which provides an important habitat for wildlife. The debris will eventually break down to promote soil formation and plant growth.

The park and trail will be restored in late spring. New trees will be planted to create a pine and mixed hardwood forest. That should attract more wildlife and help the woods remain a vital and healthy open space.

A description of the park and trail on the Portland Trails website said the Pine Grove Trail was designed by third-grade pupils at Lyseth Elementary School and involved hundreds of students from other grades at Lyseth and Lyman Moore schools. Evening and weekend parking is available at the schools’ parking lots for people who want to use the trail once it reopens.

Bobinsky said that city arborist Jeff Tarling will likely visit classrooms and talk to students about the project’s environmental impact. Students are being invited to observe the project and to suggest future improvements.

The logging company hired to do the work will cut the trees down, grind them up, and haul the pulp away to be reused, Bobinsky said.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com