A city plan to clear part of Baxter Woods park to build a stormwater retention pond would help reduce pollution in Casco Bay, but at least one abutter has raised concerns about the project’s impacts.

The city proposes converting a dry basin that collects stormwater runoff into a year-round pond. The work area is on the park’s southwest corner, at the corner of Hartley Street and Forest Avenue. The city will hold a public meeting about the project at 6 p.m. June 28 at Deering High School.

The project is part of an effort by the city of Portland to reduce releases of untreated sewage and stormwater into Casco Bay and other waterways. It is required under a 1993 consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

During normal operations, sewer system pipes carry both sewage and stormwater runoff to the city’s treatment plant. But when the flow exceeds the capacity of the treatment system during heavy storms, it overflows and discharges into local waterways without treatment.

In a letter to nearby residents, project engineer Justin Pellerin said stormwater runoff currently flows from the detention basin in Baxter Woods into the sewer system on Forest Avenue.

The Forest Avenue sewer is one of the city’s biggest contributors to sewer overflows, city staff reported to the land bank commission last month. The Baxter Woods pond will hold stormwater until it can be treated and then released into the sewer system once storm flows have subsided.

The city plans to clear a quarter acre of the woods for the project. It will install a gravel trench around the pond and a gravel service road leading from the pond to Forest Avenue. The pond will be about 10,000 square feet, double the size of the existing basin. The area would be landscaped with native plants, and a large concrete structure that directs water into the city’s sewer system will be removed.

The city plans to cut down a couple dozen nonnative Norway maple trees and clear invasive plants from the work site, but will not remove native species, said city arborist Jeff Tarling. The area was disturbed when the city built the existing storm water basin in the 1980s, and part of the project will be to restore the area to its native state, Tarling added.

“The only trees that are going to be disturbed in the project are nonnative invasive trees,” he said. “We are just trying to bring it back to the condition it should be in.”

The pond will hold water all year round, but will have enough capacity to take in excess stormwater during rainstorms. The city plans to maintain a natural pond, that will support amphibians and native waterside plants, according to Tarling.

Tarling said the proposal has been unanimously approved by the city’s Land Bank Commission, but still needs City Council authorization.

But some residents are concerned about the impact the project could have on their neighborhood.

Michael Charek, who lives on Hartley Street on a lot abutting the woods, said he is worried that the city is going ahead with the project regardless of public input. The pond replacement is scheduled to go out to bid in August and construction is due to start in September, according to the city’s public works project list.

If the area is cleared, it will remove a buffer between his house and Forest Avenue, create a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and affect the value of his home, Charek said.

Clearing trees in the area and building an access road for city vehicles might also violate the property deed that requires the park be kept in its natural state, Charek added.

“There seems to be a violation of the deed in which they are proposing a lot more work than what seems to be permitted,” Charek said.

Tarling said the project won’t violate the intent of the deed, and the city is judicious when it decides to cut trees in public parks.

“With any tree cutting, you are going to have an emotional component,” Tarling said. “If this was oak trees or red maple, we wouldn’t be looking at such an extensive cutting.”

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire