January 4, 2013

Letters to the editor: Revised mining laws could hurt Maine

In regards to the Portland Press Herald story "Council: Mining rules contractor 'misrepresented' credentials" (Dec. 14), I wanted to add some background and other information.

One of the biggest environmental rollbacks passed by the state Legislature last session was a complete rewrite of Maine's mineral mining laws. Despite best efforts to improve the bill in the Legislature, the bill that passed was disappointing.

Open-pit mining in Maine could result in arsenic, lead and other toxic chemicals contaminating lakes, rivers, streams and soils, as they have done in other states.

Most of the discussion of open-pit mining in Maine has focused on Bald Mountain, owned by J.D. Irving, in central Aroostook County. However, Maine has significant metallic mineral deposits that mining companies hope to extract, including in the western foothills.

Now, the Land Use Planning Commission is revising its zoning rules for potential mining sites in Maine. These rules will set the criteria for what applicants will need to submit to the commission and what the commission must consider in reviewing applications to rezone land for new mines.

The impact on the Bald Mountain area could be enormous. Mining activities there would likely drain into the Fish River and the Fish River Chain of Lakes, which provide some of the best brook trout fishing in the country. Mines in the western foothills would likely drain into the Kennebec and Androscoggin rivers, critical tourism destinations and economic drivers.

I don't know about you, but I enjoy lots of activities in northern Maine, including white-water rafting, and this is pure shame on the state of Maine.

HUMANE-ity starts here.

Carole G. Jean


Portland should look to Princeton for plaza ideas 

Recently, I visited Hinds Plaza in Princeton, N.J. While there, I noted many similarities between that place and Portland with regard to Congress Square.

Princeton is a university town (as is Portland) and has two major streets, perpendicular to one another, at its center (like Congress and High streets); a central public plaza (like Congress Square), and a nearby arts center (like the Maine College of Art).

Hinds Plaza fronts onto a major street and is surrounded, otherwise, by buildings including a public library by a prominent architect (like the Portland Museum of Art by I.M. Pei), a condo apartment building (like the Eastland Hotel) and the blank back wall of small pre-existing retail shops (like 593 Congress).

Hinds Plaza is about one-quarter acre (Congress Square is about one-third acre) and is mostly paved, with a canopy of 12 locust trees, placed on a diagonal grid.

The similarities end here. Hinds Plaza is one of the most successful small public plazas in the country, larger than vest-pocket Paley Park in New York City and smaller than Copley Square in Boston.

Hinds Plaza is built at street level. The library is entered at the corner of the plaza and has a public meeting room, facing the plaza. The first floor of the condo building has retail store frontage and a restaurant, with furniture for outdoor dining. And the back walls of pre-existing shops are concealed by a long vine-covered metal trellis, lined with benches.

Hinds Plaza is furnished with numerous metal-mesh tables, armchairs and pedestrian post lights. It is the venue for a weekly farmers market, as well as frequent dance and musical performances; holiday festivals; art exhibits; reading and socializing; teenagers' rendezvous and children's play.

Congress Square has the potential for all of these possibilities, as described in my two earlier letters ("Considering options for Congress Square Park," Aug. 15, and "Congress Square Park an opportunity," June 30).

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