“It really isn’t about us, or this space,” she said, “it’s about them. What will their future be?  What kind of city will they inherit?”

Siobhan Esposito-Epstein-Cadwalader gestured toward her two children, Leif, 2, and Hecate, 4, playing together in the grass. Oblivious to the controversy surrounding them, the youngsters played away in the grass.

We’re in downtown Portland. In front of the Holiday Inn by the Bay sits the western end of a 2-foot-high, 11-foot-wide grass-covered median strip. It runs several blocks right up the middle of Spring Street.

You’ve probably never noticed this strip, aka a “Jersey barrier,” unless you’ve had to walk around it while crossing Spring Street. Or whenever there’s an election: The median’s grass is a perfect home for candidates’ signs.

The ballyhoo began a few months back. Siobhan and her husband, Melmac, were walking their children across Spring Street. They noticed a city employee marking off the median’s edge with a tape measure.

“He told us there were concerns about accident potential at that intersection, and also something about needing to put in some underground electrical wiring,” Siobhan related.

“We started walking on with the kids. I suddenly turned to Melmac and said, ‘Oh my God, do you realize what’s happening? They’re going to cover up that grass!’ And that’s when we decided to organize.”

Fast forward to today. The Friends of Spring Street Intown Natural Greenery (FOSSING) has 428 members, 501(c)(3) status, support from leading environmentalists around the country, and a retainer relationship with “one of the city’s top attorneys, I don’t really think I should say whom,” Siobhan whispered with a smile.

Down at City Hall, officials are baffled. “We’re talking about — what? — a few feet of grass?” asked Sherwood Pincus, deputy manager of public spaces. “We need to cover maybe six by eight feet, whole thing is under fifty square feet. And this stupid little project has been held up for months now!”

I walked the space with Siobhan. “First of all, FOSSING doesn’t regard this as a so-called ‘median strip’,” she said, hoisting her daughter, Hecate, out of the way of a passing truck. “This is parkland, a greenspace. How much of our natural landscape must we lose before we realize that the rain forest simply may not be coming back?”

I pointed out that the grass on the strip — er, parkland — was not natural to its location. It had been planted by the city back in the 1970s, when Spring Street was carved out of an older Portland.

“But it’s there now,” Siobhan countered, “and it should be celebrated, not destroyed. Look at my kids, how much fun they’re having. Why would you want to take that away from them?” Leif looked up from the grass, where he was happily chewing on what looked like an old popsicle stick.

Many in the advocacy group, FOSSING, live in the city’s West End. “That makes sense,” acknowledges FOSSING Executive Director Bertram Halliweather. “Outside of the Western Prom and Reiche School and Deering Oaks, there’s nowhere nearby for our kids to play. Where we can relax outdoors.”

Would Halliweather actually want to climb up onto the strip, 2 feet above the road surface, and “relax” there, with traffic streaming past?

“The point is,” he answered. “that as stewards of this neighborhood and this planet, we’re determined to make a stand here. It’s like Lexington and Concord. But bigger.”

Siobhan is similarly confident. “This is why Melmac and I moved here from Boulder,” she said, as we stood atop the greenspace, watching cars whiz by. “Some people look at this and see only grass. I look and I think of Rachel Carson. I see the potential for trails, boardwalks, vernal pools. Is that too much to — Hecate, stay away from the edge!”

Back at City Hall, Sherwood Pincus seems ready to concede. “Time for me to retire,” he muttered. “When we can’t even take care of a DELETED Jersey barrier …”

For her part, Siobhan Esposito-Epstein-Cadwalader will soldier on. “No matter what happens here, something special has begun,” she said. “For instance, have you ever noticed how practically every sign downtown, parking signs and stop signs and one-way signs, how so many of them have tufts of grass at the bottom, at the sidewalk? That grass is trying to push its way up into the natural world. I wonder …”

John Spritz is a marketing and communications consultant based in Portland, www.jspritz.com.