I would like to add my voice to those commentators who have expressed concerns about the proposed “Shifting Tides” temporary art exhibition on Back Cove. Like many Portland residents, I cherish the Back Cove as a natural wetlands wilderness in the midst of our vibrant city, and I would definitely not like to see any new manmade intrusions – temporary or permanent – in that special place.

A century ago, Portland’s early development had turned the Back Cove into a polluted wasteland. Happily, Mayor James Phinney Baxter had the vision to see the potential of restoring the Back Cove to its natural state, and the persistence to lead the advocacy effort to make that happen. The Back Cove is now one of the city’s most cherished treasures. The city continues to support Mayor Baxter’s vision by maintaining the much-loved Back Cove trail and its allée of Linden trees, and, not incidentally, by completing the new storm-water separation scheme.

A continuing attraction of the Back Cove – not only for the lucky abutting property owners, but also for the thousands of pedestrians, joggers, bicyclists, and motorists who appreciate it each day – is the juxtaposition of the wildness of the foreground tidal setting against the urban built landscape in the background. The proposed art installation would upset that balance, and would violate the Back Cove’s natural setting and the fragile ecosystem that it comprises. I sincerely hope that the city will not – now or in the future – approve this or any other proposed intrusions in our beloved Back Cove wilderness.

Michael Mertaugh


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