The Deering Center Neighborhood Association and Portland Trails are looking at how to better use green space in the neighborhood. Courtesy / Deering Center Neighborhood Association

PORTLAND — The campuses of Deering High School and Longfellow Elementary School have long been a gathering spot for the Deering Center neighborhood. The neighborhood association wants to update and improve the area to be more of a community destination.

“We are not looking to change the activities that occur there, but augmenting, improving and expanding what goes on there,” said Karen Wilson, a member of the board of the Deering Center Neighborhood Association, which is leading the effort.

Presumpscot Park, the field behind Deering High School and Longfellow Elementary School, is heavily used for school and youth sports, but the Deering Center Neighborhood Association is looking at ways to make the field and the area more of a destination for residents and visitors. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

Wilson said the plan on how to use Presumpcot Park athletic fields, Memorial Stadium, Ludlow Pond/Little League fields and Deering Pines is meant to include the vision of the entire neighborhood. The association will continue to compile feedback about what the public is looking for this fall and share potential ideas in January and February.

The park planning effort is being funded by a grant from Portland Trails, which is helping to facilitate and fund the planning process.

“Portland Trails has been interested in the concept of placemaking and better activating public space for some time and we received money to begin offering mini-grants to neighborhood groups or organizations to re-envision public spaces,” said Jamie Parker, trails manager for Portland Trails.

Parker said the fields will continue to support school and youth athletic programs.

“The athletic fields are very important. It is not about replacing them. One of the things I have heard is: can they be used for other things when they are not being used for athletics? Can we have community events, such as a movie night, on the (football) field when there isn’t a game?” Parker said. “It is not aimed at displacing athletics. It is about creating more multi-functional spaces.”

Naomi Merwin, association vice president, said the goal is to transform the space into “a place for year-round, all ages, all abilities, community connections.”

Some of the ideas that have been shared so far include, creating a trail system throughout the property, installing traffic calming streetscapes on Leland Avenue, enhancing bicycle lanes and improving bleachers at the Little League Field, as well as examining the possibility of hosting outdoor performances such as outdoor movie nights or theater shows and adding more landscaping or art in front of Deering High School. Other ideas can be shared with the Deering Center Neighborhood Association through its website.

“We aren’t saying to the city, ‘We need to do this tomorrow,'” Wilson said. “This is a five-to-10-year vision of what this space might look like in the future.”

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