The self-guided Baxter Trail extends from Baxter Boulevard to Evergreen Cemetery with stops highlighting the role the Baxter family played in shaping the city. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — From open spaces and streets in Deering Center to the boulevard around Back Cove and the original library on Congress Street, the names of former Mayor James Phinney Baxter and and his family are peppered throughout the city. Now a self-guided trail in the city honors the Baxter family’s contributions to Portland and the surrounding area.

The 2.5-mile Baxter Trail stretches from Baxter Boulevard to Evergreen Cemetery and includes seven interactive panels chronicling the lives of James Phinney Baxter and his son Percival Baxter, a Maine legislator and governor. A ribbon cutting ceremony to officially unveil the trail is set for Friday, Oct. 25, at 1 p.m. at the Back Cove Trail parking lot.

The idea for the trail honoring the family first came up at a staff meeting as the 100th anniversary of Baxter Boulevard was approaching, said Deputy Director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities Ethan Hipple.

James Phinney Baxter, Portland mayor from 1893 to 1896 and 1904 to 1905, was the driving force to make the area around Back Cove a city green space.

The Baxter Trail stops in the 30-acre Baxter Woods, which Gov. Percival Baxter donated to the city in memory of his father, James Phinney Baxter, a six-time Portland mayor. Courtesy of Montgomery Design Inc.

“Both as mayor and as a citizen, he did all in his power to beautify and improve the city. His outstanding civic accomplishment was the laying out of and beginning of the building around Back Cove,” Percival Baxter wrote of his father in a biography for the Maine State Library.

His vision was not popular with others in the city and cost him his 1897 re-election bid. It would take more than 20 years for the boulevard to be built.

“I think of all the perseverance it took and the political toll it took for him to make that vision a reality,” Hipple said. “Now it is our most popular recreational asset in the city.”

The new trail follows Baxter Boulevard to highlight the linden trees planted to honor those lost from World War I to the corner of Vannah Avenue where there is a memorial to Baxter. From there, it winds its way to Florence Street, one of the eight streets in the city named after Baxter’s children, and cuts through Baxter Woods, which Percival Baxter donated the the city in 1946 in memory of his father.

The stop on the Baxter Trail on Florence Street highlights many of the streets in the city that were named for members of the Baxter family. Courtesy of Montgomery Design Inc.

The trail continues through Evergreen Cemetery to the Baxter Memorial, which marks the family’s burial plot and makes a final stop in another section of the cemetery to recap the family’s philanthropic endeavors. Sites across the city and Maine donated by the Baxter family include: Baxter Pines behind Memorial Field by Deering High School; the Baxter Library on Congress Street, Mackworth Island, Baxter Museum and Baxter Memorial Library in Gorham and Baxter State Park.

“The history of the Baxter family is really important to the city,” said Nancy Montgomery, the owner of Montgomery Designs, who designed the interpretive displays and helped to edit their text and imagery.

Hipple said he hopes through the walk people not only learn a little bit more about the Baxter family, but also about the importance of parks and recreational spaces and the how “sometimes they don’t come easy.”

Montgomery, who, along with her partner Jack Vreeland, has done interpretive signage work all over the country for the National Park Service, was happy to contribute to that effort.

“It’s nice to create something for our own community and interesting to learn a little more about this family that helped shape the quality of life in our public spaces,”she said.

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