Volunteers helped create a passive open space in South Portland known as the Pope Preserve. The preserve is located in Knightville, beside the Hannaford boardwalk. Courtesy photo

SOUTH PORTLAND — The combined efforts of volunteers and local donors has resulted in a new green space that is open to public exploration and appreciation in Knightville.

Pope Preserve, located next to Hannaford on 50 Cottage Road, is a city-owned green space that has received tender loving care from volunteers since 2014. Dan Hogan, a neighboring resident, said he started clearing a path through the space in 2014.

“Initially, it was just to get a natural running path,” Hogan said. “We live in Knightville, on E Street, and when we ran, we’d have to run out on street to get to the Greenbelt or through Hannaford’s parking lot to get to the boardwalk. I just noticed this woods and giant overgrowth of knotweed and just kept thinking about it.”

Knotweed, an invasive species, is a difficult plant to eradicate, according to a 2009 article by Bruce Blake for Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners.

Volunteers assisted in clearing Pope Preserve of knotweed and also helped plant shrubs, he said. In order to keep the knotweed from growing, Hogan covered the roots with carpet.

“You can’t just mow it and hope it goes away,” Hogan said. “You have to kill it. Because we can’t use pesticides in South Portland, nor would I want to, we had to use carpet and deprive it of two growing cycles so the roots died. I took a rototiller to it afterward to make sure they were all dead. It was tough stuff.”

New signs for Pope Preserve in Knightville. Dan Hogan, one of the organizers of the project, said he hopes students and classes can use the open space for educational purposes. Catherine Bart photo

A bench made from granite that was found in the city of South Portland’s former Public Works facility. The benches at Pope Preserve are made of all-natural materials. Catherine Bart photo

The knotweed was cleared in 2020, but Hogan and volunteers had other projects on the land, such as installing natural benches and signs, he said.

A member of Portland Trails had the idea to use granite from the city of South Portland’s old Public Works facility on O’Neil Street, Hogan said. Natural materials were a requirement for the space, at the land donor’s request when initially selling the property to South Portland for $1.

Hogan said the educational signs installed are not technically on the Pope Preserve, but provide information about native and invasive species and flora.

“It’s my hope that the schools can use this as an outdoor classroom,” he said.

Now finished, Pope Preserve is a public open space that connects the boardwalk behind Hannaford and the Greenbelt Trail, Hogan said.

“It’s basically a passive green space,” he said. “I wanted to honor Mrs. Pope, the donor’s mother. Their mother loved birdwatching and went into that area and loved it.”

Financial donors include the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Rotary Club, city of South Portland, Bangor Savings Bank, Hannaford Supermarkets, Casco Bay Estuary Partners, Saco-Biddeford Savings Bank, Portland Trails, Fore River Management and Barbara Callahan, Hogan said.

A northeast view of Pope Preserve in Knightville. Courtesy photo

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