The man who led his family’s long effort to create the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in northern Maine says the family’s foundation is willing to provide startup funds for an effort to support parks, trails and open spaces in Maine’s largest city.

Lucas St. Clair and Portland officials announced Wednesday that they will form a private-public partnership called the Portland Parks Foundation or the Portland Parks Conservancy – the exact name has not been chosen yet.

St. Clair said the nonprofit would solicit contributions from corporate donors – with the sales pitch being that making Portland a more livable city will help attract and retain workers. St. Clair said that Elliottsvile Plantation – the family foundation of which he is president – would provide the money to hire a director and staff, as well as office space. He is not sure how much funding would be required.

Lucas St. Clair and Portland officials will form a partnership to support parks, trails and open spaces in the city. Associated Press/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Financial support from Elliottsville Plantation would end after about two years, but the parks conservancy would continue to raise money to supplement Portland’s parks and recreation department budget. St. Clair said conservancy would serve as a funding “conduit” for corporations that want to support the city’s parks and open-space projects.

“Portland is lucky to have such an extensive and well-maintained parks system,” St. Clair said in a statement. “This conservancy will aim to continue our tradition of treasuring public space and to encourage even more Portlanders to take advantage of all that Portand has to offer.”

St. Clair’s mother, conservationist and philanthropist Roxanne Quimby, donated the 87,500 acres that became Katahdin Woods and Waters.

St. Clair, who has lived in Portland for five years, views the parks foundation as a way to make life in the city even better than it already is. The list of projects to be funded has yet to be determined, a task that will likely be determined by a board of directors.

“I’ve been really intrigued by the assets the city has,” St. Clair told members of the newly formed Blue Sky Commission.

Commission members met for the first time Thursday evening in the Portland Public Library. The steering committee will meet again on Sept. 20 at the East End Elementary School as they work toward developing a memorandum of understanding that the Parks Commission and eventually the City Council will be asked to approve.

The agreement will establish guidelines for how the city and foundation will work together to fund parks and open space projects. “We want to be helpful, but we also want to retain our autonomy,” St. Clair said. “We don’t want to replace the obligations that the city has toward funding its parks budget.”

Sally Deluca, the director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Facilities, said the private public partnership proposed by St. Clair has the potential to benefit generations of Portlanders.

“We at the city of Portland are excited to see this community-led effort come together to support our parks and open spaces,” Deluca said.

Simon Thompson, who coordinates Blue Sky Commission meetings and conducts research on its behalf, said similar partnerships have sprung up across the nation.

The San Francisco Parks Alliance, for instance, says on its website that its mission is to inspire and promote civic engagement and philanthropy that enriches San Francisco parks, recreation and open spaces. The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy was founded in 1996 by citizens concerned with the deteriorating conditions of Pittsburgh’s historic city parks. In Pittsburgh, the conservancy has raised over $100 million and completed 17 major improvement projects.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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