CAPE ELIZABETH — The town is considering creating a park manager position to serve as a point person for everyone with “stakes in the park” to address. The park manager would report directly to Town Manager Matthew Sturgis and work in concert with all department heads.
Stakeholders included the Public Works Department, the Fort Williams Park Committee, the Fort Williams Park Foundation, and Portland Headlight.
According to a drafted job description, the manager’s responsibilities would include creating and managing an operations budget for the park, overseeing bus and trolley visits and maintenance of the park, and maintaining relationships with all stakeholder groups.
Councilor Jessica Sullivan affirmed that the time has come to make and fill this position.
“Fort Williams is (our) jewel in crown … it is the town’s responsibility,” she said. “I think a dedicated director is critical going forward.”
Fort Williams Park Committee member Suzanne McGinn felt that, along with a park director, a new board should serve as an umbrella organization over all stakeholders. Sullivan disagreed.
Sturgis said Wednesday that he hopes the position will be funded and filled before the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2018, during low volume months at the park, to allow time for proper training.
He hopes to schedule a meeting with both the Fort Williams Park Committee and the Fort Williams Park Foundation in the next few months to discuss issues further.
“My hope is that we can get ahead of the (park’s) next busy season before spring (of 2018),” he said.
The council and Fort Williams Park Committee also discussed an increase in traffic and tourism during the park’s busy months.
Sullivan said the first step is to decide what the predominant vision of the park will be for the future; whether it be a tourist attraction or a town asset.
Councilor Sara Lennon said that she rarely visits Fort Williams because of its popularity.
“We need to figure out who (whether it’s tourists or residents) are using the park most,” Lennon said.
The council and committee agreed that a plan should be made for a traffic study.
Another suggestion made was for the town to consider requiring tour buses make reservations days in advance before bringing groups to visit the park and the lighthouse.
This would limit the number of buses allowed daily, in turn limiting number of tourists in the park at a time.
Committee member James Walsh added the town needs to “make residents of Cape Elizabeth feel like the park is theirs again.”