Cape Council considering Fort Williams mission statement

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council drafted a vision statement for Fort Williams Park during a meeting on March 6 as part of an ongoing effort to help guide the park’s use and policies.

Members of the Fort Williams Park Foundation were present to discuss their working relationship with the town.

After some discussion, the council came the consensus that the vision statement should welcome all to the park, but specify residents of Cape Elizabeth. It was the general consensus of a Feb. 5 meeting with the Fort Williams Advisory Committee that the park is first and foremost a town park.

The vision statement reads: “The town’s vision for Fort Williams Park is to provide a safe, high-quality space for Cape Elizabeth citizens and visitors to enjoy. We will protect and maintain access to the park’s historic elements and natural beauty for this and all future generations, and optimize the town’s stewardship by managing the park through financially and ecologically sustainable practices.”

Councilor will vote whether to enact the statement during their regular meeting on March 12. With guidance from a vision statement, the council will consider park policies, such as parking fees and commercial tour bus access as a way to bring in revenue.

Another milestone in the council’s effort to tackle issues facing the park was naming Kathy Raftice director of Community Services and Fort Williams Park in January. In her new role, she serves as the point person for everyone with a stake in the park, including the Public Works Department, Fort Williams Advisory Committee, Fort Williams Park Foundation, and the Portland Headlight Museum.

Among those stakeholders, there has been confusion in the past as to who owns and is ultimately in charge of the park, which Council Chairwoman Jessica Sullivan stressed is the town. Therefore, all questions regarding the park and changes made should go through the town, including naming small structures and sites within the park.

“This is a town property and we do have a process, so we need to be careful about even what appears to be a little change, (as it) could be considered an overreach,” she said.

The Fort Williams Advisory Committee is a seven-member board whose charge is to review park use requests and the park’s annual budget, and advise the Town Council on Fort Williams Park policy issues.

The Fort Williams Park Foundation is a nonprofit whose mission is to “preserve and enhance the natural and historic resources of Fort Williams Park for future generations by providing funding support and stewardship for selected projects in the park.”

Sullivan said it has been a council goal for about two years to meet with the foundation, whose major initiative at the moment is an Arboretum – a long-term, 14-phase project to control invasive plant species and increase native biodiversity that is more sustainable and supportive of wildlife.

Fort Williams Advisory Committee Chairman Jim Walsh said it has become an unwritten policy to have a representative from the committee present at foundation meetings, and vice versa.

Foundation projects, such as phases of the Arboretum, should first be vetted or approved by the Fort Williams Advisory Committee before going to the Town Council.

“That’s a process that’d developed over time,” Walsh said. “The whole issue of coming first to us, as advisory, before going to the council … has worked well, but probably has to be codified going forward.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

The Town Council will vote on enacting a vision statement for Fort Williams Park on March 12.

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