Cape Elizabeth urged to make Fort Williams a priority

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CAPE ELIZABETH — What’s a town to do when its top tourist destination is in danger of being loved to death?

The answer to the question about how best to maintain Fort Williams Park is yet to be found. It is under review, however.

Mark Russell, a member of the Fort Williams Park Committee, on Wednesday told town councilors the park’s preservation needs to be discussed.

The park committee serves under the umbrella of the town’s Public Works Department. The 90-acre surrounds Portland Head Light, and the historic site overlooking the ocean’s edge is a natural draw for weddings, festivals and thousands of tourists every year.

“Last year, 912 buses came into the park,” Williams told the council during a budget workshop. “(It’s) a fabulous source of revenue, but it’s also a fabulous source of something that needs to be done.”

Williams said safety repairs, including to guard rails, are scheduled.  Left partially unfinished, at this time, are improvements to bleachers and the park amphitheater.

“The move away from the bleacher project was a pretty significant thing for us,” Williams said. 

The unfinished bleacher work may weigh on the park committee’s minds, he said. Maintenance work near a parade ground also needs discussion. 

Williams said the park is a world-class destination. He wants it to look like a world-class facility, too.

Councilors said they want local residents to feel comfortable using the park as well. 

“Has it gotten so overwhelming that we’re discouraging our own population from going?” Councilor Sara Lennon asked.

Answers to these questions may come during the town’s Comprehensive Plan review, a planning tool for many aspects of Cape Elizabeth’s development.

“I don’t think that the seven of us are really qualified to answer this without a lot of citizen input,” Lennon said. 

Residents are being encouraged to join the town’s Comprehensive Plan Committee to help guide how Cape Elizabeth will look and feel in the future.

A public survey may be part of this process, and Russell wants park questions on the planning survey.

“If you struggle for the questions, send them to me. We can develop some questions,” he said.

Lisa D. Connell can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or lconnell@theforecaster. net. Follow Lisa on Twitter: @connell_ld.