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More improvements planned at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth

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More improvements planned at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth

CAPE ELIZABETH — The Fort Williams Foundation on Monday presented plans for a $150,000 project to improve views of Portland Head Light.

The lighthouse view project at Fort Williams Park, presented at a Town Council workshop, includes a new pedestrian pathway, picnic tables, parking, bus drop-off, a relocated food vendor area and an information building, in addition to stone seating and landscape adjustments.

Half of the project will be funded by an anonymous donor, while the other half will come from money raised through the Portland Head Light museum and gift shop.

The council, acting as the Museum at Portland Head Light board, agreed Monday to appropriate the museum's $75,000 contribution.

Annual maintenance costs have been estimated around $4,500. The Fort Williams Foundation has not asked the town for financial assistance with the project.

The council is expected to approve the project at its regular meeting in March or April. The foundation hopes to begin construction on the fully-funded project in the third week of April and have it completed by the end of June.

The lighthouse view is part of the park's arboretum project, which was conceived as a means of ridding the park of overgrowth and invasive plantlife and restoring native plants and animals to the landscape.

The foundation has mapped out a two-year restoration plan that includes planting colonizing shrubs across the lighthouse view's landscape. The goal will be to attempt a slower, more ecologically friendly restoration process that forgoes the use of pesticides.

The foundation hopes to partner with the University of Maine or the Maine Natural Areas Program to study the methodical effort and publish a report on the findings, said James McCain, the arboretum's project manager.

The foundation will plant a variety of species in the area, including little bluestem grass, wild blue lupine, black-eyed Susan and New England aster. Shadbushes and crabapple trees will provide food for migratory birds. Bayberry and milkweed should attract yellow warblers and monarch butterflies, respectively.

"We're trying to bring species that should be in this area and aren’t right now," said Lynn Shaffer, who sits on the foundation's board.

Regina Leonard will serve as the project's landscape architect and designer, while Derek Lovitch will serve as its wildlife consultant and Shawn Jalbert as its native plant consultant.

The Fort Williams Foundation also gave the council an update on its children's garden, another arboretum project. The plans for the garden feature a meadow maze, tree fort and more. The foundation has raised less than a third of the project's $530,000 cost, but representatives said they are confident they will reach their fundraising goal within about a year.

In other business, Councilor Molly MacAuslan provided an update on the work of the Library Building Committee, which was formed late last year and charged with creating a detailed plan for a $4 million renovation of Thomas Memorial Library to go before voters no later than November 2014.

The committee, which has met three times, is recommending hiring Reed and Co. Architecture, the firm that worked last year with the Library Planning Committee. The building committee has also solicited bids from construction management firms to help with budgeting, design, and the challenges of a dual renovation and construction project. It has received eight proposals.

The committee is recommending that the council determine the fate of the Spurwink School building, which under the new plan would be detached from the library, and the future home of the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society.

The society, which is technically a private organization and not part of the town, is currently housed in the library, but the proposed plan doesn't allocate space for it.

Council Chairwoman Jessica Sullivan said that next month she will formally ask the Library Foundation to begin a capital campaign to raise $400,000 for furnishings inside the renovated building.

"I think (the library) needs those fundraisers from the Fort Williams Foundation," MacAuslan said. "They’re really good."

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.