Rotary Club gets OK from Cape Elizabeth to upgrade Fort Williams picnic shelter

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The picnic shelter at Fort Williams Park will be upgraded, with improvements funded by the Rotary Club of South Portland-Cape Elizabeth.

The project was proposed by the Rotary Club, and unanimously approved by the Town Council Monday, Aug. 8. The upgrades are expected to be completed by this fall or early spring 2017.

The shelter, on the hill between the baseball diamond and Portland Head Light, was donated to the park by the local Rotary in 1981. The club’s plans for improvements, which were prepared by Callahan & LeBleu landscape architecture of South Portland, will cost more than $34,000.

Rotarian Tom Myers told the council Monday that it’s important to the club that the shelter stay in good condition.

“Our picnic shelter in that area has been a favorite place of ours to help continue to maintain,” he said.

The picnic area is frequently rented for gatherings, Myers said, and the access path to it has eroded along with other areas in the shelter.

A memo from the Rotary Club to the council stated that the designs for improvements are consistent with the park’s master plan. It also said the club “would like to be part of bringing the site up to a level worthy of Fort Williams Park.”

The project is expected to be completed in three stages.

Phase one will involve demolishing the patio on the south side of the shelter and replacing it with a bluestone patio at a cost of $15,000-$20,000.

During the next phase, worn grass pathways around the shelter will be replaced with paths made of stone, which will cost $7,000-$9,000. New plants, shrubs and trees will be planted, at a cost of $4,000-$5,000.

The last phase will see improvements to the access path leading to the parking lot below the picnic shelter. The condition of the path now poses a safety threat, according to the club.

“The existing access path from the parking lot is in poor condition,” the memo from the Rotary Club stated. “It is heavily eroded and very steep, making it a challenge for anyone with mobility issues.”

The plan is to replace the path with a stone staircase with a handrail. An alternative option is to discontinue use of the path and have people access the picnic shelters from the opposite direction.

There is no cost estimate for phase three, and the Rotary Club said it’s not yet sure how it will be funded. 

Councilors on Monday said they appreciate Rotary’s efforts to improve the shelter.

“I thought these plans looked terrific,” Council Chairwoman Molly MacAuslan said. “I’m very grateful for the work (the Rotary Club is) doing there.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

The Cape Elizabeth Town Council has approved a proposal from the Rotary Club of South Portland-Cape Elizabeth to upgrade the picnic shelter at Fort Williams Park.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.