2012-10-05 / Front Page

Input sought on fort garden

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


This area of Fort Williams Park near the pond and tennis courts may not look like much now, but next summer work will begin to install a Children’s Garden as part of the Fort Williams Foundation’s Arboretum Project. Designs are currently on display from five competing landscape architecture firms at various locations around the Portland area. (Jack Flagler photo) This area of Fort Williams Park near the pond and tennis courts may not look like much now, but next summer work will begin to install a Children’s Garden as part of the Fort Williams Foundation’s Arboretum Project. Designs are currently on display from five competing landscape architecture firms at various locations around the Portland area. (Jack Flagler photo) CAPE ELIZABETH – With one project under its belt, the Fort Williams Foundation is wasting no time, and is moving forward with the arboretum project at Fort Williams Park.

This time, they want some help from the public.

Design plans for the Children’s Garden, the next phase of the arboretum, are currently on display at multiple locations around the Portland area. Residents in Cape Elizabeth can see the designs from five different landscape architects at the town’s community center until Thursday, Oct. 11. The designs are also on display at the Falmouth Library until Thursday, Oct. 18.

The design committee consciously chose to display the plans at locations outside of Cape Elizabeth and South Portland in hopes it could involve residents who might live in towns farther away from the park, but frequently visit it nonetheless.

Lynn Shafer, chairman of the Fort Williams Foundation Design Committee, said part of the arboretum’s mission is to put a better face on the park for visitors from away.

“The people who use Fort Williams come not just from Cape Elizabeth, but all over the state and, for that matter, all over the country and all over the world,” Shafer said.

“Cruise ships bring busloads of tourists to Fort Williams, and right now they head for the lighthouse and that’s about it, but there’s so much more.”

Chris Sullivan is the director of exhibits at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine in Portland, where designs for the Children’s Garden were displayed for two weeks in September. He said many of the Children’s Museum patrons come from Scarborough, Yarmouth and a variety of surrounding towns, and the design competition was an effective way to introduce the project to them.

“My feeling is that a lot of times (patrons) were interested in the project because they discovered it as they were in the museum,” Sullivan said.

Earlier this summer, volunteers cleared out invasive plants that had overgrown an area on the park’s eastern coastline as part of the cliffside project. The cliffside area “used to be a jungle,” said Ginger Jones of the Fort Williams Foundation. Now, that area offers views of the ocean and stonewalls where people can sit.

Jones said the cliffside project was the foundation’s top priority not only because it’s a highly visible location, but also because there was a pressing need for work to be done.

“There were some beautiful old trees in there that were very much in danger of being choked off by the invasive species,” Jones said. “So the threat to the native plantings made it a timely issue.”

Around the time the cliffside project was completed, the Rotary Club of South Portland-Cape Elizabeth made a donation of $17,500 to help get started on the next phase of the arboretum project, a Children’s Garden that will be located by the tennis courts on the site of a former children’s camp.

Shafer said the committee had a vision for the garden to work in concert with the park’s natural resources and display a sense of creativity “in a way that’s more adventurous than just a playground.”

She said the five landscape architects who were selected to submit designs delivered on that vision with “creative and exciting” submissions. Jones said those submissions included historical features such as a child-size lighthouse and cottage replicas, as well as a focus on integrating the natural beauty of the park into each design.

“It means we chose our participating firms well, and it speaks really highly of the work landscape architects do,” Shafer said.

Matt Phillips, a landscape architect at Terrance J. DeWan & Associates in Yarmouth, said his firm typically doesn’t display its designs in a public space, but it was pleased with the chance to do so.

“It’s a good opportunity to see what your competition produced and how you stand comparatively to them,” Phillips said. “Any time you can get your work displayed publicly is a benefit for potential future work or just to help get your name out there.”

The other firms participating in the design competition are Peter Burke Landscape Architecture, Mitchell & Associates, Richardson & Associates, and Regina S. Leonard Landscape Architect.

Terrance J. DeWan & Associates designed the cliffside project along with another landscape architect, Bruce Riddell of Boothbay.

After hearing from the public, the design committee will select the winning design on Friday, Oct. 19. Shafer said the Fort Williams Foundation is still working to raise funds, but she expects construction to begin on the garden next summer.

That work is scheduled to finish the following year, in 2014, which will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Fort Williams Park.

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