2017-09-29 / Community

Fort renovation to continue with Cliff Walk


The Cliff Walk in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth is one area members of the Fort Williams Park Foundation have focused efforts. (Courtesy of James McCain/Fort Williams Park Foundation) The Cliff Walk in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth is one area members of the Fort Williams Park Foundation have focused efforts. (Courtesy of James McCain/Fort Williams Park Foundation) The first of two phases to improve footpaths and scenic overlooks above Cliff Walk in Fort Williams Park has been approved by the town of Cape Elizabeth as part of the Fort Williams Park Foundation’s ongoing Arboretum project. The Cliff Walk Landscape project is intended to improve the ecological health and recreational opportunities on a 2-acre parcel along the park’s central coastline.

When completed, the Cliff Walk Landscape initiative will link two completed portions of the Arboretum: Cliffside, located above Ship Cove to the north and finished in 2013, and Lighthouse View, located near Portland Head Light to the south and completed in 2014.

The first phase of the Cliff Walk Landscape project will be executed in conjunction with OBP Trailworks LLC of Turner. It includes:

 Renovation of two destination areas to improve visitor experience: DeHart Overlook on an uphill portion of the site’s southern edge, and Sullivan Picnic Overlook, a little-known gem with spectacular views behind a grove of sumac in the middle of the site.

 Creation of a third destination area, Oak Dell, a quiet resting area under a signature oak tree on the northern side of the site.

 Improvement and expansion of existing makeshift footpaths to help visitors explore the landscape safely and without damaging fragile new plantings or eroding steep slopes. These trails are designed to connect the destination areas and bring a heightened sense of exploration and adventure to park visitors.

 Installation of two interpretive panels to educate visitors about the Arboretum initiative and the web of connections between animal and insect species and their habitats.

The second phase of the Cliffwalk Landscape Project, planned for later in 2018, would expand the trail network to connect to Cliffside’s trail system and improve a fourth destination area, the Williams Picnic Area. The second phase has yet to be approved by the town of Cape Elizabeth. Full funding of both phases has been procured by the Fort Williams Park Foundation.

At the heart of the Cliff Walk Landscape project is a five- to six-year restoration of the site’s ecology using an incremental and phased process to carefully suppress invasive plants while nurturing and expanding existing native plant communities. The goal for this approach is for the landscape to host a greater variety and number of wildlife species, particularly birds and pollinators.

The Arboretum is a multi-year project to reverse damage by invasive plant species; restore native plant communities, biodiversity and wildlife habitat; improve open space, amenities and access for visitors; and foster educational resources, community participation and stewardship.

For more information about Fort Williams Park, the Fort Williams Park Foundation or the Arboretum project, visit fortwilliams.org.

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