The Cape Elizabeth Town Council has approved a proposal by the Rotary Club of South Portland-Cape Elizabeth for improvements at the picnic shelter at Fort Williams Park.

The project is consistent with the Fort Williams Master Plan, which was prepared by Mitchell and Associates in 2011, according to Town Manager Mike McGovern.

The picnic shelter was originally donated to the town by the Rotary Club in 1986. In a memo to the council, McGovern said the shelter is “heavily used as a rental space for gatherings and celebrations.”

However, he said, “the site is in need of some attention. In the years since the shelter was first erected, the site has become eroded (and the) Rotary Club would like to be part of bringing (it back) up to a level worthy of Fort Williams Park.”

In addition to the picnic shelter, McGovern told the council that the local Rotary Club “has a long history of funding projects at Fort Williams,” including purchasing the flagpole at the top of the hill, providing funding for an exhibit at the lighthouse museum and funding for the initial design of the new Children’s Garden.

The upgrades to the picnic shelter would be conducted in three phases during the  next three years, according to material the Rotary Club provided to the town.

The first phase would be construction of a new patio area on the south side of the shelter. The current asphalt apron would be replaced with a blue stone patio, which would provide space to move picnic tables outside on sunny days. The cost estimate for the new patio is between $15,000 and $20,000

Phase 2 would include new pathways and plantings, including the creation of stone dust pathways, similar to the Cliff Walk. New plantings of shrubs and perennials on either side of the new proposed patio would also serve to soften the outline of the building and provide shelter and food sources for pollinators.

In addition a new grove of trees on the south side of the shelter would be planted to reflect the existing grove of birch trees on the north side and provide some shade. This second phase could cost around $14,000.

Phase 3 would improve the access path from the parking lot. Funding for that portion of the project has yet to be determined, but in his memo to the council, McGovern said, “The existing access path from the parking lot is in poor condition. It is heavily eroded and very steep making it a challenge for anyone with mobility issues.”

He added, “If the existing access path is to continue to be used in the future, a staircase of stone steps and a handrail would improve safety, (but) further study and discussion is needed to determine the best course of action.”

Catherine Callahan, a member of the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Rotary, told the Current this week that the picnic shelter plan is to address “some of the issues immediately surrounding the structure – adding a stone patio to replace the asphalt apron, replacing some of the walkways and adding plantings.”

Scott Irving, a recent past president of the Rotary Club, said, “part of the reason for doing (the project) is to enhance the existing structure and make it more useful to the community.”

Callahan and Irving said the money for the improvements at the picnic shelter would come from the club’s various fundraising initiatives, including the annual Christmas tree sale in South Portland, selling fried dough at Family Fun Day in Cape Elizabeth and the annual Spring Point 5K, which will be held on Sunday, Aug. 21.

For residents renting the shelter for a full day, the cost is $150, while for non-residents it’s $300 and for corporate uses it’s $400. The shelter can also be rented for half a day.

The Fort Williams picnic shelter, donated to the town by the Rotary Club in 1986, is in line for some improvements.


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