CAPE ELIZABETH — The executive director and only full-time employee of Friends of Fort Williams Park has resigned to devote time to his own business.

James McCain’s decision, effective immediately, was announced last week by the group’s secretary, Tom Atwell. He said McCain has been “the face of the organization” since June 2013. 

The mission of the Friends of Fort Williams Park, previously the Fort Williams Park Foundation, is to “preserve and enhance the natural resources and visitor experience of Fort Williams Park by providing planning and stewardship for projects that support the Park’s ecology, accessibility, and open space.”

McCain, a South Portland resident, was hired by the nonprofit as manager for a recently installed cliff-side project more than five years ago. He later was named the arboretum director, a title that last year was changed to executive director.

McCain on Tuesday said there was “never a good time to leave” the Friends.

“It is a very difficult decision,” he said.

But he said it seemed the timing was right, since what he called “great strides” have been made to improve the park grounds – including the Children’s Garden, trail network and Cliff Walk Landscape

Those projects reminded him how much he values the “creative aspect” of landscaping, McCain said. So he said he plans to revive his landscape design business, James McCain Garden Design, which went dormant during his time with the Friends of Fort Williams Park. 

McCain said he felt “honored” to have had the opportunity to work on such an iconic landscape, primarily focusing the Friends of Fort Williams Park’s efforts on areas that had previously gone unnoticed or weren’t utilized to their full potential.

Atwell said the organization’s board of directors has decided to divide McCain’s duties into two part-time positions, to provide a “seamless transition in the Friends’ operation.”

Board member Andrea Southworth was named part-time manager of the Ecology Project and will oversee the long-term, park-wide effort to improve Fort Williams’ ecological health and sustainability. 

Southworth is an instructor at Maine College of Art and Southern Maine Community College, teaching botany, biology, urban ecology, invasive species and scientific method. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology, a master’s in botany, and is working on a doctorate in entomology. 

The board is searching for a part-time executive director to oversee the organization’s operations, lead fundraising activities and other events, manage its staff and be the its prime contact with the public. Applicants can contact Diane Manning at [email protected] or 767-3707. 

McCain said although he won’t continue to have an official role with the organization, he hopes to be a friend of the park forever and imagines himself volunteering this summer.

“My heart will always partially be here,” he said. “It’s been an honor. … Fort Williams Park is a gift to the rest of the world.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

James McCain of South Portland resigned as executive director of Friends of Fort Williams Park after more than five years with the Cape Elizabeth organization.

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