Cape Elizabeth’s Town Council voted Wednesday evening to close Fort Williams Park and Portland Head Light effective immediately.

Their decision to close the 90-acre shorefront park, which overlooks Casco Bay, as well as Portland Head Light until at least May 1 could affect thousands of visitors.

Town Manager Matt Sturgis said the park and lighthouse – one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world – attract about 1 million visitors a year.

But Sturgis said councilors have grown increasingly concerned about being able to control large gatherings in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, especially after the state closed Two Lights State Park, Crescent Beach State Park and Kettle Cove State Park in Cape Elizabeth. Councilors felt that state park visitors would begin to overwhelm Fort Williams, making it unsafe for visitors unable to comply with the six-foot distancing recommendation.

Councilors voted 7-0 to close the park at midnight Wednesday during a remote Zoom conferencing meeting that attracted 60 members of the public.

“The council wanted to  to be consistent with the governor’s request for people to stay at home,” Sturgis explained in a telephone interview late Wednesday. Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday issued a stay at home executive order for Mainers to remain at home.

Gates to Fort Williams Park will be locked, making it impossible for vehicles to enter. Pedestrian access will also be closed off, but Sturgis said the town hopes that its citizens and visitors will cooperate with the temporary closure.

“We are not going to take a heavy handed approach toward enforcement,” Sturgis said. “We are really relying on the public to help get us through these challenging times.”

Fort Williams Park and Portland Head Light are located off Shore Road.

 

 

 

 


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