Fort Williams Park is closed to the public until May 1. Catherine Bart/Sentry

CAPE ELIZABETH — Fort Williams Park and iconic Portland Head Light are closed to the public until May 1, and violators may face a $500 fine.

Cape Elizabeth Town Council agreed to close the park to foot traffic and vehicles on April 1 after discussion about how to best prevent the spread of Covid-19 in town, following federal and county guidelines.

The decision comes from amendments the council discussed about emergency regulations.

Councilor James Garvin said that it pained him to propose the idea, but he “just can’t see the sense of keeping it open.”

Many park-goers have been keeping a safe distance from others from Garvin’s own experiences at the park, but social distancing is hard to fully enforce, he said

“This is a place where people are going for the purpose of being in a dedicated space,” Garvin said. “And as big as the space is, I don’t think we can get people to adhere to the guidance.”

Fort Williams Park has become an “attractive nuisance” during the Covid-19 crisis, said Councilor Christopher Straw.

“I’m extremely cognizant of the northeastern part of town this is our local park,” he said. Fort Williams is the section for the northeastern part of town that is in walking distance, and that stinks. Over the weekend I was closely monitoring the park and I did see license plates from at least seven or eight different states.”

Straw suggested keeping the park open a few hours in the morning or evening for locals to walk dogs or get some exercise, but ultimately said that he would support fully closing the park if “push came to shove.”

Councilor Caitlin Jordan said that she agreed with Straw.

“I hate to close the park. I love using the park, but I feel like it’ll be in the best interest that we close the park,” said Councilor Valerie Deveraux, who added that town officials need to be aggressive.

Staff and police officers who are forced to work around others in the park have been put in harm’s way, she said.

Garvin cited the Covid-19 task force announcement on March 31 in Washington, saying that these next two weeks are crucial in preventing spread of the virus.

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