The sun rises as an early arriver walks in to Fort Williams Park before the 2019 Beach to Beacon 10K race. While the park will soon reopen to the public, this year’s B2B has been canceled. See page 2 for details. Carl D. Walsh / Portland Press Herald

CAPE ELIZABETH — The Cape Elizabeth Town Council voted Tuesday to reopen Fort Williams Park in less than two weeks, in response to Gov. Janet Mills’ plan to restart Maine’s economy.

Stage 1 of the plan, beginning on Friday, allows for the reopening of a number of businesses and locations, including state parks and “outdoor recreation.” The governor’s order also indicated “some coastal state parks” would remain closed, but the order did not specifically mention which ones. Two Lights, Crescent Beach, and Kettle Cove State Parks all serve Cape Elizabeth and the surrounding area.

The council, in a previous order issued April 1, had closed town-owned Fort Williams for 30 days. The order was part of a collection of restrictions approved on March 25 as a town-wide emergency order. On Tuesday, at a special meeting, the council discussed whether any restrictions should be removed. The primary topic was whether to keep the park closed on Friday, May 1 or reopen it.

Residents had asked the council to reopen the park. Alexandra Furth said people are still going outside on Shore Road, but walking along the road, to the point where it’s getting crowded, despite warnings about people keeping 6 feet apart from each other.

“It’s just impossible to do on Shore Road,” she said.

Mary Ann Lynch said opening the park would help people spread out more.

“I feel we have pushed more people into fewer places,” she said.

Cathy Raftice, director of community services and Fort Williams Park, said there is no signs or additional markings regarding social distancing at the park. She also wants to see binoculars covered, swing sets cordoned off, and picnic tables moved farther apart, all to cut down on human interaction, which would take time before reopening could happen. Councilor James Garvin agreed, saying it would be unlikely the park could open Friday.

“There’s not enough time to take appropriate measures to put up signs, to cordon off restricted areas, all that stuff,” he said.

Instead, the council voted 6-1 in favor of reopening the park on May 11 to foot and bicycle traffic only, with limited vehicle parking for the disabled. Councilor Christopher Straw, who suggested opening May 6 instead, was the dissenting vote. The council also added language instructing park visitors with dogs to keep them leashed at all times.

The council extended the emergency order overall until June 30, but with a series of amendments, including the change to allow the park to reopen. Other amendments included smaller changes, such as adjusting the list of essential businesses, to match the governor’s order issued this week.

Sean Murphy (207)780-9094

Email: [email protected]

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