CAPE ELIZABETH — Visitors to widely popular Fort Williams Park will soon be afforded expanded views of Portland Head Light and Casco Bay following planned improvements to the southern end of the Cliff Walk.

The town has issued requests for contractors’ bids on two projects that will extend the southern section of the walkway that rims the rocky edge of the bay north and south of the lighthouse.

The projects are the first since the Town Council approved an updated version of the park’s 2011 master plan in November. The 2021 plan advances goals to enhance access, safety and enjoyment of natural and historic features of the former military base that draws about 1 million visitors annually from around the world.

Berm at Fort Williams Park

Greg Rogovin of Portland walks Friday with his dogs, Lily and Merle, along a rutted path that crosses a seaside berm in Fort Williams Park. The town of Cape Elizabeth is seeking contractors to create a safer ocean overlook. Kelley Bouchard/Staff Writer

Cliff Walk South extends from the lighthouse, past Battery Blair, to a craggy earthen berm or embankment, which soldiers used as a backdrop for a shooting range when the fort was active from 1899 through World War II.

One project would even out and slightly reduce the height of the berm, which already is crossed by a narrow, rutted path carved through the years by park visitors seeking a higher waterfront perspective. The project also calls for landscaping and removing brush from the area and installing a 4-foot-wide stone dust walkway across the top of the berm to create a safer ocean overlook.

The other project would install 374 feet of marine-grade stainless steel cable railing near the berm, extending the safety railing that exists along established sections of the Cliff Walk. A portion of the new railing would connect to a pathway leading to the park’s off-leash dog walking area.


“The railing project will improve safety along the waterfront and conform to railings that have been installed throughout the park,” said Town Manager Matt Sturgis. “With the berm project, we’re not looking to remove it, just reshape it to improve views for park visitors.”

Proposals must be submitted by Jan. 6 for the berm project and Jan. 20 for the railing project.

The site of a lighthouse since 1791, the park is owned and operated by the town in collaboration with the private, nonprofit Friends of Fort Williams Park, which raises money for projects in addition to town funding.

The Fort Williams Park Committee, which is appointed by the Town Council, began updating the park’s master plan in September 2020, conducting public meetings and a community survey.

With assistance from Richardson & Associates, landscape architects in Saco, the committee identified and prioritized 80 recommendations for projects that range from simple and affordable to complex and expensive, according to the updated master plan.

Some projects “could cost more than $1 million,” the plan states, and some share common themes, such as improved lawns, more attractive enclosures for portable toilets, increased “wayfinding” signs and information kiosks, additional four-season walkways, continued efforts to manage and eliminate invasive species, and stepped-up enforcement of speed, trash and leash policies.

The plan also recommends upgrading Powers Road, the park’s central artery; improving beach, picnic and parking facilities at Ship Cove; converting the remains of Goddard Mansion into a safe and accessible park feature; establishing an ocean overlook at Battery Keyes; adding a warming hut for skaters beside the park’s pond; creating a vendor promenade to centralize the food trucks and other sellers; and exploring the creation of a small outdoor amphitheater in a natural ravine near Battery Blair.

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