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Next phase of Fort Williams Park arboretum approved through 2017

The Town Council on Aug. 14, 2017 approved a portion of a plan for the next phase of the arboretum project at Fort Williams Park. [narrative] [maps]

Cliff Walk Landscape Plan
Click to download images of Cliff Walk Landscape Plan

The Cliff Walk Landscape, the fourth phase of the 14-phase arboretum plan put forth by the Fort Williams Park Foundation in 2008, looks to further rid the park of invasive plants, restore native plants, and educate visitors on the importance to protecting and encouraging native species.

Foundation representatives presented the plan to extend trails and plantings from either side of the Cliff Walk. "Our approach will be a light-handed development of informal trails and destination areas to improve access, preserve view sheds and offer more opportunities to appreciate the flora and fauna of this unique coastal site," said Lynn Shaffer, foundation president.

She and James McCain, arboretum director, also presented a budget for the project through 2022. The foundation has "the cash in hand" to complete the trail network, destination areas, signage and restorative plantings through 2018, Shaffer said. Beyond that the budget numbers are "conservative," she said, "but whatever they are, work will not commence until we have the money raised to pay for it."

McCain said the foundation was looking for approval for the entire Cliff Walk Landscape Plan, already approved in-concept by the town's Fort Williams Park Committee. The foundation was hoping to report funding progress to the committee as the project moves forward rather than come back repeatedly to the council.

Councilors, however, voted to approve the work, valued at $56,969, through 2017 only. "I'm not trying to be difficult but I'm not comfortable with approving a plan when we're not sure where the money is coming from," said Councilor Kathy Ray, who moved for acceptance. Approving the entire project now might commit the town to paying for it if the money is not raised, she said.

Jessica Sullivan, another councilor who served as chair for the agenda item, said the plan was "very exciting", but agreed that approving only the 2017 funding was prudent. "There have been concerns in the past that any project that we take on is fully funded, so I'd be willing to approve the 2017 amount and then revisit next year," she said.

Normally a plan of this size would go to a council workshop for study, Sullivan said, but councilors said they were comfortable proceeding given the funding assurance and the involvement of the Fort Williams Park Committee.

Jamie Garvin, council chair, did not participate because his wife is a member of the Fort Williams Park Foundation board.