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Pedestrian improvements planned for Portland Head Light viewing areas

A plan for improving the worn-down grassy areas immediately surrounding the Portland Head Light tower will go to the Planning Board in November.

Portland Head Light pedestrian hardscape plan
Drawing of planned pedestrian improvements. Click image to download full plan, memo and cost estimates

The Town Council on Oct. 16, 2019 agreed to send the $90,000 "pedestrian hardscape" plan, developed by Mitchell and Associates, to the board for site-plan review and approval.

Improvements to the areas were last completed in 2001, said Mitchell and Associates Principal John Mitchell. "Since then there has been a significant increase in the number of visitors," driven in-part by the advent of cruise ships docking in Portland and an increased number of tour buses visiting the park, Mitchell said.

The plan identifies three "viewing areas" adjacent to the tower and the lighthouse museum (former keeper's quarters) for improvement. "A lot of the grass areas within the viewing areas have just been overrun and it's bare ground," Mitchell said. The wear has lead to erosion and exposed some irrigation equipment.

Plans include replacing some former grass areas with stone paving, adding plantings and a wooden bench for pedestrians, replacing 4-by-4-foot wood timber in one area with granite curbing, and installing bollards and chains to control foot traffic and discourage walking on the lawn and plantings.

A highlight of the plan is relocation of the horns, currently on an unprotected embankment south of the tower, to a fenced area north of the tower and Coast Guard signal building. "I'm told that was actually the original location of the horn," Mitchell said.

The design was approved by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and by the Fort Williams Park Committee.

The plan was referred to the Planning Board, at a cost not to exceed $90,000, to be funded by the Portland Head Light Fund. Jamie Garvin, chair of the Town Council, said he liked the source of the funds.