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Fort Williams Park to open to limited vehicular traffic June 1

Fort Williams Park will reopen to limited vehicular traffic beginning June 1, 2020.

Fort Williams Park restrictions

The Town Council on May 27 voted to amend the COVID-19 emergency order that had allowed only pedestrians and bicycles to visit the park, in line with state orders enacted to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The town's amendment will allow visitors to use about half of the available parking in Fort Williams Park. Pay-and-display parking meters are expected to be installed in time for the limited opening, said Town Manager Matthew Sturgis.

Port-a-johns will not be available, and dogs will still be required to be on leashes in all areas of the park.

Councilor Penny Jordan made the motion for the amendment, citing the state's plans to begin reopening Two Lights, Crescent Beach and Kettle Cove parks in Cape Elizabeth as part of the governor's phased plan to reopen more of Maine's public spaces beginning June 1. Jordan suggested an immediate opening of Fort Williams, but agreed to the suggestion of other councilors to set the date at June 1. "I would say, be consistent with the state," Jordan said.

Also consistent with state orders, food vendors have been and will be operating within the park.

Officials do not expect much traffic from tour buses and vans, said Sturgis, but he did say he will research the likelihood of large groups visiting with tours and come back to the council with a recommendation on whether the emergency order should address commercial traffic.

Councilors voted 5-1 for the limited Fort Williams Park reopening, with Councilor Chris Straw opposed.

Other town services begin reopening

In other matters, Sturgis announced the town's plans to begin reopening other services that been suspended or limited due to COVID-19.

Details will be forthcoming, but Sturgis said that Community Services has been working to reopen the Richards Pool in a limited capacity beginning June 8. Lanes will be available by reservation for 30-minute sessions, he said. Locker rooms and the hot tub will not be available, but the on-deck lavatory has been sanitized and will be ready for use. Swimmers will need to bring their own equipment such as kickboards or goggles. The fitness center adjacent to the pool facility may open Aug. 1, Sturgis said, citing its small space and the governor's order this week to delay opening of fitness facilities in Cumberland County.

Community Services is also looking at a June 22 opening for summer camp. Extra staff has been hired to provide one counselor for every 10 campers, Sturgis said. There will be no bus tranportation or field trips, but staff has been working to plan a fun, and safe, summer for the approximately 90 children registered for the program.

Some services at the Town Hall are also set to resume beginning June 1, Sturgis said. Online or mail-in transactions are still encouraged, but residents will be able to schedule a time between 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday to complete vehicle registrations, permits or other service provided by the Tax Office, Town Clerk or Assessing/Codes/Planning offices.

The square footage of the town office allows five people, other than employees, to be in the building at one time, under Phase II of the state coronavirus directives, Sturgis said. Entry will be limited to the southern, handicap-accessible entrance.

Sturgis also credited the director and staff at the Thomas Memorial Library for their creativity in continuing to offer remote programs during the pandemic, a practice that may continue. The library is planning to offer curbside services beginning June 1, similar to those planned at libraries in neighboring communities.

The Bottle Shed and the Swap Shop – two popular services at the Recycling Center – may reopen in August or September, Sturgis said, with the Bottle Shed likely to open before the Swap Shop.