On January 28, 2021 the Fort Williams Park Committee was given a Fort Williams Park Master Plan 2021 Site Analysis and Assessment presentation by Richardson & Associates, Landscape Architects, Gorilla Palmer Consulting Engineers, Inc., and Simons Architects. The results of the Fort Williams Park Master Plan Questionnaire were included in the presentation. Park users interested in participating in the questionnaire were able to complete the online survey during the period of November 16, 2020 to January 14, 2021. The survey was open to both Cape Elizabeth residents and nonresidents. The Fort Williams Park Site Analysis and Assessment provides an understanding of conditions and uses in order to determine what the park can be in the future. It is also used to identify specific opportunities and constraints; and will ultimately become the underpinning for the Fort Williams Park Master Plan Update 2021 recommendations.
A total of 637 respondents completed the questionnaire; 537 of these were Cape Elizabeth residents. The predominant age group participating was 51 to 64 years of age. Respondents over 65 and between 35 to 50 years of age were “highly represented.” In general, “ages were well distributed with the exception of the under 25” bracket.
Respondents were asked to identify their predominant use of the park and were allowed to choose multiple uses. Walking, identified by 556 people, and dog walking, identified by 340, were the top two uses. Sightseeing and passive recreation were close behind with 323 and 297 votes respectively. When asked if they had any safety concerns at the park, 523 people said they had “no safety concerns.” Of the 110 people who answered “Yes,” some of the concerns listed were: dogs/off-leash regulations, overlook safety, and cars/traffic.
The majority of respondents answered that they liked the park’s beauty, location, views, and the dog and family-friendly nature of the park best. Locations specifically mentioned as most appreciated were the Cliff Walk, Children’s Garden, Portland Headlight, and the off-leash dog areas. When asked, “What do you like least about Fort Williams Park?” the predominant answers centered around crowding, overuse, traffic in the park and on Shore Road, and tourists. Some of the additional dislikes identified were: parking fees or charging money in general; invasive plants; the condition and low number of portable restrooms; disrepair and graffiti on buildings; and that there are areas where dogs are allowed off leash.
Answers to the question “What is the single most important change that you would like to see at the park?” were varied. Reducing crowds, cars, buses and overuse of the park was common. The subject of money was also common, but was split along opposite lines: those wanting to keep the park free and those wanting to charge entry fees to non-Cape Elizabeth residents. Another change mentioned with polarizing perspectives had to with dogs and off-leash areas. Some respondents answered that they wanted to see more dog-friendly spaces with more off-leash areas, while other said that they wanted to limit off-leash areas and improve better enforcement of these rules. The preservation of Goddard Mansion and the Fort ruins were both also cited as being the most important items to change. Better bike lanes, permanent restroom facilities, and increased food options were also listed.
With regard to the Town funding future improvements at the park, respondents predominantly answered “No” to the Town funding the expansion of the Children’s Garden or the Visitors Center. The majority answered that the Town should provide funding for: restrooms, preserving the Batteries and Goddard Mansion; restoring the pond, and restoring the bleachers at the parade ground. There were 550 respondents who answered “Yes” to having the Town commit funds for improvements and general upkeep. There were 407 respondents who answered “Yes” to the Town funding future ecology projects.
When asked if they agreed that the “Town should increase park-use fees to defray costs” associated with the management and maintenance of the park, the majority said “Yes.” The item suggested most, with 532 votes, was to increase the rates for tour buses. Increasing the costs for special-event rates, like weddings and private gatherings, was identified by 490 people. Increasing the fees associated with the Beach to Beacon race was specifically mentioned by 439 respondents. There were 325 people who opted to increase the rates for vendors. Notably, 346 people answered that they did not want to increase parking fees.
The entire presentation and questionnaire results can be found here.