An Idea Takes Root: The Ecology Project
The Ecology Project is a long-term, park-wide effort by the Friends to improve the ecological health and sustainability of Fort Williams Park, resulting in a greater variety and abundance of pollinators and birds, increased natural beauty, and a heightened sense of exploration and discovery for people. Objectives for the Ecology Project include:
- Reduce and control invasive plant and insect populations
- Preserve and expand native plant communities and increase biodiversity
- Improve open space and access for passive recreation
- Foster collaboration, community participation and stewardship
- Provide opportunities for environmental education
Completed and Ongoing Work
The first demonstration of the Ecology Project’s potential came in 2012 with the completion of the Cliffside landscape. Where invasive shrubs and vines once formed an impenetrable barrier, you can now stroll among low thickets of native plants, sit on stone walls, picnic under the shelter of trees, and enjoy awe-inspiring views of Casco Bay. Cliffside has provided an opportunity for hundreds of people to learn more about good land stewardship and to engage with the community through volunteerism.
Want a place to sit and contemplate the Portland Head Light and ocean? The second Ecology Project landscape, aptly named Lighthouse View, was completed in 2014 and welcomes you with a small sunny meadow of native wildflowers, a food truck picnic area, and an overlook where you can sit on reclaimed granite blocks to take in the views.
If you have children—or are a child at heart—come visit the Children’s Garden! Completed in 2016 above the skating pond in the interior of the Park, it is a place where children of all ages can let their imaginations—and feet—run free as they splash, build, and explore a large and colorful pollinator garden, a small, quiet woodland and a frog pond with stream that cascades downhill into the skating pond.
In the fall of 2015, the Friends of Fort Williams Park began implementing a multi-year ecological rehabilitation of the Cliff Walk Landscape, which involves removing invasive plants while preserving and expanding existing native plant communities across the site. We anticipate this careful, incremental approach will continue through 2022 to achieve a native landscape that is largely self-sustaining. In the meantime, a trail network has been installed to allow a more adventurous and intimate exploration of the landscape, and to connect a variety of new spaces created for relaxing, picnicking, and taking in the magnificent views of Casco Bay and the lighthouse.