Cliff Walk Landscape
Landscape Management Plan completed in 2015 by landscape architect Regina Leonard
Linking the completed arboretum sites at either end of the Cliff Walk are two acres of rugged and densely vegetated east-facing slopes exposed to open ocean and onshore winds. Invasive plants are at their most prolific here, dominating desirable vegetation and degrading wildlife habitat. Of all the Arboretum sites, this one most dramatically demonstrates the problems the Arboretum project was designed to address.
In fall 2015, the Fort Williams Park Foundation began implementing a multi-year ecological restoration of this site that involves suppressing invasive plants while preserving existing native plant communities and creating conditions more conducive to their spread across the site. A key objective is to diversify the structure and vertical layering of native plant species to improve valuable food sources, cover, and nesting opportunities for birds.
This project supports the cultural uses of the landscape as well, with 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.
- Battery Sullivan (1898): Named for Maj. Gen. John Sullivan of the Continental Army, it was built to accommodate three 10-inch DC guns. The first visible gun emplacement to be built, it is currently buried to the top of its parapet under Battery Knoll.
- Battery DeHart (1898): Named for Capt. Henry V. DeHart of the Fifth U.S. Artillery, it was built to accommodate two 10-inch DC guns, and is currently buried to top of its parapet under Battery Knoll.
Please visit the Park History page for more information about Fort Williams’ military past.
Featured Problematic Plant: Asiatic bush honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.)
There are at least two invasive Asiatic species of bush honeysuckle in Fort Williams Park, plus a hybrid of the two. Introduced to the United States in the early to mid-1800s for ornamental horticulture, honeysuckles are medium to large deciduous shrubs with small, egg-shaped leaves; fragrant white, yellow and pink tubular flowers in June; and red or orange berries that ripen in mid- to late summer. Stems of mature shrubs are hollow, whereas the stems of our native honeysuckles have white interiors.
Asiatic bush honeysuckle is highly invasive because of its adaptability and rapid rate of growth. It forms dense thickets in disturbed sites that spread into fields and woods, preventing sunlight from reaching the ground and thereby reducing the diversity and abundance of native species. Its berries are high in carbohydrates but low in fats and nutrients, so although they are very attractive to birds (the primary means for distributing the seeds), they don’t sustain migration in the way that many native plants do. This is especially a problem along coastal sites such as Fort Williams Park that would otherwise provide important habitat for these migrants.
Featured Beneficial Plant: Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
An evergreen tree common throughout Eastern North America, eastern red cedar is often one of the first woody plant pioneers of abandoned fields, rocky hillsides and dunes. Its size and habit varies from narrow conical trees in open upland areas to low windswept shrubs along the shore. There are several such Eastern red cedars growing along the spine of the Cliff Walk Landscape, including one naturally-occurring variety that is growing prostrate across a mound of concrete and masonry ruble.
The dense, aromatic foliage of Eastern red cedar is green to blue-green in summer, and often turns purplish-brown in winter. It provides excellent protection and nesting cover for birds. Female plants produce pale blue, berry-like seed cones that are an important source of winter nutrition for several bird and animal species, chief among them the aptly-named Cedar Waxwing and the American Robin, which are the prime means for distributing juniper seeds across the landscape. These “juniper berries” have been used to flavor gin since the mid-1600s.