Embedded into the rocky headland above Ship Cove at the northeastern tip of Fort Williams Park, Battery Keyes is one of the Park’s most popular destinations. This is a place of countless steps, sunny perches, stunning views, mysterious cavities and dramatic rock overlaid by windswept vegetation and the sounds, scents and taste of salt spray. Perhaps more than any other site, this place beckons the explorer.
Unfortunately, this site’s popularity has led to heavy foot traffic that has eroded the soil atop the battery and above the cove. It is also plagued with many of the same invasive plants that have inundated the landscapes along the Cliff Walk.
Battery Keyes and the surrounding area offer abundant potential for improvement, including the suppression of invasive plants and poison ivy, and the restoration of native plant communities that will stabilize soil and improve habitat. A trail network will be developed to allow exploration and enjoyment, while also protecting the historic battery and fragile soils of this breathtaking coastal site.
- Battery Keyes (1906): Named after Major General Erasmus D. Keyes, who served with distinction during the U.S. Civil War, the battery was built above the northern point of Ship Cove to accommodate two 3″ mine defense guns. Still intact are gun emplacement number two, the magazines, and the range finder station.
- Administration & Storehouse Foundation (1941)
Please visit the Park History page for more information about Fort Williams’ military past.
Featured Problematic Plant: poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
A mutable woody plant, poison ivy can grow in the habit of a vine, groundcover or shrub, and is most easily recognized by its glossy green leaves, arranged in threes and turning brilliant orange and scarlet in fall. Course, hair-like aerial roots emanate from the stems, and dense clusters of dull white berries are visible after leaf drop.
Poison ivy is an important native species in the coastal plant communities of eastern North America, often growing in association with bayberry and rose, where it prevents erosion and provides cover and food for birds and small mammals.
Since all parts of the plant contain an oil that is highly toxic to humans, it can be problematic in Park locations where people are likely to come in contact with it. Although it should be allowed to remain along the rocky shores of Fort Williams Park for its ecological benefits, it will be suppressed in the highly-trafficked areas of the Park, such as along walkways, picnic areas, multipurpose fields and historic structures.
Featured Beneficial Plants: northern bayberry (Morella pensylvanica) and Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana)
Virginia rose and northern bayberry are signature native species along much of Maine’s coastal bluffs and islands, in shallow, acidic soils over bedrock, and with high exposure to onshore winds and salt spray. Their thicket-forming habit helps stabilize soil and provides protective cover for many species of birds and small mammals.
Virginia rose has simple, fragrant, pink summer flowers that ripen to bright red hips as the entire plant turns vivid hues of orange, red or yellow in fall. It is a larval host for 135 species of caterpillars and its flowers attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Fruits persists through winter and are foraged by many birds and animals.
Northern bayberry is an mounding shrub with leathery, wavy-edged, fragrant leaves. Female plants produce dense clusters of wax-coated, berrylike nutlets along the stems that are foraged by many species of waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds. Its colonizing habit and ability to fix nitrogen in the soil make it an excellent choice for land reclamation projects.