The Children’s Garden in Fort Williams Park is a landscape full of daring adventures, quiet contemplation, great mysteries waiting to be revealed, and small familiarities to offer comfort. This 1-1/2 acre garden was designed to let children explore their relationship with nature and one another in developmentally beneficial ways. As our children immerse themselves in the landscape, love of the natural world instinctively follows. And a love of nature, built upon years of imaginative outdoor play as well as structured learning, fosters an understanding of environmental stewardship that will always guide them.
Garden features include paths leading to a variety of opportunities for creative play; a small, diverse woodland full of birdsong; a meadow-inspired garden alive with native wildflowers and pollinating insects; a small pond promising frogs and dragonflies; water ﬂowing through a series of cascades into the skating pond below; a “gopher tunnel”; a tree lookout fort; a sliding stone; and picnic areas for rest and regrouping.
Landscape designed in 2012 by Sashie Misner of Mitchell & Associates. Site work by L.P. Murray & Sons (2016). Construction, stonework and planting of trees & shrubs by Linkel Construction with Miranda Winter (2016). Pollinator meadow and perennial plantings designed and implemented by James McCain (Friends Executive Director), with planting by Alex Donka and Janice Gardner (Friends landscape staff), with help from many wonderful volunteers (2016-17). Bio-filter pond and stream created by Robin’s Nest (2016). Tree lookout fort created by Three Stone Landscape (2016). Stainless steel handrail by DSO Creative (2016). Sliding stone created by Freshwater Stone (2017).
The Council Ring Engraved Paver Program
Guarded by a stand of majestic red oaks, the Council Ring is the heart of the Children’s Garden design. Once servings as a military bandstand, this repurposed space is intended as a place for gathering, storytelling, music, and learning. Ecology Project programs and ﬁeld trips will meet here, as well as community members simply looking to enjoy time together in a beautiful setting. Engraved granite bricks pave the ﬂoor of the ring, offering a way for you to support the ongoing maintenance of the Garden and to leave your mark in Fort Williams Park!
- Stone Steps from Former Double Barracks (1908): Both sets of stone steps will be repurposed in the Children’s Garden.
- Stone Bandstand (1937): Soon to serve as a Council Ring within the new Children’s Garden, the stone bandstand was built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Between 1935 and 1939, the CCC also built the nearby tennis courts, lily pad pond, the bleachers, and a swimming pool that is now buried in the location where the Children’s Garden stream will soon flow.
Please visit the Park History page for more information about Fort Williams’ military structures.
Featured Problematic Plant: Norway maple (Acer platanoides)
Introduced from Europe to North America in the mid-1700s, Norway maple has since been widely planted in parks and along streets for its fast growth rate and adaptability. In maturity it forms a dense, rounded canopy that virtually glows with greenish-yellow flowers as the large leaves are just beginning to emerge in spring – dark green in summer turning yellow in late autumn.
Norway maple’s fast growth rate, adaptability to extremes, dense shade, prolific seed production, and shallow, vigorous root systems have enabled it to become among the most invasive tree species in the Northeast. Inhibiting the growth and regeneration of indigenous flora, it is reducing biodiversity in our woodlands and forests.
In the Children’s Garden, look for the stumps of several large Norway maples which have already been removed.
Featured Beneficial Plant: northern red oak (Quercus rubra)
Native to the eastern half of North America, northern red oaks are the most common oak species in Maine, and certainly the iconic tree of Fort Williams Park, if not the entire Southern Maine coast.
In addition to its symbolic associations with strength, endurance and power (shared by all oaks), red oaks are valued for their adaptability, grandeur of scale, longevity, and deep russet-red fall foliage, and for the lumber created from their hard, strong wood. They host hundreds of species of moths and butterflies and their acorns are an important food source for numerous species of birds and mammals.
Within the Children’s Garden, several venerable oaks form a picturesque canopy over the Council Ring, and many more oaks of various ages are growing throughout the woodland.