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Stonegate Trails & Fort Williams Park, Cape Elizabeth

Updated: Feb 17

Fort Williams Park is great for all ages because it offers the exploration of old military forts, in addition to a small beach, a lighthouse, and gorgeous scenery. For some history, I checked out the Friends of Fort Williams website and learned a lot. Here is an excerpt from their site. It's lengthy, so feel free to scroll on past this part if history is not your thing:

"As the name implies, long before Fort Williams became a town park, it was a military installation. Construction of defensive structures was started as early as 1873 but the area was not formally established as a “military reservation” until 1891. In 1898 the reservation became a sub-post of Fort Preble, and a few months later an independent post. It was formally named Fort Williams in 1899. While batteries were completed in time for the Spanish-American war, they were never used. In fact, guns at Fort Williams were never fired in combat. The fort was quite active, though, housing and training troops and serving as a command post and headquarters. If you visited here in the first half of the 20th century, you would have found a bustling campus of brick buildings, fields filled with tents, and troops on the parade ground.

By the early sixties, military needs had changed and the Fort was obsolete and minimally used. It was officially decommissioned and closed in 1963. As you explore Fort Williams Park, you will find explanatory bronze plaques on the remaining buildings and batteries. If you are looking for a detailed history, the Portland Headlight Museum shop sells Portland Head Light & Fort Williams, by Kenneth. E. Thompson Jr.

Cape Elizabeth purchased the beautiful 90-acre property on December 1, 1964 for $200,000. It took another 12 years for the Town to designate it a park. By then, the Town had razed most of the buildings, which had been neglected and vandalized. You will still see a few, though, along with other relics and ruins which provide clues to the Park’s military past."

Combining these two destination could make for a whole day of fun, but you are welcome to choose one or the other.

The Stonegate Trail covers more than 100 acres of preserved land and is part of the Cape Elizabeth Greenbelt system. Here you will find peaceful wooded areas, streams, bridges and wetlands. This trail connects to Robinson Woods, which is maybe more popular/well known.

From Shore Road, pass Fort Williams Park on your left. Then take Dyer Pond Road, which is about a quarter of a mile on your right. The trailhead is 390 ft on the right and there is parking along the shoulder of the road. Here is a picture of it.

This is an easy piece of land to get lost in. Believe me, it happened to us. And although not the worst place to be lost, it's never ideal. So here's a map, which is also conveniently located at some of the areas where trails intersect.

If you are looking for some Easter themed adventures this week, there are some beautifully painted rocks located along the Hackett and Minot Trails in Harpswell. This is part of the Elijah Kellogg Church's Easter Egg Hunt going on between now and April 3. Here's the instagram post about it: Harpswel Heritage Land Trust. Happy hunting!


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