The stage at Fort Halifax Park in Winslow, seen Wednesday, was damaged in the December 2023 flooding of the Kennebec River, shown in the background. The high water left debris and damages throughout the park, which is at the confluence of the Kennebec and the Sebasticook rivers. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

WINSLOW — Town officials are looking to rebuild and revamp Fort Halifax Park after the destructive flooding December washed away gazebos, toppled trees and nearly breached the historic fort.

The Kennebec River swelled more than 20 feet during the flood’s peak, and Town Manager Ella Bowman said Wednesday that the flood waters took parts of the park and chunks of soil with it. The park, accessible off Bay Street, forms a peninsula at the confluence of the Kennebec and Sebasticook rivers.

“The water went right over the peninsula for an extended period of time,” Bowman said. “The peninsula was kind of a slow, gradual slope, but now it’s reshaping. It’s taken off that gradual slope and it’s made it more of a drop off.”

Bowman has formed a committee of Winslow residents, officials and engineers to redesign and rebuild much of the park, with greater consideration being given to the risk of future floods.

“I think we can engineer something that can withstand flooding events,” she said. “We can keep something there permanently, and that’s what the task of this committee is.”

Ray Caron is the president of the Friends of Fort Halifax Park and one of Winslow’s town councilors. He also sits on the new committee, and said Wednesday the damage has raised concerns about whether or not the park can survive future floods.


“The damage erosion-wise along the bank was very concerning to me for future flooding,” Caron said. “The destabilization of the bank might, in the future, cause us more erosion problems.”

Fort Halifax Park was immediately closed after the flooding due to the hazardous conditions. At a special Jan. 29 Town Council meeting, Public Works Director Paul Fongemie said “all structures have been damaged or destroyed” at the park.

At a later council meeting on Feb. 12, Fongemie said that crews finished cleanup work.

“We started the month by clearing the storm debris at Fort Halifax,” he said. “The crew was onsite for two days and removed 53 truck loads of tree debris.”

The fort was built from 1754 to 1755 at the start of the French and Indian War. It fell into disrepair after the end of the conflict in 1763, and all that is left of the structure is a wooden blockhouse that has the distinction of being the oldest of its kind in the United States. The blockhouse was destroyed in the 1987 flood, but a substantial portion of the timber was recovered and the building was rebuilt in 1988.

The park’s centerpiece stage was destroyed during the flood when a mixture of water and debris knocked it off its base, Caron said. The wooden stage structure was warped and mangled by rapid floodwaters. Although it’s still standing, the stage will soon need to be demolished, he said.


“The stage got knocked off its foundations and twisted and so it’s unusable and not salvageable,” he said. “Just gone in one storm event.”

Onlookers pass debris on Dec. 20 that damaged a picnic shelter when the Kennebec River, in background, flooded Fort Halifax Park in Winslow the prior day. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

Though Bowman’s committee is just taking the first steps toward its initial planning phase, her plan is to make Fort Halifax Park “the heartbeat of the town” with an outdoor concert series to be held there annually. For the past decade, one of the major events at the park has been the annual Fort Halifax Days celebration during the summer, which includes vendors, music and historic reenactments.

Bowman hopes that with park improvements, it could attract more frequent events such as concerts.

While Caron is optimistic the committee can design and build a new stage by the summer concert season, Bowman said it’s likely that construction work may not begin until next year.

“This is all kind of the beginning leg of something that’s actually gonna be (a) yearslong project,” she said. “There is so much that can take place down there. It is the diamond of the town, and we need to take care of it.”

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