Norwich officials pitch $5.4 million waterfront plan to state officials

Norwich – Several city officials met with two state commissioners and members of their staffs today to seek state funding for a three-pronged, $5.4 million Norwich waterfront development project including a regional boat launch on Shipping Street, improvements to the Howard T. Brown Memorial Park and creation of a new fishing park on the east harbor bank.

The projects are included in a 2011 waterfront "vision" adopted by the Norwich Harbor Management Commission.

Commission members, Mayor Peter Nystrom and city economic development officials brought the plan with preliminary phase 1 cost estimates to Hartford Tuesday for a meeting with state Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty. The meetings were arranged by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy after the city sent a letter in June requesting assistance with waterfront development, Nystrom said.

The project would start with the creation of a new $3.5 million regional boat launch on the Thames River off Terminal Way in the Shipping Street former industrial district.

By moving the boat launch, city officials could make $1.1 million in improvements to Brown Park to reduce asphalt, add greenspace and make the park more pedestrian friendly. The plan calls for reducing the existing boat launch that has "an inadequate design, limited parking and use conflicts." The current boat launch is closed on several summer holiday weekends due to waterfront festivals. The plan calls for reducing the Brown Park ramp and limiting it to kayaks and canoes, and upgrading the park for better pedestrian use, including a handicapped accessible fishing spot.

The third aspect calls for opening up the east bank of the harbor – considered the best fishing spot at the mouth of the Shetucket River – adjacent to the Shetucket Iron & Metal scrap yard. The $825,000 plan calls for obtaining an easement to the property, creating a stairway to the riverfront and fishing spots.

"I was very encouraged by the attention Commissioner Esty gave us," Nystrom said after today's meeting, "and the information he requested of us."

City officials were asked to obtain information about potential environmental contamination of the sites and more details of the proposed projects.

DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain said he spoke to Esty after the meeting and the commissioner called Norwich's plan "an exciting vision for the future of the waterfront," and said the agency would work with the city to review any plans for permitting for the project.

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