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Stonington - The early 19th-century jetty behind Stonington Commons is not only considered one of the oldest public works projects in the country, it once was so smooth that horse-drawn carriages and trucks drove out to its end to pick up and deliver goods to docked boats.
That ended when the Hurricane of 1938 severely damaged the structure. Since then, storms such as Hurricane Sandy have continued its deterioration, prompting concerns about its long-term ability to protect the inner part of Stonington Harbor.
With its historic and practical importance in mind, a five-member committee of borough and town officials has been formed to determine the feasibility, cost and potential funding for the repair of the stone structure.
Borough Warden Jeff Callahan said that he would like to see a repaired jetty look as much as possible like the original 1828 structure while featuring a modern engineering design that would protect the borough from future sea level rise.
He said that when the jetty was active in marine commerce it played a vital role in the life of the borough, which at the time was centered at nearby Cannon Square, a short walk from the jetty. Historical photos shows cars and carriages out on the jetty.
Among those on the committee is Stonington Harbor Management Commission member Peter Tacy, who Callahan said has done extensive research into the history of the jetty.
He said the committee will spend the next few months doing its research and then report back this spring.
"We won't know anything until we get that report back," he said.
Callahan said the committee has also been given the job of determining who owns the jetty. He said Congress abandoned it in 1948 but the state never took title to it.
"So it's in limbo," he said. "If someone other than the town or borough owns it, we can't do anything."
He said state Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, has contacted the state Attorney General's office to help resolve the ownership question.