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Effort to find site for Kelley statue turning into a marathon

Mystic - If the late John Kelley, the 1957 Boston Marathon champion, ran to all of the locations considered for his statue, he would have gotten quite a workout.

At first the group trying to erect the lifesized bronze image had discussed placing the statue along River Road near the Interstate 95 overpass, where Kelley often ran, but state officials did not respond to their request. The site of the now-removed John Mason statue on Pequot Avenue, where Kelley lived, was also discussed.

The John Kelley Memorial Fund then turned its attention to the Mystic River Park. The nonprofit group outlined that plan to the Mystic River Park Commission and secured a favorable zoning ruling from the town of Stonington. But it has now withdrawn its request to place the statue in the park and is looking at other locations after members of the commission raised concerns.

The park commission had been expected to render a decision when it meets Wednesday night. During the fund group's two preliminary meetings with the commission, commission Chairman Tim DeBell said, members thought there would be a better location for the statue of the two-time Olympian from Mystic, who died in August 2011, other than next to the playground at the corner of Cottrell and Washington streets.

He said that spot seemed a "little underwhelming" and was not a central location for runners to meet.

"We were certainly willing to consider it but we thought a better location might be at (Fitch) high school where he taught or at the little park area by Mystic Pizza," he said Monday.

Since it last met with the park commission, the fund group had secured a ruling from the Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission that the statue could be placed within building setback requirements in the park, which was one of the concerns of the commission. The next step would have been to apply for a zoning permit from the town.

Jim Roy, the president of the memorial fund, said Sunday that his group is instead withdrawing its request to put the statue in the park.

"We're still moving forward. Everything is going well," Roy said.

He added that the group will announce a location for the statue in the very near future, once the details are settled. After that, the fund group plans to proceed with a design. Both of those milestones are expected to help with the remainder of the fundraising. The fund has raised about one-third of the estimated $90,000 cost.

"I hope they find a great place for it," DeBell said.


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