Mystic River Boathouse Park plans unveiled

Mystic — The master plan for the $2.2 million Mystic River Boathouse Park and artist renderings of its $2.5 million Hart Perry Boathouse show a two-story structure — with an “elaborate skin” inspired by computer modeling of the stroke patterns of rowers — sitting on the 1.5-acre park with docks, a large lawn and a boardwalk.

About 70 people attended the unveiling of the plans late Thursday afternoon at the Latitude 41 restaurant at Mystic Seaport Museum, which borders the park site on Route 27.

After listening to presentations on the park and boathouse designs, audience members asked questions and then applauded the designs.

“I love this plan. It’s fantastic,” local rower Tom Sanford said.

Two years ago, Stonington residents approved $2.2 million in bonding to create the park with public access to the Mystic River. A private group of rowing supporters is raising money to construct a boathouse that will be home to the 90-member Stonington High School crew team and the Stonington Community Rowing Center, which will be open to the public, as well.

Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons, who has spearheaded the park effort over the past two years, opened Thursday’s presentation by saying he did not know how many times he drove down Route 27 and thought about what could be done with the property, which had a fence, house and shed that blocked views of the river along the gateway to Mystic.

“It will be a park first and foremost for the residents of the Town of Stonington,” he said, adding the public will be able to launch canoes and kayaks from a dock on the site.

Mike O’Neill, the former Stonington High School crew coach who is now vice chairman of the Mystic River Boathouse Park Implementation Committee, said $400,000 has been raised so far for the boathouse and he hopes to begin construction late next year. That is also the time that Simmons hopes to open the park. First, the town will have to receive approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission and various state agencies.

For two decades, the crew team has used space at Mystic Seaport Museum but O’Neill said they have outgrown the space.

Chad Frost, whose local firm Kent + Frost designed the park plan, detailed plans for the site, which was formed from deposited coal slags from the Rossie Velvet mill across the street. He said the slag can be capped and some fuel tank contamination removed. He also outlined how a “living shoreline” will be created to protect the park from wave action and sea-level rise. Plans call for using concrete blocks containing oyster seeds to create “oyster castles” as well as native grasses and marshland.

Plans call for 14 parking spots on the site and seven parallel parking spots along Route 27. A total of 28 are needed and Frost said the park will look to partner with neighboring properties to provide parking.

On days of regattas, buses will pull up along the spots on Route 27 to drop off rowers and trailers will pull into the site to unload shells. On those days, extra parking will be needed for buses, trailers and spectators. The PZC, though, has said in the past it does not favor off-site parking for events.

The master plan for the park shows open views of the river that now are blocked. The plan also calls for a floating dock for the crew team as well as a public floating dock and a public boat ramp for kayaks, canoes and paddleboards.

Alex Anmahian, whose Boston-area architectural firm Anmahian Winton was selected to design the boathouse from a field of 26 firms, outlined the building design. He called it a simple utilitarian building constructed of weathered metal with an elaborate skin that will be open in some areas to let light through. Those passing by on Route 27 will be able to look through the building out to the river.

The two-story structure calls for a large bay on the first floor to accommodate rowing shells and public bathrooms. The second floor, which will be accessed by an elevator, will have a training area with indoor rowing machines and weights, lockers, coaches' offices and a balcony to view regattas.


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