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    Wednesday, August 17, 2022

    Heritage Park water taxi worth state investment

    Many questions surround the planned operation of a water taxi that, during warmer months, would connect attractions on the New London and Groton shores of the Thames River. The service is integral to the creation of a Thames River Heritage Park.

    But while details may be lacking, the potential for the taxi to boost tourism in the region, with the resultant economic benefits, is clear. Therefore, it is well worth the legislature committing to a proposed $100,000 subsidy to get the service underway.

    During a trial run over two weekends last September, a water taxi provided by Mystic Seaport ferried about 1,000 people between City Pier and Fort Trumbull State Park in New London and Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park on the Groton side of the river. Plans call for adding to the itinerary the Submarine Force Museum, also in Groton, and eventually the National Coast Guard Museum, planned for the New London waterfront.

    Details to be worked out include times of operation, whether fees should be assessed to offset operational costs (they should), and, if so, what they should be. Ideas include offering all-day and seasonal passes.

    The steering committee of the planned Thames River Heritage Park has issued a request for proposals from companies interested in providing the taxi service. The resulting discussions with potential water taxi operators will provide a clearer idea of the expenses necessary to provide the service and the revenue stream needed to support it.

    It will almost certainly require a state subsidy, at least in the initial stage of operation, as the taxi service establishes itself and promotion about it takes hold. To that end, state lawmakers have introduced the request for $100,000 to support taxi operations.

    Granted, the figure is the roughest of estimates, but it is necessary to put some proposal before the legislature that lawmakers can later adjust as the cost of the taxi service becomes clearer.

    The larger point is that this water taxi proposal is an exciting one that can make the plans for the heritage park, as outlined in a report by the Yale Urban Design Workshop, come to life. Visitors and locals alike will be more inclined to enjoy these historic attractions, and understand their relationship to the river, by utilizing a cross-river ride, rather than navigating local roads.

    The region's delegation in Hartford should push forward in aggressively seeking state aid for this endeavor.

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