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A whodunit in a wealthy Mystic enclave

On Nov. 16, I wrote about a neglected public right of way off a short residential street in downtown Mystic, Park Place, which actually dead ends at the Mystic River, with natural public access to the water.

I was sent to look at it by Richard Fitzgerald, a member of the Groton Zoning Board of Appeals and a keen coastal access advocate. A neighbor, 92-year-old Alice Foley, showed me around, noting that the area has been mowed over the years by adjacent property owners and looked like an extension of their lawns, not obvious as public access.

Groton Town Manger John Burt, when I reached out to him, confirmed it is indeed publicly owned, part of a public road since the 19th century.

Burt's staff checked with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which suggested leaving the natural vegetation at the water's edge. The consultations led to a decision to erect a state Department of Transportation sign indicating a public access for hand-launching small boats.

To Burt's credit, a DOT-approved sign went up quickly, Nov. 28.

And now it's gone.

I heard from Burt that it was removed, when I checked with him earlier this week on reports that it never went up. He sent me a picture of the sign after it was indeed erected and noted in the email that a replacement would be set in concrete, to make it more vandal-proof.

Of course, I don't believe it was taken by vandals. I can't picture a gang of roaming Mystic youths, troublemakers, going down to Park Place to yank out a public access sign.

It wouldn't take Agatha Christie's detective Hercule Poirot to conclude that someone who lives nearby took down the sign. Think motive.

More likely, someone in the neighborhood, where the real estate app Zillow estimates some houses are worth more than $1 million, didn't like the idea of the public using their street to launch a canoe or a kayak.

I hope Groton Town police Chief Louis Fusaro decides to investigate this bold destruction of public property. Certainly, police wouldn't hesitate to track down some underprivileged kids suspected of destroying public property or committing some petty crime.

How about it, chief? This may not be such a tough one to solve. A crime has been reported.

In any case, a police investigation certainly would discourage the culprit from striking again, once the replacement goes up.

Meanwhile, when the weather improves, maybe advocates for public coastal access will consider a canoe-in on Park Place, to come, launch, mingle and enjoy the public's right to access the water there, a right that predates most of the houses on the street.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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