Group raises $325K toward rowing center at Mystic River Boathouse Park

Stonington — In just three months of fundraising, the Friends of Stonington Crew has raised $325,000 toward the $2.5 million it needs to construct the Hart Perry Community Rowing Center in the proposed Mystic River Boathouse Park.

The group announced the progress this week, saying the money is not only coming from local supporters of the park, community rowers and the Stonington High School crew team but from those who knew and rowed for the late Perry, a prominent coach in the rowing world from the Kent School. One of the latter is Richard M. Cashin, managing partner at One Equity Partners, who the organization thanked for his generosity.

“Hart Perry touched a lot of people,” said John Thornell, an assistant coach for the high school crew team who is on the town’s Boathouse Park Implementation Committee. “Hopefully the effort will snowball, now. Lots of people knew Hart Perry in the rowing world.”

In total, 92 people so far have donated to the effort, which began with a kickoff event at the home of First Selectman Rob Simmons, a big supporter of the park.

“We’re off to an amazing start towards our $2.5 million goal and we couldn’t be more grateful to Dick Cashin and all our generous donors who share the vision of a community rowing center at the Mystic River Boathouse Park,” said campaign manager Rick Larkin.

The group also announced that the Mystic Rotary Club has committed to making a “generous donation” to the rowing center to launch an outdoor park bench program.

While the public park and 6,500-square-foot rowing center, which will be open to community rowing programs as well as the high school team, is two years or so away from opening, Thornell said the high school team already is using a shed on the property to store its rowing shells and equipment. It also used the property for a rowing program this summer. Eventually the shed and a house on the property will be torn down.

Last year, residents approved $2.2 million in borrowing to create the public park and the town closed on the $1.67 million purchase of the 1.5-acre property on Route 27 just north of Mystic Seaport in January.

The town also reached an agreement with the Friends of Stonington Crew, in which the organization will raise money to construct the boathouse and a dock.

The town has just begun an environmental review that will determine what areas of the site need to be cleaned up. For years, slag, a byproduct of coal burning, was hauled to the property from the Rossie Velvet Mill across the street and dumped into the Mystic River. A large portion of the site was formed by slag.

The town now needs to develop a remediation plan for the site in order to acquire a permit from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for the proposed work. The town then will proceed with developing a more detailed plan for the park and seek Planning and Zoning Commission approval.

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