Stonington making gradual progress on boathouse park

People chat at the water's edge during an open house Sept. 10, 2016, at the property off Route 27 in Mystic, where residents could learn more about the town of Stonington wanting to buy the land to create the Mystic River Boathouse Park. The process of developing the park has been 'painfully slow,' First Selectman Rob Simmons said Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
People chat at the water's edge during an open house Sept. 10, 2016, at the property off Route 27 in Mystic, where residents could learn more about the town of Stonington wanting to buy the land to create the Mystic River Boathouse Park. The process of developing the park has been "painfully slow," First Selectman Rob Simmons said Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Mystic — Almost two years after Stonington residents approved $2.2 million in bonding to create the Mystic River Boathouse Park, the committee overseeing the work now has approved a conceptual design and First Selectman Rob Simmons said Tuesday he expects to be able to open the park next year.

Simmons said that it has taken this long to begin developing the more detailed plans needed for Planning and Zoning Commission approval because the acre site on Route 27 just north of the Mystic Seaport Museum is a “very complicated site” with environmental contamination, soil, wetlands and buildings.

“It’s been a painfully slow process,” said Simmons, who is also the chairman of the Mystic River Boathouse Park Implementation Committee.

For example, minutes of the committee’s last meeting, on July 2, show that members debated issues such as placement of the boardwalks, public and crew team docks, parallel parking along Route 27 and possibly having overflow parking at the nearby Seaport and the Coogan Farm Nature and Heritage Center.

Members then unanimously voted to move the conceptual plan forward. The Mystic landscape design firm Kent + Frost is developing the plans for the town.

Simmons said he hopes the committee can submit an application to the Planning and Zoning Commission by the end of the year, with work beginning when the ground thaws in the spring. While a private group of rowing supporters is raising money to construct a $2.5 million boathouse, which will be home to the Stonington High School crew team and the Stonington Community Rowing Club, Simmons said work on the park can proceed separately from construction of the boathouse.

In addition to the challenges of providing adequate parking for events, slag, polychlorinated biphenyls and hydrocarbons have been found on the site. But Simmons has said the environmental contaminants are not expected to cause a problem, as they can be dealt with by encapsulation. The state has approved a $200,000 grant to help with the cleanup but the town has not yet received the money. Asbestos and lead paint in the house scheduled for demolition on the site will have to be removed.

Simmons said Tuesday there have been no surprises that would increase the estimated cost of the project beyond what was approved.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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