Mystic River Boathouse Park plans moving ahead

Stonington — During a meeting of the Mystic River Boathouse Park Implementation Committee this week, Chairman and First Selectman Rob Simmons said members supported the idea of renaming it Stonington Boathouse Park and proceeding with asking the Board of Police Commissioners to endorse a controversial plan to place seven parallel parking spots along Route 27.

In addition, Simmons said a public forum will be held Dec. 1 at Stonington High School to unveil some alternative exterior designs for the boathouse that would be constructed in the park. Some have criticized the initial design as too modern and not in keeping with the historic character of Mystic.

But Simmons has said the $2.5 million building, which is being funded by supporters of the Stonington High School crew team, fits the location set aside in the park for it and meets flood regulations. He added it would not be possible to show the legal hardship needed to obtain a variance for a building with a pitched roof.

Simmons said the Mystic River Harbor Commission also has written to the implementation committee requesting a public dinghy dock be included in the plans for the park. Simmons said committee members had mixed reactions to the request, as a dinghy dock was never envisioned for the $2.2 million park, which will be for the use of rowing shells, canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. There are dinghy docks at Mystic River Park and Mystic Seaport Museum, among other locations along the river.

As for the parking along Route 27, a state road, police commissioners need to support placing spots along the road in order for the state Department of Transportation to approve the plan.

“We believe it will slow down traffic in an area where there are pedestrians,” Simmons said.

Police Chief J. Darren Stewart has expressed concerns about placing the spots along busy Route 27.

The name change is being considered because officials from the Mystic River Park Commission are worried that people will confuse the two parks, which are about 1.5 miles apart. Simmons said implementation committee members had no objection to renaming it Stonington Boathouse Park and likened it to the plan to rename Mystic Middle School as Stonington Middle School when it is consolidated with Pawcatuck Middle School next year.

Simmons added the town has to investigate whether changing the name of the park will cause any problems with the legal documents for the bonding and funding for the park.

While the state has promised funding to clean up environmental contamination on the park site, Simmons said the town is moving toward submitting a request with the state to release the funds and also to create a timeline for construction.

In addition, he said the implementation committee has to decide how to dispose of a home on the property which is listed in the Rossie Mill Historic District. Simmons said it could be transferred to someone who would remove it from the site instead of being demolished.

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 the boathouse, which 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.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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