Ocean Beach pavilion marks 100th anniversary of New London Rotary

New London — The Rotary Club of New London deliberated for more than a year over what kind of project would leave a lasting impression on New London and be worthy of marking the group’s centennial year.

Jerry Fischer, chairman of the Rotary’s centennial project committee, said ideas had included a book mobile at the library, a water taxi sign or clock at Ocean Beach Park. It was decided that those projects would not have the kind of impact the group was seeking.

“We decided to go for the biggest and best and something we could hand over to the city without having to repair it every year,” Fischer said to a crowd at Ocean Beach on Thursday.

In the end, the Rotary decided that while a daunting task, restoring the beloved and well-used picnic pavilion at Ocean Beach fit the bill. The former pavilion was already showing signs of wear when Superstorm Sandy rolled into southeastern Connecticut in 2012 and badly damaged the structure.

The Rotary eventually raised more than $500,000 and completed the 7,500-square-foot pavilion to hurricane-resistant standards. It opened earlier this year and already has become a venue for things like children’s camps, nonprofit organization fundraisers and private events in addition to regular use by beachgoers.

Because of rain, Rotarians celebrated the completion of the Rotarian Centennial Pavilion on Thursday at the Ocean Beach Park’s Pilot House.

Along with local and state officials announcing proclamations and citations, there was an obligatory ribbon-cutting, complete with oversized scissors provided by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut. Dignitaries attending included Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Mayor Michael Passero, state Rep. Anthony Nolan and Sen. Paul Formica.

Rotary Club President Victoria Mueller called it a project “grand in scope for our little club, a major gift to the city we hold so dear and to the people who visit Ocean Beach Park.”

It was also a true community effort to fund the project. In addition to larger donations, Fischer said more than 50 people and organizations donated $1,000 or more, more than 250 individuals pitched in between $10 and $200 and others donated in-kind services. For example, the pavilion was designed by Rotarian Rick Gipstein, drafting was completed by Eric Murray at REM Architecture and structural engineering was completed by Scott Ericson at E2 Engineers of New London.

“A centennial celebration, almost by definition, requires a focus on the past, a recounting of what has come before,” Mueller said in prepared remarks. “By contrast, while our club’s centennial observance pays its respect to the past, the real focus with the pavilion is on the future. Generations of beach visitors, far into the future, will enjoy this terrific facility, a place where they can spend quality time with their friends and loved ones.”

g.smith@theday.com 

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