Mystic River Boathouse Park to cost $2.8 million more than expected

Stonington — New cost estimates reveal that developing the Mystic River Boathouse Park will now cost $5 million — $2.8 million more than what town officials originally estimated.

Back in 2016, taxpayers approved $2.2 million in bonding to purchase the site along Route 27 and create the public park.

At this week’s Mystic River Boathouse Park Committee meeting, new First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough said members learned that it will now cost about $3.2 million to clean up the industrial contamination on the site and create the park.

The town has about $400,000 left from the bonding approved by voters after buying the land and doing initial planning work. Chesebrough said the town now will seek $2.8 million in state grants for the environmental cleanup.

But she pointed out that in the last round of such funding, the state only distributed a total of $4 million and only one municipality received more than $1 million. However, she added the fact the state already has contributed $200,000 toward the projects could boost the town’s chances to get more funding.

Despite the news, Chesebrough called the park “a beautiful vision for the whole community.” During her campaign she said she was committed to completing the park, which was championed by former First Selectman Rob Simmons.

She said she plans to speak Friday with a state Department of Economic and Community Development official about obtaining grant money for the work.

Without the grant money, it may be difficult for the town to complete the work on the park. Town officials have shown a reluctance to bond for additional projects after the recent work to expand and renovate the town's elementary schools. The town also is facing repairs needed at the high school and middle school and several million dollars of upgrades to the sewer system and treatment plants.

Chesebrough and Selectwoman June Strunk said it may take a few years for the town to be successful in obtaining a grant.

Meanwhile, the Friends of Stonington Crew is raising money to construct the $2.5 million boathouse for use by the Stonington High School crew team and a community rowing program. The group is scheduled to unveil renderings for a new boathouse design Saturday at 4 p.m. at the high school after residents criticized the first design as too modern last year.

j.wojtas@theday.com 

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