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Mystic River Boathouse Park committee looks to chart course forward

Stonington — A subcommittee of the Mystic River Boathouse Park Implementation Committee began discussions Tuesday on charting a course forward for the now 4-year-old project.

In 2016, residents approved a $2.2 million bond to buy the Route 27 site just north of the Latitude 41 restaurant at Mystic Seaport, and develop the public park. The Friends of Stonington Crew, meanwhile, has been raising money to build a boathouse that would be home to the Stonington High School crew team and a community rowing program.

The project has been beset by delays due to having to cleanup underground contamination, the need to preserve a historical home on the site and the impact that would have on the park design, and controversy over design of the boathouse.

On Tuesday afternoon, the park management subcommittee discussed costs for rehabilitating and relocating the house on the property to provide for parking as well as its potential uses. The cost of conducting an environmental remediation of the house and moving it, building a new foundation and demolishing a shed would cost about $160,000. Committee member Mike O’Neill said the state Historic Preservation Office has mandated that in order to get any state funding for the park, the town had to agree to move the house so it will be seen before the boathouse.

Four options for renovating the house range from $275,000 to $621,259. The house would be incorporated into the boathouse structure.

Earlier Tuesday, First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough said the town has $534,719 left from the $2.2 million bond to spend on the project. In addition, the town has about $50,000 left from a $200,000 state grant to conduct an environmental assessment of the property and obtain permits.

Chesebrough said the town is now preparing an application for another state grant of $2 million to $2.5 million for the actual environmental cleanup of the site. Committee members hope to be able to include costs related to the house in the grant.  

She said it may not be until later next year when the state decides if the town will receive the cleanup money.

Chesebrough said the $534,719 left from the bond approved by voters would be needed to install drainage, utilities, a dock and boat ramp.

However, she said, the town cannot proceed with construction of the park until it receives the state remediation grant.

Chesebrough said the town also will be looking for more grants and fundraising to cover additional costs of the park. O'Neill suggested asking the state for a grant to renovate the exterior of the house because of the historic requirements it is mandating. 

Chesebrough said she does not foresee the town asking taxpayers to allocate any more money for the park because of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on taxpayers and other capital needs, such as repairing leaky roofs at Town Hall and the Human Services Department and various school repairs.

j.wojtas@theday.com 

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