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Presentation to be held on Thames River Heritage Park plan

The steering committee for the Thames River Heritage Park has sent about 175 people invitations to a public presentation of the final plan for the multisite park that will include a proposed timeline and recommendations for creating a nonprofit entity to bring it from concept to reality.

The presentation, scheduled for April 1, will be open to the public. The 175 invitations were sent to people who responded to a survey about the pilot water taxi service that ran in the fall, and other stakeholders who have expressed interest in the park, said Penny Parsekian, chairwoman of the steering committee for the park.

"The presentation is going to focus on implementation, and who needs to do what," she said Wednesday.

The park plan was written by the Yale Urban Design Workshop and recently was approved by the Board of Directors of the Avery-Copp House, the organization that fostered the formation of the steering committee two years ago. The idea for the park, which dates back to the 1980s, is to tie independent historical attractions on the Groton and New London sides of the Thames River into a network connected by a water taxi, common signage, programming and coordinated events. Anchor sites would be Fort Griswold and Fort Trumbull state parks, the proposed National Coast Guard Museum and the Submarine Force Museum. A dozen smaller sites also would be included.

In other developments, representatives of the steering committee met Feb. 26 with Mark Ojakian, chief of staff for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, to share the report and enlist the governor's support.

Groton City Mayor Marian Galbraith, one of the representatives, said the group asked for two things: a small amount of state funding to initiate water taxi service this summer, and the governor's endorsement for moving forward with the park plan. A bill seeking $100,000 in state funding for the taxi is pending in the state legislature.

The group emphasized the economic development value of the park as a means of increasing tourism in the region.

"It was a very positive meeting," she said. Ojakian "understood that it was a worthwhile investment. This could be a great economic driver."

New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, who joined Galbraith and Parsekian in the meeting with the governor's office, said he plans to include $10,000 in his upcoming budget proposal to support the water taxi. In their pitch to Ojakian, he said, they presented the park as a "very big bang for the buck" for a small investment on the part of the state.

Parsekian said the steering committee needs explicit endorsement by the state to move forward with the plan, including the creation of a nonprofit partnership to oversee creation and operation of the park.

j.benson@theday.com

Twitter: @BensonJudy

If you go

What: Public presentation of Yale Urban Design Workshop plan for Thames River Heritage Park

When: 7 p.m. April 1

Where: City of Groton Municipal Building, 295 Meridian St.

More information on plan: www.averycopphouse.org/thames/

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