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    Saturday, September 23, 2023

    Thames River Heritage Park names transition team members

    New London — A transition team to continue to move the Thames River Heritage Park from plan to reality has been assembled.

    Consisting of representatives from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the municipalities that are involved, the proposed National Coast Guard Museum and more, the team is the next step forward for the years-in-the-making park.

    A concrete idea since 1987, the park will connect historic spots such as Fort Trumbull, Fort Griswold, the Submarine Force Museum and the incoming Coast Guard Museum by water taxi and, where applicable, by bike and foot.

    "It's a park without boundaries," said Penny Parsekian, chairwoman of its steering committee, which began working on the idea again in 2012.

    She said the focal point is the Thames Estuary, and that the park won't go as far north as Norwich.

    "There are so many historic sites within a reasonable distance," she said, adding that a trip through the park, once it's completed, could make for a good day trip.

    "This time, it's a totally modern park concept," Parsekian continued. "There are apps and websites that really didn't exist 25 years ago — we can create a destination using technology. And we have such a great number of attractions that it makes perfect sense to tie them together."

    Beginning July 29, the 17-person transition team — which includes Groton City Mayor Marian Galbraith; Richard "Dick" Grahn, the president and CEO of National Coast Guard Museum Association Inc.; and Ellen Cummings, owner of New London's Flavours of Life — will begin meeting to sort out multiple tasks. Those include everything from securing a 501(c)(3) nonprofit status  and locating office space to drafting a scope of the work that needs to be done and selecting a board of directors.

    Parsekian said the nonprofit, once established, will work with partners such as DEEP "to develop the park and complete the vision for it as laid out in the Yale study."

    When the Avery-Copp House revived the park initiative, it commissioned the Yale Urban Design Workshop to develop a plan for the park, which Yale representatives outlined in April.

    "The steering committee formed a subcommittee to set up the transition team, which is setting up the nonprofit," Parsekian explained, adding that the transition team members were handpicked based on the skills they have. "It's like this chain reaction."

    All 17 of the team's members plan to attend the team's July 29 meeting.

    "When you call a meeting at the end of July with people as busy as these ones are, it's sort of a miracle when they all say yes," she said. "It just goes to show ... how important this is."

    As of now, Parsekian said, those involved are hoping the transition team can accomplish what it needs to do in one year. But, she added, the timeline will be clearer after members of the team have divided up the tasks and given their own timelines of when they think those tasks can be finished.

    Galbraith, who is on the steering committee as well as the transition team, said she and her colleagues are "fairly confident" that by next summer, the water taxi will be running regularly on weekends.

    The transition team also is tasked with building up the Heritage Park's newly created website and Facebook page, which are skeletal at the moment.

    "We really want to be as transparent and open and communicative as possible," Parsekian said, explaining that information from the July 29 meeting should be publicly available soon afterward.


    Twitter: @LindsayABoyle

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