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    Saturday, September 23, 2023

    Water taxi idea takes a vacation till next year

    New London — A water taxi between Groton and New London that officials had hoped to have in service for the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival this weekend will not be up and running until next Memorial Day.

    Although the water taxi plan was slated to receive the lion's share of the state legislature's last-minute $200,000 commitment to the associated Thames River Heritage Park, officials said Thursday that the money came too late to make all the arrangements required to put the service into effect this year.

    Bruce MacDonald, chief operating officer of the heritage festival running through Saturday, said he was aware for a while that the water taxi likely wouldn't come to fruition this year, even though officials originally had aimed to have the shuttle service up in time for the event.

    "It did not impact our plans," MacDonald said. "The decision not to have it this year wasn't a surprise."

    He added, however, that a free water taxi demonstration run in conjunction with last year's festival had been "a huge success" and the service likely will be just as popular once the shuttles come back next summer.

    "It will provide visitors a great way to see this historic port," MacDonald said. "It will help bring Groton and New London together."

    Groton City Mayor Marian Galbraith, chairwoman of the Water Taxi Planning and Operations Committee, said the main stumbling block in timing the shuttle for the maritime festival was in securing a boat in time.

    The Navy has approved handing over two surplus utility boats to the cause, but they still need to be transported here — likely sometime this month — and outfitted for passengers, she said.

    Rather than rush the process and do a slap-dash job of offering a new service, Galbraith said it made more sense to plan for the water taxi in a more business-like fashion.

    "We want to start this with a really professional feel," she said.

    Galbraith said plans are to run the water taxi on weekends throughout the summer next year. A nominal fee likely will be charged for passengers, she added.

    New London as well as Groton Town and Groton City have each kicked in an additional $10,000, bringing the total potential funding to $230,000.

    Penny Parsekian, a member of the water taxi committee, said infrastructure at the shuttle stops — Fort Griswold State Park and the Submarine Force Library & Museum in Groton as well as Fort Trumbull and City Pier in New London — largely are intact, though some dock improvements are required at the Nautilus museum.

    The water taxi also is expected to be a boon to visitation at the proposed National Coast Guard Museum once it is completed downtown.

    "Everywhere I go, people are asking about it," Galbraith said.

    "We see this as a really important economic driver for the region," Parsekian added.


    Twitter: @KingstonLeeHow

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