Community to dedicate new Fred Emerson Boathouse in Old Lyme

Old Lyme — After several years of planning, the new Fred Emerson Boathouse at Hains Park by Rogers Lake is complete.

Community members and officials will gather at noon Saturday at a dedication ceremony to celebrate the end of the project.

"We're just all very happy to have it complete," First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. "It's obviously beautiful. The end result was well worth the work that went into it."

The new facility features three equal-sized bays, new boat racks and oar racks, storage and changing areas, and a space for teams to discuss rowing techniques and watch videos, Reemsnyder said.

She thanked the Boathouse-Hains Park Improvements Committee for its work on the project.

"It's definitely serving the need," she said about the boathouse. "The teams are there actively using it now, so we’re just really happy to have it come to fruition."

In 2013, the town was awarded a $478,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant from the state for the boathouse project. Later, in 2014, residents approved using $405,000 in town funds for the project.

The town owns the building and the school district will lease and maintain it, Reemsnyder said.

“We are grateful to the Town of Old Lyme for pursuing the STEAP grant that helped support the construction of the new boathouse," Superintendent of Schools Ian Neviaser said by email. "This structure will allow our rowing programs to continue to grow and allow us to build upon our past successes. The new boathouse will provide much needed support for our student rowers for many years to come.”

Paul Fuchs, co-chairman of the boathouse committee and Lyme-Old Lyme High School girls' varsity coach and Blood Street Sculls head coach, said the older boathouse, which was built in the 1980s, did not have that much space. Boats occasionally would get damaged when being taken in and out of storage, and not all of the equipment could be stored indoors.

With the new facility, all of the equipment donated by the Old Lyme Rowing Association can be stored indoors and it creates a safe environment for students, he said.

"We're really proud of the program, and the kids that have come out of there, and that a lot of adults have taken up rowing for the first time," he said in a phone interview.

For National Learn to Row Day, the Old Lyme Rowing Association will host a free event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 3, to provide rowing instruction on land and in the water.

Greg Hack, president of the Old Lyme Rowing Association/Blood Street Sculls, said by email that the local rowing community is thrilled at the completion of the boathouse, which he said is "both highly functional and attractive, and provides excellent and appropriate storage for our large inventory of racing and training shells and associated equipment."

He said rowing on Rogers Lake, which dates back to the late 1960s, when Fred Emerson first ran his programs out of a small building on Blood Street, has grown today to involve more than 150 individual athletes each year.

"Activities include Lyme-Old Lyme High School varsity rowing, Old Saybrook High School varsity rowing, and community-based learn-to-row and recreational rowing programs under the banner of Blood Street Sculls," he said. "Rowing is truly a sport for all ages. Our programs include athletes taking their first strokes at age 12, on through to avid master rowers who are well in their 70s. All are welcome!"

"We plan to be good stewards of this wonderful new resource for decades to come," he added.

For the next phase, Reemsnyder said officials hope to renovate the bathrooms at Hains Park. She said they expect to have some money left over from the boathouse project and also included funds in the proposed 2017-18 budget for the bathroom renovations. Officials hope the renovations would make the bathrooms larger, handicap-accessible and available year-round.

A fundraising arm of the committee has collected nearly $50,000 that could be put toward a pavilion and other amenities that will enhance the park, she said.

Reemsnyder said parking is limited so people should arrive to Saturday's dedication ceremony early.

k.drelich@theday.com

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