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Time for honest talk about Boathouse Park

November 30, 2018

I was enthusiastic at the outset about the prospect of Boathouse Park in Stonington, a public park at the gateway into Mystic, opening new vistas for arriving tourists, creating water access for town residents and a home for Stonington High School’s estimable rowing program.

I live in town, and I voted enthusiastically for the 200,000 remediation assessment grant approved in early 2017 by the state Department of Economic and Community Development. They eventually will prepare a remediation plan — it could include moving and capping some polluted soil and covering the entire site with new topsoil — and seek further state permits and permission and grant money to do the work.

DECD brownfield program officials told me this week grants for remediation money are awarded in rounds of competition. There is currently no funding available and there won’t be until new bonding money is approved. Grants are capped at $4 million. Nothing has been promised for Boathouse Park, they said.

Frost said he can’t estimate a timetable for when the remediation grant request will be made to the state or suggest even a broad estimate of how much money the kind of cleanup being contemplated will take.

Frost said the park plan includes ways to respect the history of the site, including signs to explain how the property was created with industrial fill from the mill, and he is optimistic the state will allow demolition of the buildings. It’s optimism I don’t share.

Meanwhile, to my alarm, the existing building on the site — considerably polluted, according to the assessment — continues to be used by the high school rowers. Shells are stored inside and moved in and out of and around the building.

There was a news picture of team members this fall on rowing machines spread out across the lawn. Frost said they were asked to stop launching boats at the waterfront last year, because of the extensive glass debris that surfaces from the sand and dirt along the tide line there.

Can’t the town find a better temporary home for these young people and keep them off a polluted brownfield, one with now documented toxic waste and carcinogens, inside and around the building the young people are using? Lock it up until it is cleaned up.

Shame on people who suggest they are not in there that long.

Stonington can do better than that.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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