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New state funding brings Mystic River Boathouse Park closer to reality

Stonington — The proposed Mystic River Boathouse Park got a major boost Thursday as Gov. Ned Lamont announced that the state has awarded the town a $753,889 state grant to clean up the environmental contamination on the Route 27 site.   

In addition, Lamont announced a $139,000 grant to help the town assess the contamination and redevelopment potential of the former Connecticut Casting Mill site on Stillman Avenue in Pawcatuck. The two grants were among 31 totaling more than $19 million that the state awarded to help 23 towns and cities to assess and remediate properties and put them back into use.

"This is a really good day for Stonington," First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough said.

Chesebrough said the new state funding combined with the approximately $500,000 that remains from the $2.2 million in bonding money approved by residents in 2014 to purchase and develop the park property, means the town should have enough money now to complete that project.

She said now that the town has the money to complete the park, it will be easier for The Friends of Stonington Crew and the Stonington Community Rowing Foundation to raise the money they need to renovate a historic home on the site and build the boathouse, which will house the Stonington High School crew team and a community rowing program.

Chesebrough said the grants were the result of "many years of work by so many people. We've all been holding our breath to see if we would get them." 

She particularly credited the work of Selectwoman Deborah Downie, a licensed environmental professional; Director of Community and Development Susan Cullen; Town Planner Keith Brynes, members of the boathouse park committee; Economic Development Commission Chairman Dave Hammond and others.

Chesebrough called the funding for the vacant Connecticut Casting Mill site as a "crucial first step" to determine its development potential.

In April 2019, the town was forced to demolish the mill and haul away the contaminated debris after a portion of the structure collapsed into the Pawcatuck River during a heavy rainstorm. Its owner, Worcester, Mass.-based Pawcatuck Landing LLC, refused to take any action. The building debris contained lead, PCBs and asbestos.

The town, which spent $700,000 on the cleanup, placed a lien on the property. Pawcatuck Landing LLC also owes back taxes to the town. The town is reluctant, however, to foreclose on the property and take ownership, because of the cost of an eventual environmental cleanup, the liability of owning a contaminated site and the possibility it has limited redevelopment potential. Chesebrough has said the town would be in a better position to obtain various grants if it does not yet own the property.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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