26 September 2016
Göran R Buckhorn writes:
Something unique with New England is the so-called town meetings, where residents of a small town come together to debate and make decisions on community matters. On Tuesday, a week ago, the people of Stonington, Connecticut, gathered at the local Stonington High School to discuss if the town was going to spend $2.2m on a 1.5-acre piece of land making it into a public space called Mystic River Boathouse Park, something HTBS wrote about on 20 September (see here).
An overwhelming majority of the people who had assembled in the full-packed school auditorium were in favour of the project turning the property into a community park, which eventually also should include a boathouse for Stonington High School’s successful rowing team. The school started its rowing programme in 1997, with only a handful of participants but it now has hundreds of students rowing. Earlier this year, in May, the men’s varsity boat became state champions.
However, there might be a petition handed in to the town, forcing a referendum to be held. Some residents are unhappy that the Stonington Board of Selectmen organised a town meeting on the project, instead of a referendum. First selectman Rob Simmons told the local newspaper The Day that this way, the town avoided a cost of $7,000 for a referendum. 200 registered voters must have signed a petition before 30 September to force a referendum.
The new facility would also be open to other out-of-town rowing crews for training, making Mystic River Boathouse Park a rowing centre in the eastern corner of Connecticut. As of now, there is no schedule for when the town of Stonington will begin developing the property on 123 Greenmanville Avenue. The park, together with the 45-acre Coogan Farm Nature and Heritage Center, which is also located on Greenmanville Avenue, and opened in September 2014, would form an exciting new entry for tourists coming to Mystic.
Added to these attractions is Mystic Seaport, also on Greenmanville Avenue, which on Saturday, 24 September, opened its new 14,000-square-foot, multi-million Thompson Exhibition Building, which includes a 5,000-square-foot exhibition space, a small museum retail shop, a reception centre and lecture room. The Thompson Building is only a few steps away from Mystic River Boathouse Park.
On a personal note, I cannot help reflecting on what a wonderful area the Mystic Seaport-Mystic River Boathouse Park might have been for the sport of rowing had the museum been able to offer the National Rowing Foundation a new location for its Rowing Hall of Fame and the marvelous rowing exhibit “Let Her Run”, which closed on 1 September 2014. The G. W. Blunt White Building, where the Hall of Fame and the exhibit were held, was one of the buildings on the museum’s grounds that were demolished to make room for the new Thompson Building.
The rowing memorabilia, which once were held in the “Let Her Run” exhibit, are now in storage. A rumour has it that some of the memorabilia will be put on display at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida, a rowing venue which will host the 2017 World Rowing Championships on 24 September-1 October 2017 and the 2018 World Rowing Master Regatta on 13-16 September 2018.