STONINGTON — The public will likely have a boardwalk rather than a tiny beach at the future Mystic River Boathouse Park if conceptual plans presented Monday at the joint meeting of the Board of Selectmen and the Mystic River Boathouse Implementation Committee go forward.
Chad Frost, project manager at Kent + Frost Landscape Architecture of Mystic, the designer of the project’s master plan, asked committee members to consider what type of public access would be desirable and workable for the 1.6-acre property, located at 123 Greenmanville Ave., which fronts the Mystic River and abuts Mystic Seaport.
The $2.2 million Hart Perry Boathouse project is slated to provide public waterfront coastal access and a boathouse for the Stonington High School crew team and community rowing programs.
Frost said that if the project were to have walking access into the river, then a higher level of environmental testing known as Screening Level Ecological Risk Assessment would be required.
He said the risk of finding a contaminant in the river was high because of previous industrial activity along the shoreline. Finding a contaminant would mean launching into the higher environmental testing assessment and trying to find the source of the contaminant, probably costing about $20,000, which Frost said was in the budget if necessary.
However, Frost said not providing walking access to the beach would mean the project could more fully employ Living Shorelines coastal reconstruction, which uses nature-based erosion techniques. The project has been offered 25 hours of service using Living Shorelines from the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus in Groton.
Further complicating the concept of a beach was the two feet of fill the site requires, which would easily erode without a structure to hold it, said Frost.
The site already has an area with a sea wall, which Frost suggested boardwalk could be built around, giving the public access for picnics and river-viewing.
The dock and boat-launch area would also be open to the public.
Frost recommended going with the boardwalk concept but said it was up to the committee.
“I’m trying to be judicious with your money; if public wanted a beach, then we can do study,” he said. “But, it’s a low-tide beach and I don’t see the value.”
Rob Simmons, First Selectman, said he hadn’t thought of the site as a beach, plus the will of the committee had been to work with Living Shorelines.
Frost also showed a preliminary conceptual plan of how the boathouse might fit on the site along with 32 parking spaces, which could crowd the space.
Simmons was authorized by the committee to talk with the Mystic Little League about a shared parking arrangement at the Mystic Little League Park across the street, which could help alleviate the boathouse park’s parking shortage.