Design released for Mystic River Park center; capital campaign to kick off in fall

Design released for Mystic River Park center; capital campaign to kick off in fall

The Westerly Sun

STONINGTON — A major capital campaign will soon be underway for the construction of a community rowing facility at the town’s upcoming Mystic River Boathouse Park, a $2.2 million project that is in the design stage.

The Hart Perry Community Rowing Center Capital Campaign was recently established under the auspices of the Friends of Stonington Crew, which has had its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status since 1998.

The campaign’s $2.5 million fundraising goal comprises $1.5 million from private donors, who will be given naming opportunities; $500,000 from community support and special events; and, $500,000 from corporate partnerships.

A public kick-off event for fundraising is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 22, at a venue to be decided.

The project has three goals: to build the boathouse; to create a safe and secure location for the Stonington High School crew and its equipment; and to provide training and rowing programs for the community.

The new boathouse will be called the Hart Perry Community Rowing Center, named for Hart Perry, a North Stonington resident regarded as an influential rower and crew coach and advocate. Hart, who passed away in 2011, helped establish many youth rowing programs, including those at Kent School, Dartmouth College and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Michael O’Neill, who is vice chairman of the Mystic River Boathouse Park Implementation Committee and director of rowing for Friends of Stonington Crew, said Hart had a dream to build a boathouse on the Mystic River that would encompass the history of the sport alongside modern-day rowing shells. He wanted a facility where people of all ages could participate in rowing.

O’Neill said that Hart’s original vision included a two-story building with a working boathouse on the first floor and a rowing Hall of Fame museum on the second level. For a time, the Hall of Fame moved to a space in Mystic Seaport but was recently displaced by the organization’s new Thompson Exhibition building.

The initial design for the rowing center, rendered by O’Neill, includes a boat bay on the ground floor for Stonington High School rowing team and an adjacent boat bay for community rowing, along with locker rooms. Upstairs, a common area will provide workout facilities, event space and display areas.

For now, the Hall of Fame is on hold until a suitable space can be found.

First Selectman Rob Simmons, who is also chairman of the Mystic River Boathouse Park Implementation Committee, said Friday the town made an agreement with its residents that “the town would secure the property and would allocate a sufficient amount of money to develop the site as a park, but there would be a space in that property for a boathouse that would be designed and built with money raised by a separate organization.”

The town will grant Friends of Stonington Crew a long-term lease for the boathouse site for an honorary amount. In return, once the boathouse is built, it will be sold to the town for an honorary amount.

At a meeting on July 26 at Stonington Vineyards, the Friends of Stonington Crew formed the Capital Campaign Committee, naming Gillian Perry Millsom, Hart Perry’s widow, as honorary chairperson. Other committee members are Bob Fountain, Dana Hewson, Maggie Jones, Charlie McLachlan, Breck Perkins, Tom Sanford, Heidi Simmons and O’Neill.

In addition, Richard Larkin, of Stonington, a 40-year veteran professional fundraiser for cultural organizations, aquariums and colleges, has offered to volunteer his services for the campaign.

For more information about the capital campaign, contact Larkin at, Randy Lohr at or O’Neill at, or go to or


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