Boathouse Park map

Mystic River Boathouse Park is located within the Rossie Velvet Hill Historic District, indicated by black outlines. Two buildings on the site, a house and a warehouse, are considered “contributing factors” to the historic district but are not designed as historic structures. Discussions are underway with the State Historic Preservation Office about whether the two buildings can be removed so that the park and a boathouse can be built as envisioned in the project’s master plan. Image courtesy of Kent+Frost Landscape Architect

STONINGTON — The Mystic River Boathouse Park Implementation Committee took a step Monday toward addressing how the history of the park site and its neighborhood can be optimally presented as an integrated part of the project, a move that the committee hopes will help in negotiations with the State Office of Historic Preservation.

The committee voted unanimously to form a History and Education Subcommittee that will focus on researching, collecting and analyzing historic information and photos of the 123 Greenmanville Ave. property and its neighborhood, including the Rossie Velvet Mill at 112 Greenmanville Ave.

The subcommittee will use its gathered research to make a recommendation to the implementation committee as to how the historic information can be best presented on the park site and in the neighborhood.

The committee did not vote to populate the subcommittee Monday.

The 1.2-acre park site was formed by coal slag dumped by the mill, which was built in 1898. The site resides within the Rossie Velvet Mill Historic District and contains two buildings classified as “contributing resources” to the historic district.

Chad Frost, of Kent+Frost landscape architecture, the firm designing the park site master plan, told the committee he is in the process of negotiating with the State Historic Preservation Office about the future of the two buildings since they are not included on the masterplan.

Frost said that because the town has received state funds for the project, it must comply with the historic office’s decision, which he said he hoped would be made in the coming month.

“The more we show we can do to show and tell the state we are advocating for the history of the site, it will definitely go a long way,” said Frost. “We’ve had different ideas about where and how that can happen, on the park property, across the street at the mill, or a combination.”

Frost said his group has offered to include additional area historic districts along Greenmanville Ave., whose history has not been exhibited before, in the project.

“Maybe there’s some sort of better public education component that goes not just with this district but with all the districts in Mystic and educates all of us a little bit better about the town that we all live in,” he said.

The more information and documentation the education subcommittee can gather, the more the town can offer the state in exchange for what the town wants to do on the site, Frost said.

Frost said he would bring the historic office’s offer to the committee for approval.

“I’m not agreeing to anything before I come back to the committee,” he said.

The historic office is following guidelines set by the Secretary General of the U.S., Frost said.

“We’re doing our best to somehow preserve the integrity and the history and the buildings don’t look like much — they don’t represent architectural beauty,” he said. “But unfortunately, the historic office is not here to preserve architectural beauty — they’re here to preserve the history.”

Nick Kepple, a member of the implementation committee, said it was important for the town to respect the historic office’s statutory responsibility to do its job.

“I think it’s important for us to be on the record that this isn’t adversarial,” he said. “We have a project we’re pursuing. They have a responsibility to do their job. It’s all about sharing perspectives.”

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