Reopen Isham Street Boat Ramp in Mystic

Stonington needs to reopen the boat ramp at the corner of Bay Street and Isham Street in downtown Mystic. The town closed the ramp over a year ago apparently due to a lawsuit threat from someone who got a minor injury when their boat bounced around on the trailer going in or out of the launch. Stonington contacted their insurance company and surprisingly the insurance company recommended closing the ramp to reduce liability. Stonington immediately fully closed the ramp by placing five huge concrete blocks at the entrance. After complaints from the public, they removed two of the blocks to allow canoes and kayaks to use the ramp. The boat ramp has remained in a state of partial access to this date.

Isham Street Boat Launch March 2020

However, the behind the scenes activities continued for several months following the boat ramp initial closure. A search by Stonington of their town records indicated that they had no records of who owned it. They indicated in a letter to the Mystic Seaport that the Seaport owned the property. After several months researching the issue by experts paid for by the Seaport, the Seaport found references to a quit claim deed (but not the actual deed) filed with Stonington for the boat ramp. The town also does not have a record of this document. Mystic Seaport did find a newspaper article from 1962 that detailed similar ownership discussions regarding the Isham Street boat ramp and indicates the town attorney generated a report on the topic. The article also documents a general understanding that the boat ramp warranted public right of way access based on frequent use by boaters.

From before 1962 and up and to the point that the concrete barricades were placed, the boat ramp continued to enjoy frequent use by boaters, kayakers, and canoeist. The location allowed one of the few access points for boaters on the Mystic River. The boat ramp also provided the closest entry point for all the wooden boats that supported the annual Mystic Seaport Wooden Boat Show. In addition, the town had maintained clear signage to prevent boaters from parking their trailers in the area and identified the Stonington parking lot by the old Voter Hall as the designated trailer parking lot. The town also constructed a dingy dock on Holmes Street to support boaters parking and retrieving their trailers from this lot. While not perfect, this setup allowed local boaters to enjoy the Mystic River.

While the concrete blocks remain, the signage for the trailer parking has disappeared. I suspect the Town of Stonington will not do anything to reopen the boat ramp unless the public provides sufficient opposition to the status quo. I believe that the Town is responsible for the ramp and instead of making a knee jerk decision to block the ramp, they should have spent the time and effort to repair the ramp. Please contact your Selectwomen to urge them to reopen the boat ramp. In the coming months, we will need another option for social distancing that boating on the Mystic River can provide.

CT Coronavirus Information Sources

Here are my favorite sites for the latest statistics and data on the Conronavirus (COVID-19):

Connecticut Interactive Map of COVID-19 Statistics

Activities While Staying Home in Mystic, CT

Here are some things to do at home that I have compiled from various sources. Feel free to add additional items via comments and I will update the list periodically:

Kids Indoor Activities:

Children’s Learning Activities (thanks to Senator Heather Somers for these links):

Mystic CT Religious Resources

Outdoor Activities

Mystic, CT Traffic & Parking

Mystic needs to embark on a dedicated planning effort to address traffic and parking issues raised during the Smiler’s Wharf zoning meetings. Some creative changes to the status quo will help reduce Mystic residents concerns on these issues. The following ideas are offered to start the conversation with the expectation that better ideas will come to light as part of the discussion.

For starters, changing the traffic flow into Mystic could help reduce the congestion. Making Holmes Street and Cottrell Street one way from Greenmanville Avenue to downtown Mystic and all of Willow Street one way leaving downtown Mystic could reduce the traffic back ups at the flagpole in Mystic and taking a left on Greenmanville from Holmes.

In addition, adjusting the timing of the lights at the south end of Greenmanville where it connects to Route 1 and at the corner of Greenmanville and Coogan Boulevard would also reduces some backups. Currently on a busy weekend day, long lines of traffic build up northbound on Greenmanville due to the short duration of the northbound green light. The Greenmanville/Route 1 green light also cycles very quickly and results in frequent occasions where only part of the southbound traffic can get through the light.

Mystic should also improve the parking options. The idea for Holmes Street becoming one way would also create space on the street to add parking. Adding parallel parking (or diagonal parking if it fits) could add an additional 10-15 parking spaces in close proximity to downtown. In addition, clearly marking the acceptable parking locations on all Mystic streets would help to curb some of the more creative parking spots used during the particularly high congestion days of the summer.

Mystic should also charge for on street parking. Clearly marking the parking spots and implementing one of many options to charge for parking could become a significant revenue generator for the town. We could accomplish parking enforcement using high school or college students interested in policing during the summer months.

Finally, establishing a shuttle service to run between downtown Mystic, Mystic Seaport, and the Mystic Aquarium/Olde Mystick Village area will allow visitors to move between the major attractions without driving themselves. One option would be to use the school buses for this shuttle during the summer when they are not needed for student transportation. A free shuttle could be partially funded by donations from riders and the revenue generated from the parking fees. This type of shuttle service would reduce the traffic and parking issues during the busy summer months.

I recently returned from a vacation at Bar Harbor Maine situated next to Acadia National Park. Bar Harbor face similar traffic and parking issues. With generous donations from L.L. Bean, Bar Harbor has set up an extensive free shuttle service to bring tourists into and out of Acadia. Bar Harbor also recently implemented a pay to park system using kiosks where parkers pay with credit cards or cash to get a ticket to put in their car to show they paid. One of the Bar Harbor merchants mentioned that the revenue from the parking was $10,000 a day during the peak summer season. This seems like a significant revenue opportunity for Mystic that should be investigated.

The clear public distaste for the traffic and parking situation in Mystic warrants action to help improve this situation. The Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Police Commissioners should take this opportunity to discuss and take actions on methods to alleviate the traffic and parking issues before the next major development request gets submitted in Mystic. The ideas discussed above are a starting point, we need to solicit modifications or completely new ideas on the subject. This effort needs to be a community discussion and not a final plan thrown out for public approval.