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.

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