Thames River Heritage Park group moves forward with organization, plans forum

Joseph J. Selinger

The group working to create the Thames River Heritage Park took action Wednesday to formalize the organizational structure of the proposed park and advanced plans for a March forum to enlist the support of key partners in the project.

The transition team for the park, which is shepherding plans for the multi-site attraction of existing historical and cultural sites on the Groton and New London sides of the Thames River, voted unanimously to file Certificate of Incorporation documents with the Connecticut Secretary of State.

The documents would formalize the park as a corporate entity with a charitable purpose and include its mission statement, according to Joe Selinger, chairman of the transition team’s Governance Committee.

“This needs to be filed to present ourselves as an entity to the IRS,” he said. The certificate also is required for the organization to obtain tax-exempt status, he added.

The group also agreed to begin developing a projected budget and bylaws for the board that will be created to run the park.

As part of its efforts to bring the park to reality, the group is planning an event from 6:30 to 8 p.m. March 31 in the Oasis Room at The Garde Arts Center in New London.

Invitations to the event will go to the mayors of Groton Town, Groton City and New London, representatives of more than a dozen private nonprofit historical and cultural attractions that could be included in the park, and representatives of the four large attractions — Fort Griswold, Fort Trumbull state parks, the Nautilus museum and the proposed Coast Guard Museum — among others.

Officials from the state departments of Energy and Environmental Protection, Transportation and Economic and Community Development also will be invited.

At the event, Alan Plattus, director of the Yale Urban Design Workshop, will present his blueprint for the park, and talk about the benefits of tying the various attraction together with a common theme, signage and programming in the park, among other topics, said Chris Cox, chairman of the transition team.

“This will be a chance to reacquaint people with the park and for them to hear from the people who did the plan,” he said. “This will allow for people to see this is a real project, and that we want their participation. We have to make people see that this is real and happening before people can understand what the opportunities are for them.”

Significant actions thus far toward creating the park include the acquisition of two surplus Navy vessels that will be used as water taxis to bring park visitors across the river starting this summer.

Companies interested in operating the service have been asked to submit proposals by Feb. 15.

At least seven companies have expressed interest thus far.

In addition, the group has created a website, to keep the public apprised of its activities.

By Judy Benson, The Day staff writer

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