Groton Heights Chosen As Preferred Site For USS Groton Sail
By Deborah Straszheim
June 10, 2015
Groton — A committee recommended Wednesday that the sail of the town's namesake nuclear attack submarine, which was decommissioned in 1997, be displayed outside the former Groton Heights school.
The committee hopes to bring the sail of the USS Groton to townand will begin fundraising shortly.
The joint committee, which includes representatives of the town, city and the submarine builder Electric Boat, considered two potential sites, both near Fort Griswold.
The preferred site is on the front lawn of the former Groton Heights School and to the right of Bill Memorial Library on Monument Street. The second option the committee looked at was the inland side of Thames Street on the upper Costa property, which backs up toward the fort.
Committee members plan to talk to state officials, those of the Bill Memorial Library and neighbors about the concept of a park at Groton Heights.
City Mayor Marian Galbraith said the purpose of the project, regardless of location, is to recognize those who designed, built or served on U.S. Navy submarines.
"It's the way these designs respect and honor the history and the people of the USS Groton," she said. She said both sites would also tie in to the Thames River Heritage Park and ferry, as it would stop at Fort Griswold.
Town Councilor Rich Moravsik said locating the sail on the school lawn would be the least expensive option at about $700,000. The Groton corporate seal displays a submarine in the foreground and the fort in the background, he pointed out.
“It finally brings a submarine to the monument, which is what the logo of the town is,” he said.
The “sail” of a submarine is the tower-like portion that protrudes from the hull at the center of the ship. The USS Groton was the third submarine named for Groton. It was launched in October 1976 and commissioned in July 1978.
The town owns most of the land recommended for the memorial park, so the Town Council would need to approve its use. The committee may also need permission from the state or the library if the park crosses their property lines.
Town Mayor Rita Schmidt said she hopes the state would support the park and the area around Fort Griswold with public facilities, as it did so much work at Fort Trumbull State Park in New London.
Chad Frost, of Kent + Frost Landscape Architecture in Mystic, provided drawings of what the memorial park might look like.
At Groton Heights, the potential design would locate the sail on a circular plaza to the right of the library, with a walkway that depicts the history of the design, construction and sailing of the ship. The area behind the plaza would include “ripples” in the turf, and a walkway to a “family park” with the ship’s rudder and 13 trees, one for each deployment.
"These are concepts that can be changed, modified to fit the site," Town Manager Mark Oefinger said.
On the Costa property, off Thames Street, the design would have placed the sail on a circular plaza across the street from the river, planted wave berms along the sides, and built a history wall behind it.
The design would have included 24 trees to represent the two years of construction, then located the rudder behind the trees. The plan would have required 27 parking spaces and retaining walls.
The parts of the USS Groton are in the state of Washington. They would have to be moved and reassembled, then placed on a site prepared to handle their weight.
The upper and lower sails, including fasteners and hardware, weigh a combined 62,430 pounds, according to Capt. Carl Lahti, commanding officer of the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.