NEW LONDON, Conn. – The Thames River Heritage Park’s water taxi service will get underway May 24, the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend with a new operator, new programs and a renewed sense of purpose to promote history and heritage sites on the Thames, Amy Perry, the Thames River Heritage Park’s executive director announced today.
"Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of summer here at the shore, and we are offering residents and visitors alike a great opportunity to launch their own holiday weekend by getting out on the water with family and friends," she said. "We tell people the water taxi is more than a ride; it’s an experience. And, it’s fun."
Following a brief ribbon cutting ceremony organized by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut at New London’s City Pier, the fourth season of water taxi service will begin between City Pier, and Fort Trumbull State Park in New London and the Thames Landing near Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park in Groton.
The public is invited to the brief ribbon cutting, which starts at noon.
The park has contracted with Vixen Ledge Marine LLC to operate the water taxi. The company is owned by Scott Arsenault. He’s no newcomer to the waterfront, having served under the previous operator as a captain on the water taxi since 2016.
He retired from the state of Connecticut in 2017 with 24 years of service, six with the Department of Corrections and 18 with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection—Environmental Conservation.
"Having been a captain on our boats for three seasons, Scott’s experience will make for a seamless launch this year," Perry said. "The park and our visitors will benefit greatly from an operator who is intimately familiar not only with our operations but also with our Navy boats themselves."
The water taxis are authentic Navy vessels, known as liberty launches that provided ship to shore transportation for sailors when they pulled into a port without docking facilities. The water taxis, one named Groton, the other New London are a central feature of the park’s operation.
New riders and return visitors will have new opportunities to experience the park:
• A 90-minute military-themed historic boat tour "Submarines, Battlefields and Betrayers: Military Stories on the Thames" has been added to the schedule of summer activities.
The tours will begin in July and run through August. From the vantage point of the river, riders will hear stories about the strategic value of this storied waterway and region and how they helped create our history.
The narrated tours will be offered Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:30 p.m., except during the annual Sailfest weekend in July. The tours will originate at City Pier. Tickets are $20 for adults, $12 for children under 12 who are accompanied by an adult. Tickets are available at www.thamesriverheritagepark.org.
• Organized group tours will be available this year. Tickets include lunch, a guide for the duration of the tour and admissions to park sites that are included in the three themed tours. For details visit www.thamesriverheritagepark.org/group-tours.
• The park will offer a Groton shuttle from the Thames River Landing to significant historic sites on the east side of the river, including the Submarine Force Museum and Historic Ship USS Nautilus, Fort Griswold, the National SubVets WWII Memorial East, which honors submariners who served in World War II and the Avery-Copp House.
• Passengers who show their water taxi ticket can get a free same-day pass to the museum exhibit space at the Fort Trumbull Visitor’s Center during the center’s operating hours between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day.
• Water taxi rides after 6 p.m. will be $5 for a two-stop ride between City Pier and Thames River landing.
Round trip taxi fares for adults are $10; $5 for children and activity duty military (military ID required.) Children three and under ride free. Adult season passes are $50; $30 for children.
On launch day before 5 p.m., anyone bringing canned goods or a non-perishable food item will ride for free. All food will be donated to the New London Food Pantry.
"We are making this offer to encourage people to contribute to the worthy cause, Ms. Perry said. "Take a ride, visit some sites and help the community at the same time."
More information is available at www.thamesriverheritagepark.org.