Two of three buildings destroyed in a fire at Silver Sands State Park March 19 have been removed, and a state official said cleanup will continue as the state gets ready to rebuild that portion of the $9.1 million park renovation project.
A third structure still remained on the elevated boardwalk midday Thursday. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Deputy Commissioner for Environmental Conservation Susan Whalen said she believes that structure will be coming down as well.
A faint smell of charred wood still lingers in the air at Silver Sands, where that final building stood Thursday, blackened and gaping. Fencing surrounds the elevated boardwalk and walkways leading to it.
From a distance it’s hard to tell the condition of the pilings that hold up the new boardwalk. Last month Mayor Ben Blake said he was told engineers will assess the pilings to determine which can be salvaged.
John McKay, a spokesman for the state Department of Administrative Services (DAS), said cleaning and starting to rebuild the fire-damaged section will be “an all summer long project” for Scope Construction of New Britain, which carried the insurance at the time of the fire. But McKay didn’t know when cleanup will end and the rebuild will begin.
Officials previously speculated that it will take five or six months to complete the project once it gets going.
“It is our intent to rebuild and we’ll be working with the contractor and DAS, which is overseeing construction on our behalf,” Whalen said.
New designs are being finalized, based on the salvageable part of the project.
“Because the fire damaged some of the project you can’t just take the blue print and start rebuilding again,” Whalen said, explaining that plans now have to be based on what remains.
Whalen said “there are a lot of moving parts,” including insurance factors, so it is hard to determine a timeline for the project’s completion.
DEEP Spokesman Lee Sawyer previously said that evaluation of insurance coverage would determine if additional state funds are needed to complete the project. Insurance details, however, hinge on the cause of the fire.
It’s approaching three months since the March 19 fire, but state officials have not said yet what caused it. Whalen said as soon as the state fire marshal’s office has determined the cause, it will be made public.
Fire investigators finished their on-scene investigation into the blaze at the end of March, and at that time Sawyer said they were continuing to analyze evidence and interview individuals before determining the cause.
The new amenities at Silver Sands, including a concession stand, rest rooms and an office building, had been scheduled to open this past Memorial Day.
Several Stratford teenagers have been charged with setting fires in four communities, including a fire in storage trailers at Silver Sands March 24. The Silver Sands boardwalk fire has not been ruled arson, however, and the teens are not suspects in that blaze.