Enders Island in Stonington Secures Approval for New Seawall

Seawall breach at St. Edmund's Retreat on Enders Island, Stonington (Courtesy of St. Edmund's Retreat).


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STONINGTON — After three decades of deterioration, made worse by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, a plan to build a new seawall at Enders Island was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission last week.

The $4 million project involves constructing a new seawall about 4 feet inland from the original wall using concrete and existing aggregate and rocks, as well as adding a 8-foot-wide walkway along the inside of the wall. 

“They’re going to take down a few feet of the existing wall and that will help to fill in the space between the old wall and the new wall. And as the old wall collapses and deteriorates, it will add a rip wrap to help protect the new wall,” the Rev. Thomas Hoar, a Roman Catholic priest and director of St. Edmund’s Retreat on Enders Island, told CT Examiner on Tuesday. 

The new design is a departure from the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed $6 million to $8 million plan in 2017, Hoar said, that would have built a protective revetment and left the retreat to repair the wall. 

Since 2017, the wall has also sustained further damage, making the corps’ proposal unfeasible, he said. 

“They were going to protect the wall with a revetment in front of it that would dissipate the wave energy as it hits the wall, but we would have still had to pay for repairing the extensive damage to the wall,” Hoar said. “The project that the Army Corps designed will not be adequate to do what is needed to be done because since 2017, the wall has deteriorated to the point where their project would not work.” 

Hoar said repairing the seawall has always been “out of our reach,” and credited DOCKO engineer Keith Nielsen with the idea of building a new wall instead. 

The retreat was also prevented from proceeding with the Army Corps’ project because it required a clean title to the island. Though 35 stakeholders signed quitclaim deeds, including the Girl Scouts of Connecticut and Mystic Seaport Museum, one relative of Alys Enders, John Steffian Jr., continues to hold 3.125 percent of the rights dating back to 1954. 

Because one claim is unresolved, St. Edmund’s Retreat does not hold a clean title, Hoar said, but since the new project no longer involves the Army Corps, the new plan can proceed. The new project will rebuild about 875 feet of the seawall and reconstruct a currently unusable wharf and floating dock. 

Work will begin in March with rock-splitting, which the Planning and Zoning Commission approved between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays only. 

“Over the last 15 to 17 years, we have been collecting blast stone from when people blast out a ledge or basement to build a house. And that’s all going to be used to help build the footing and the foundation of the wall, and that’s worth about $1.1 million,” Hoar said.

He said the project includes building a 13-foot granite Celtic cross at the tip of the island and a rosary walk.

“It will have the 20 mysteries of the rosary on granite bollards with a bronze relief that’s being designed and made by one of the artists that is part of our Sacred Art Institute, and they’ll be one of a kind,” Hoar said. 

Of the $4 million cost, Hoar said about $1.6 million has been fundraised so far. He noted there are sponsorship opportunities, including $4,750 for a foot of the seawall and $395 for an inch of the seawall. 

“We’re going to need 1667 yards of concrete, and you can buy us a yard of concrete for $186,” he said. “Not only are we looking for the big, multiyear pledges and gifts, but we’re wanting to make it accessible for anybody that would like to help.”

Editor’s note: There are 20 mysteries of the Rosary, not 12. Also, the project needs 1667 yards of concrete, not 67. This story has been updated.