The Freeport Town Council unanimously agreed Tuesday night to make a move toward cleaning up the Island Rover site, located at a private right-of-way between Byram Avenue and Bucknam Road.

Citing safety concerns and complaints from neighbors, Councilor Edward Bradley said the proposal is intended to “develop some goodwill among the parties” and act as a step toward working “something out by collaboration rather than litigation.”

The Island Rover is a 113-foot, 80-ton schooner built by Freeport resident Harold Arndt. The project began in 1993, when Arndt first started the schooner from recycled Navy steel in his backyard.

Arndt founded the Island Rover Institute in 2001, a nonprofit to “facilitate educational programs for the youth” and help fund the vessel’s construction, according to their website.

The creation of the nonprofit, however, changed the status of the Island Rover from backyard project to commercial entity, thus violating Freeport’s land use rules. That sparked a more than 15-year series of legal clashes between the town, Arndt and the 75% owner of the vessel Carter Becker.

“The motion was to make some town time and equipment available, as was outlined in the proposal, for an assessment and some initial removal of some of the debris,” said Town Council Chairperson John Egan in a phone interview.


The proposal that was passed authorized up to five days of town assistance in cleaning and removing unusable material from the site, holding back two of those days until there is evidence that Arndt “has taken positive steps” to distinguish and sell materials of value.

A liability waiver signed from all parties involved is also required to protect the town in case of damages.

“Harold Arndt and the Island Rover Foundation are really heartened by this recent discussion and this proposal to collaborate,” said Arndt’s attorney Twain Braden.

Branden said that “it’s not a contingency of the litigation” however and “it’s really just a small step towards reestablishing or building the possibility of goodwill between the parties.”

While the Island Rover is completed and certified by the American Bureau of Shipping and the American Welding Society, other legal disputes over transportation and the launch point have prevented the vessel from reaching the sea.

“Our next step, if we could get this done, would be to start talking about how we could get this boat floated,” Bradley said.

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