Senator Lesser Introduces Legislation Establishing Central Connecticut Loop Trail

On Wednesday, February 13, the Transportation Committee of the CT General Assembly held a hearing on a large number of proposed bills, including Proposed S.B. 775, establishing the Central Connecticut Loop  Trail.  Senator Norm Needleman of Portland and Senator Mary Abrams of Meriden and Cheshire are co-introducers of the bill. We are very appreciative of Senator Matt Lesser of Middletown, Rocky Hill, and Wethersfield who took the initiative on this project. Readers will recall that Senator Lesser was also our main champion of our ban  on commercial trapping of snapping turtles that passed last year. 

We have succeeded in getting over twenty individuals to  submit testimony supporting the bill. Now we are looking for more people–citizens and government officials–to submit more pieces of testimony as long as the committee is receiving it.  The goal is to build support that will bring the bill to a vote in the Transportation Committee, a step that is by no means guaranteed. With a positive vote in committee, the details of the bill will be drafted. Please send even brief statements of support to (ideally but not necessarily in the form of a PDF attachment) to TRAtestimony@cga.ct.gov  

The Central Connecticut Loop Trail will be a 111 mile mostly off-road bicycle route in the center of our state.  The route passes through Cheshire, Southington, Plainville, Farmington, Avon, Simsbury, Bloomfield, Hartford, East Hartford, Manchester, Bolton, Andover, Columbia, Willimantic, Lebanon, Amston, Colchester, East Hampton, Portland, Middletown, and Meriden. Continue reading

Ban on Single-Use Plastic Checkout Bags Advances

The proposed ordinance to ban single-use plastic checkout bags in Middletown has gathered support. Click on the “Continue Reading” link at the bottom of this post for Facts and a Summary of the draft ordinance, prepared and distributed by the Middletown Garden Club.

Here’s what you can do to help. The draft ordinance is scheduled to be on the agenda of the Public Works Commission on Wednesday, March 13, 6:30 p.m. in Room 208 of City Hall. Early in the meeting, there will be a “public comment” period for residents to voice support or opposition to the ordinance. On the following night, March 14, 6:30 p.m., the ordinance will be on the agenda of the General Counsel Commission in the same room.  Again, there will be an opportunity for public comment.

If all goes well at these two commission meetings, the ordinance will be before the Common Council on Monday, April 1, at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers. Members of the Common Council may be reached by email (individually, or through one message to the whole Council) through this page on the City’s new website

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Important Hearing on Newfield Corridor Trail —

Middletown’s Department of Public Works has scheduled an important hearing on the Newfield Corridor Trail on Wednesday, February 13, 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room of the Police Station at 222 Main Street.  The Department of Public Works will make a brief presentation on the project. Members of the public will have an opportunity to express support, make comments, and ask questions.

The Jonah Center began advocating in 2012 for a multi-use trail that will start close to the downtown area (such as Veterans Park) and connect with the Mattabesset Bike Path in the Westfield/Westlake section of the city at Tuttle Road. We are excited and delighted that the Public Works Department appears ready to move forward with this long-awaited and talked-about project. The Jonah Center and Middletown’s Complete Streets Committee would appreciate your presence and show of enthusiasm at this meeting to send a strong message to City officials that bicycle and pedestrian are important to you. A strong turnout will help move the project forward.

The City has many infrastructure projects in the works and tends to give priority to those that are perceived to benefit the largest number of residents. So it is important to show that this project has strong support from residents all over town, not just to those who live in the immediate vicinity of the trail. Delays could result in the funds earmarked for the project purchasing far less than they would have originally. 

More information on the trail can be found by clicking on the following links:

 Newfield Corridor Trail  

Air Line Trail – Farmington Canal Trail Connector Route.

 

Wildlife Detective Work

by Tom Christopher

            Garden wildlife reminds me of teenagers – the critters eat distressingly huge meals then leave without communicating about what they have been up to or where they are going.   Except in wintertime, of course, when they (the wildlife, not the teenagers)  leave a tale of tracks in the snow.

            I’m no great tracker, but with the help of my Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks I can at least tell the difference between a fox footprint and that of a dog, trace the travels of the rabbit around my yard, and discover that it’s a porcupine that has been nibbling the branch tips off the hemlocks.  There are all sorts of insights to be had from these vestiges.  The dog, for example, is likely to wander, sniffing here and there, whereas the fox typically trots in a straight line – one is sure of an ample dinner while the other knows that it cannot afford to waste a single calorie in this harsh season.  And by back-tracking the porcupine, I learn what crevice in the rock face across the road it has made into its den.  That’s where I’ll set up my have-a-heart trap if the porcupines ravage my vegetable garden again next summer.

            It was a string of five-toed footprints, each one not much bigger than a quarter, that told me to keep an eye on the wood pile.  And my vigilance was rewarded one gray morning when I spotted a mink darting in between the logs, then re-emerging with a mouse in its jaws.

            It’s a thrill to find evidence of such an uncommon (at least in my garden) species, but tracks of the commonest animals excite me just as much if they have a story to tell.  A red feather and a spot of blood in a small snow crater told me all I had to know about the encounter of a cardinal and a hawk.  And I still remember following across a snowy field next door to our yard the tracks of a Canada goose.  Stooping to inspect, I found its toes had dug into the snow and the stride gradually lengthened until, suddenly, the tracks stopped – I, too, felt as if I had taken off. Continue reading

West Street Bridge To Be Replaced In 2019

As many Middletown residents know, the single lane, wood-decked West Street bridge over the Genesee & Wyoming Railroad just west of Washington St., (pictured below) is badly in need of replacement. The State of Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT DOT) declared the bridge obsolete at least ten years ago, but plans for replacement were delayed for a variety of reasons.

West St. bridge over railroad, looking north

When the Jonah Center and Middletown’s Complete Streets Committee were informed of this project in 2012, we began advocating for a generous (bike trail width) pedestrian and bicycle bridge to be incorporated into the new motor vehicle bridge. Not only is the bridge dangerously narrow for cars, but pedestrians, bicyclists, and wheelchair users frequently cross the bridge, often at great peril. West Street is identified on Middletown’s Complete Streets Master Plan as an important route for bicycles to travel from the south to the north side of Washington Street, and a future multi-use trail is envisioned for the entire length of West Street, from Wadsworth Street to Washington Street.

Middletown’s Public Works Department was supportive of our request, and CT DOT readily accepted the suggested addition of a broad pedestrian and bicycle lane on the east side of the bridge. Continue reading

Just Say No — To Single Use Plastic Bags

Ecoin, Middletown’s Environmental Collective Impact Network, has embraced an initiative, led by the Middletown Garden Club and former Middletown Mayor Maria Madsen Holzberg, to develop and propose a City ordinance to reduce or eliminate free single-use plastic checkout bags handed out by local retailers.

According to the film Plastic Ocean, 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year. Plastics not only contribute to unsightly litter that is a danger for birds and marine life, but they release toxins as they break down. Micro-particles of plastic end up in the muscle tissue of fish eaten by humans. Clearly, as a species we need to find our way to doing less damage to the biological systems we depend on, and that includes using and discarding less plastic.

Reducing our consumption of single-use plastic items — shopping bags, straws, drink containers, utensils, etc. — is something we can all do. But we need some “carrots and sticks” (incentives and regulations) from society as a whole to help us change our ways. Continue reading

Air Line Trail To Farmington Canal Trail Connector

The Jonah Center’s most far-reaching project is to plan and build a mostly off-road bike route from the Air Line Trail in Portland to the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail in Cheshire. In partnership with the “RiverCOG” (our local Council of Governments, a  planning agency), we gathered officials from Portland, Middletown, Meriden, and Cheshire in April 2016  to share this vision. All municipalities showed enthusiastic support, at least in principle.

Since that meeting, we have focused on getting Middletown to commence design work on the Newfield Corridor Trail. Progress on the Newfield Corridor Trail and the Air Line Trail in Portland will, we hope, attract the attention and support of statewide transportation planners.  Continue reading

Newfield Corridor Trail — Let’s Keep It Moving Forward

Beginning in 2012, the Jonah Center has encouraged the City of Middletown to build a 3- mile multi-use trail from Veterans Park to Tuttle Road, where it will connect with the current Mattabesset Bike Path in the Westlake area. The project is called the “Newfield Corridor Trail.”

The Newfield Corridor Trail will allow hundreds of students in high density residential neighborhoods to bicycle or walk safely to 4 schools: Lawrence, Keigwin, Middletown High School, and Spencer. It will also be a huge step in creating bicycle access from Cromwell and the Westlake area of Middletown to downtown Middletown. Finally, this 3-mile section, added to 4.5 miles of the existing Mattabessett and Westlake bike paths, will complete nearly 8 miles of the proposed 18 mile Air Line Trail – Farmington Canal Connector Route, a regional project involving Portland, Meriden, and Cheshire that the Jonah Center has been spearheading.

As shown in the map above, the trail’s envisioned route lies on the west side of Newfield Street between Veterans Park and LaRosa Lane, where turns toward Middletown High School. From there it follows a sewer right-of-way to Mile Lane, then beside Kaplan Drive to Lawrence School. From the school, the trail will likely continue north across city-owned open space to Tuttle Road and the existing Mattabessett Bike Path. A more detailed map of the Newfield Corridor Trail may be found here..

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Scenic Bicycle Route in Portland

The Jonah Center recommends a scenic 16.3 mile bike route in Portland that makes a counter-clockwise loop beginning at the post office, and passing the quarries and several scenic views of the Connecticut River, ponds, and streams.  The route (pictured here) is designed to maximize safety and avoid the steepest hills, while still covering a fair amount of distance. (Note: The Town of Portland, in its adoption of town-approved bike routes in December 2018, rejected this route, due to the section along Route 66, in favor of an alternate 15 mile route that utilizes Main Street instead of Route 66. )

Cyclists are advised to check out the route by car before cycling, in order to insure suitability for a given individual. Clearly, cycling on public roads carries obvious risks that each cyclist must evaluate.

In the meantime, the Air Line Trail Steering Committee is working on its long-term goal of extending the Portland section of the Air Line Trail westward from its current, new terminus near the YMCA’s Camp Ingersoll and Job’s Pond. The plan aims at making it easy and safe to bicycle to the Air Line Trail from the town center.

 

A Plastic Ocean – Film and Discussion

The Jonah Center, along with Coginchaug Area Transition and Ecosattvas Connecticut, invites the public to a free viewing of a 22 minute film, A Plastic Ocean, on Tuesday, October 16, 7 p.m. in Room 208 of Fisk Hall, 262 High Street, on the Wesleyan campus.  Parking is available in the rear of the building off College Street. After the film, there will be a discussion about ways to combat plastic pollution.

From the filmmakers: “In the center of the Pacific Ocean gyre our researchers found more plastic than plankton. A Plastic Ocean documents the newest science, proving how plastics, once they enter the oceans, break up into small particulates that enter the food chain where they attract toxins like a magnet. These toxins are stored in seafood’s fatty tissues, and eventually consumed by us.”