Natural Grass or Synthetic Turf Playing Fields — What Is Best For Our Kids?

Mayor Drew has called a Special Session of the Common Council for THIS WEDNESDAY, Sept 2 at 6pm to vote on changes to the proposed “parks bond” wording.  The proposal is to add 6 additional grass fields to the bond language in order meet capacity needs that the artificial turf would have provided.  (The language allowing synthetic turf to be installed was removed from the bond wording at the meeting on Aug. 24.) Removing synthetic turf and adding additional natural grass fields will allow for the funding authorization to be reduced by approximately $3.5 million, which is also part of the Mayor’s proposal.

If this meeting were guaranteed to bring a straight up or down vote on the Mayor’s proposal, without amendments, we would be all in favor of it.  An article in the Hartford Courant on Tuesday, Sept. 1, however, states the Majority Leader Tom Serra intends to oppose the Mayor’s proposal and, instead, “to rescind the vote adding a referendum question to the ballot.”  Later in the same article, this statement is interpreted to mean postponing any referendum on parks improvements until next year.

It is also possible that the Common Council will take this opportunity to reopen the synthetic turf debate and try to reinstate the synthetic turf option.  A news article this week suggested that some council members interpreted the public comments at the last meeting —  in opposition to artificial turf —  to mean that only “crumb rubber” turf ( using “infill” made from granulated automobile tires) was objectionable. The natural grass field proponents, in fact, are against any artificial turf, since even the plastic grass is unacceptable as a health and environmental hazard.  Any infill material used, even infill made of plant material, is problematic because it needs applications of herbicides and disinfectants.  Also, the experience of playing on artificial turf is so different from the experience of natural grass, due to the sponginess of the surface, the smell of the plastic, the heat, and the general “not living” characteristic of the installation. Natural grass — in other words, real living grass — maintained by organic methods, is the best option from every standpoint.

Please try to attend this Wednesday Special Session at 6 p.m. to show your support and/or voice your concern and speak out against any change that would reintroduce artificial turf as an option.  Check back on this post for updates on the Council meeting and any possible change of plans.

Sunset Paddle — Glorious Water and Wildlife

Photo by Janice Anderson

Photo by Janice Anderson

The sunset paddle on August 22 was magical.  38 kayakers and canoeists saw the brilliant green wild rice in splendid late afternoon light. A bald eagle gave a star performance in flight and posed in a dead tree for spectator viewing, while loud cries from the nearby nest announced a young eaglet’s hunger. There was a brave great egret feeding on the shore who didn’t budge in spite of all the paddlers.  6 more great herons perched in a low tree farther away.  A great blue heron viewed all the activity from the osprey platform, while the osprey itself circled and swooped in the area.  We even saw 2 domestic goats grazing along the Mattabesset River upstream.  On the way back, as the light faded, hundreds of small, young fish broke the water surface everywhere to feed, adding a final, magical touch to the evening.  It just doesn’t get any better!

Common Council Considers Two Bond Referenda

Middltown logoOn Aug. 24, at 7 p.m., Middletown’s Common Council will consider 2 bond referenda likely to appear on the November ballot: One bond is for additional funding for the Mattabessett Sewage Treatment project. The other is to make long overdue improvements to City parks and athletic facilities.

The proposed Parks Bond would fund improvements including sidewalks, bikeways, and crosswalks at parks and schools recommended by the Complete Streets Committee. Possible projects include engineering costs for a multi-use trail connecting the Mattabessett Bike Trail terminus at Tuttle Place (Westlake Area) and Veteran’s Park; bike-ped improvements along River Road between Harbor Park and Silver Street; and bike route signage and street markings to make Middletown more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly. Complete Streets improvements are aimed at the following goals: safer and more frequent walking and bicycling; achieving the clear health benefits of these activities; reducing traffic congestion and air pollution; and better quality of life.

A controversial proposal included in the Parks Bond is the replacement of 9 natural grass athletic fields with synthetic turf fields. Synthetic turf is opposed by many members of Ecoin (Environmental Collective Impact Network) who favor natural turf maintained by organic methods, like those successfully used in Branford and other communities. The chemicals contained in synthetic turf, the heat generated on their surfaces, damage to the underlying soil and groundwater, and the required maintenance of these fields raise serious concerns. For more information on the health, environmental, and financial risks of synthetic turf, visit Ecoin’s post on this topic here.

As of Aug. 12, 2015, the Jonah Center Board of Directors has not taken a position on any of these questions, although the Complete Streets Committee, chaired by John Hall and Beth Emery, is clearly in favor of improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists included in the Parks bond.

Buying Electricity For Your Home

Electricity generation rates are now relatively low (for Connecticut), due primarily to the low cost of natural gas. So this is a good time to buy your home electricity from a 3rd party supplier.
Energize CT logoThe Jonah Center is not in the business of recommending suppliers, but if you go to www.EnergizeCT.com and click on “Choose Your Electrical Supplier” on the top right, then follow the directions, you will come to a list of all available 3rd party suppliers. Eversource, listed at the top, provides the “standard offer” or default rate – the rate you pay if you do not choose a 3rd party supplier. Continue reading

Community Supported Agriculture in Middletown

Mayor Daniel T. Drew is excited to announce that the City of Middletown is looking to make land available at low cost to a community farmer in order to support a self-sustaining Community Supported Agriculture program. The City seeks to develop a partnership to make City land available for agricultural activities to supply agricultural products for sale to the public.

The City has selected four, City-owned parcels of land, ranging in size from 3.25 to 5.6 acres, which would be suitable to support a variety of agricultural ventures. Potential agricultural uses may include fruit/vegetable crop shares, fruit/vegetable wholesale, flower gardening and sale, dairy farming, viticulture, orchards, or any other use within the scope of agriculture with which the applicant can provide a suitable business plan. A primary goal of the program is to better provide Middletown residents with access to agricultural goods.

The mayor will formally announce the project on Friday, August 14, 2015 at 9:30 am at one of the City’s open space parcels located off River Road, east of Silver Street. There will be an informational session for all interested parties on Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 3:00 at City Hall and all proposals are due by September 23, 2015.

The City is open to hearing all proposals and would like to select a project to begin in 2016.

Contact: Michelle Ford, Planning and Environmental Specialist, City of Middletown, 245 deKoven Drive, Room 202, Middletown, CT 06457. 860-638-4837

Paddlers: Help Protect Snapping Turtles — Look For Illegal Traps

Snapping turtle emailDue to Jonah Center action, commercial trapping of Snapping Turtles is now at least regulated by the CT DEEP.  Prior to this action, commercial trapping of these ancient creatures was unrestricted in terms of limits, season, or methods.

Now, the season is only from July 15 through September 30. The traps must be at least partly above water at all times to allow turtles to breathe, must have a 7.5″ escape hatch for small turtles, and the wire mesh must not be narrower than 1 inch. A numbered tag (4 or 6 digits, identifying the license holder) must be visible above the water.

When you are out paddling on the “Floating Meadows” or any other Connecticut waterway, please look for snapping turtle traps and take a photo, using location services so that geographical coordinates are recorded, and let the Jonah Center know of your siting. Email us your photo.  If there is no number of the trap, or if you believe it is an illegal trap for any reason, or if it is out of season, please call the CT DEEP Dispatch Center for Enforcement at 860-424-3333 immediately.

Sunset Paddle in the Floating Meadows — Aug. 22, 5 p.m.

Header 2015-07The Jonah Center invites kayakers and canoeists to paddle the Floating Meadows on Saturday, August 22, from 5 to 7:30 p.m., ending at sunset. We will follow the Mattabesset River upstream, assisted by an incoming tide, and view the 1000 acre marshland’s bright green wild rice grass in late afternoon light at the most spectacular time of year. Redwing blackbirds and swallows will likely be very active, with a half-moon high in the sky.

The outing will start and finish at the new Phil Salafia Canoe and Kayak Launch at 181 Johnson Street in Middletown’s North End (next to the recycling center). Paddlers need to provide their own boats, lifejackets, water and snacks (if desired). Pre-registration is not required, but participants will be asked to sign a liability waiver and photo use permission slip. The Jonah Center requests a donation of $10 for each participant.

For more information, contact John Hall at 860-398-3771.

Synthetic Turf Proposed For City Athletic Fields

Ecoin logo 3aSeveral members of Ecoin (the Environmental Collective Impact Network) have raised concerns about the plan to install synthetic turf in 9 athletic fields in Middletown. Risks to children’s health from inhaling crumb rubber dust, to the environment (from toxic materials leaching from the material) and higher maintenance and disposal costs than estimated, are among the issues. Below is the op-ed piece posted by Ecoin.
Nine Artificial Turf Fields—A Costly, Risky Solution to Improving the City’s Playing Fields
You may not have heard that the Middletown Parks Department is considering installing nine artificial turf playing fields at City parks and schools, based on recommendations made as part of an evaluation of the City’s athletic fields and parks. These artificial fields would be funded through an upcoming bond referendum. There will be a Common Council Workshop (with no public input) on Tuesday July 21 at 6:30 pm, at which the Council will learn about the Parks Proposal from Milone & MacBroom, the firm that prepared the report. At an August Common Council meeting (date to be determined) members will vote on whether to bring this proposal to referendum in November – or not. We ask that the artificial fields not be included in the bond referendum, and encourage the public to inform themselves about the serious health, fiscal and environmental impacts of these artificial fields. Continue reading

Complete Streets News

Logo-v01-OTMiddletown’s draft Complete Streets Ordinance, to require consideration of bike-pedestrian accommodations in the city’s future planning of transportation improvements, was “tabled” until November by the Public Works and Facilities Commission. The commission is currently very busy with details surrounding an upcoming bond referendum to renovate city parks and athletic facilities. A new ordinance is a complicated and serious matter, often with unforeseen consequences, and commission members said they wanted “to get it right.”

In the meantime, the Complete Streets Committee was asked to define points where the city’s Complete Streets Master Plan converged with upcoming road bond projects and planned improvements to City parks. The Committee is very busy with that work.

In Portland, the Complete Streets Group is developing a draft Complete Streets Master Plan for the town, so that this Plan can be referenced in Portland’s new Plan of Conservation and Development that is being developed.

North End Action Team Hiking Club

The NEAT Hiking Club sponsors chaperoned hikes for young hikers living in the North End of Middletown. All young hikers with any level of hiking experience are welcome to join our hikes. Other young hikers from the community are welcome to participate when space is available. Hiking trips generally last between 3-4 hours and are mostly within Middletown or the surrounding communities. Hikes are scheduled on Saturday or Sunday mornings and are generally finished by 12-1:00. Hikers should be between the ages of 8-17 and must be wearing suitable outdoor hiking clothes and shoes. Parents are welcome to accompany their children on hikes. To download the event flyer with more information, click here.

Our next hikes are on August 1 and August 15.

Call the North End Action Team (NEAT) at 860-346-4845 or stop by the NEAT office to sign up for the hike and to get additional information about the hike.

More information is available by calling 860-346-4845.