Say “Yes” To Purchase of Pierce Property on Mt. Higby

pierceFor many years, even decades, the City of Middletown has worked to preserve completely the dramatically beautiful and ecologically significant area known as Mt. Higby. Now we have that opportunity. A purchase price of $686,000 has been negotiated, and a state grant of $234,750 has been awarded. The remaining $451,250 needs to be appropriated by the Common Council for the acquisition to occur. Continue reading

Middletown’s Environmental Planner Position De-Funded by Common Council

Recently, it came to light that the City of Middletown’s key staff position responsible for a wide variety of environmental functions – permits, regulation enforcement, grants, wetlands protection, etc. – was actually not funded in the current fiscal year budget. Michelle Ford was hired for the position this past fall. She is widely recognized as a highly skilled and knowledgeable professional. Members of Ecoin (the Environmental Collective Impact Network) are thrilled to have her on board. The fact that she was hired without underlying funding in place was clearly a simple oversight by Director Michiel Wackers and Mayor Dan Drew, both of whom have accepted responsibility for the mistake and apologized.

It is unclear how the position came to be defunded. Was it a temporary budgetary matter, since the position was vacant after the departure of Matt Dodge last April? But what is clear is that this position is critical to the operations of the City and envirormental protection. Especially now, when the city is seeking brownfield remediation grants and redevelopment of the riverfront, it is extremely important that funding be restored. Citizens can send all the members of the Common Council an email through the address Attendance, support, and testimony for restoring the Environmental Planner position at the Jan. 5, 2015, 7 p.m. Common Council Meeting is strongly encouraged.

Below is an extended excerpt from John Hall’s letter to members of the Common Council on this issue. Continue reading

Making A Place For Wildlife In Our Communities

liv_baker_200dpi aPresentation by  Liv Baker, PhD

College of the Environment, Wesleyan University

Tuesday, February 10, 7 – 8:30 p.m. (Snow date Feb. 24)
At The deKoven House, 27 Washington Street, Middletown

Some wildlife inhabit and even thrive in our urban and suburban neighborhoods. We easily enjoy them, as long as they keep their distance from our gardens, shrubs, and enclosed places. When they come too close, our feelings change to the view that they are invading our space. When that happens, our wonder, affection, and empathy can quickly give way to annoyance, fear, and an impulse to kill them.

Can we adjust our perspective and become more compassionate and less violent in our approach to wildlife in our midst? Aren’t we the over-populated ones, after all? What if we (re)designed our communities – our buildings, our roads, our personal and communal behaviors – to include the needs and wants of the wildlife that already share our urban and suburban environments?

Liv Baker will challenge the current approach to wildlife management in two key ways: 1) by scrutinizing the science behind common policies and practices, and 2) by using concepts of animal welfare science to suggest a more compassionate, individual, and animal-based approach to mitigate wildlife-human conflicts.

At Last — Canoe and Kayak Launch Completed!

Boat launch finished 2014-10The Jonah Center’s earliest and longest-lasting project has born fruit. After 9 years of planning, proposal writing, grant writing, negotiations with City officials, set-backs, objections, more site-seeking, and much waiting, the Phil Salafia Boat Launch on the Coginchaug River is now finished. At least, the critical part — the ramp — has been constructed. It is made of interlocking cement pavers, held together with steel cables, and laid on 18″ of gravel. Even at the current extremely low water level, the ramp extends well into the water to form a solid bottom for people launching their boats. We anticipate a ribbon-cutting ceremony to be announced soon by the Mayor.
We wish to thank everyone who played a part in this community-wide success – the Coginchaug River Access Group, City officials, and Jonah Center supporters who have kept the effort going over the years. We will continue to advocate for Middletown’s natural environment and our collective quality of life.
The boat launch is named after Phil Salafia, a Common Council member in the 1950s who was a member of the first Parks Commission. The City purchased the “Salafia property” — 20 acres along the Coginchaug River just upstream from the new boat launch — from the family of Phil Salafia, Jr. in 2007. Facilitating this open space acquisition was one of the very first accomplishments of the Jonah Center.

Connecticut’s Wildlife Action Plan — Input Needed

19 Green Frog, Guida's 6-26-04The Jonah Center for Earth and Art invites the public to a talk and slide presentation on Connecticut’s Wildlife Action Plan, to be held on Tuesday, September 30, 7 – 8:30 p.m. at the deKoven House, 27 Washington Street, in Middletown. The speaker is Julie Victoria, a widely known and respected wildlife biologist who worked for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) for over 32 years, specializing in raptors, shorebirds, invertebrates, reptiles, and amphibians. She participated in the formulation of the 2005 state Wildlife Action Plan. Co-sponsors of the event are: Connecticut Forest & Park Association; Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District; and the Middletown Resource Recycling Commission. Continue reading

Kayak and Canoe Launch Construction to begin on September 22

Kayak Launch Markup 2013-06-18After many years of uphill struggle, construction of the boat launch on the Coginchaug River adjacent to the City’s recycling center is scheduled to begin on Sept. 22, 2014.

The Jonah Center wants to thank the members of CRAG (Coginchaug River Access Group); Joe Samolis, Chief of Staff for Mayor Dan Drew; Bill Russo, Director of Public Works; and Michiel Wackers, Director of Planning, Conservation, and Development for the critical roles they each played. Pat Munger Construction Company in Branford is the contractor.

The most critical part of the launch, the paved ramp leading into the water, will be constructed this fall. Other amenities such as information kiosk, paved turnaround, and solar lighting, will have to wait until more funds become available.

Ribbon Cutting For Newly Completed “Tuttle Loop” of Bike and Walking Path

Tuesday, July 29, 3:30
End of Tuttle Place (just off Tuttle Road, near Newfield St.)

Mayor Daniel T. Drew, and Director of Public Works William Russo will perform a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the newly completed 1.75 mile “Tuttle Loop” section of the Westlake and Mattabesset Bike and Walking Trail (see section colored in purple on the map below). The new section means that the entire trail system from Middle Street to Tuttle Place is now 5.0 miles.

The Complete Streets Committee of Middletown encourages all residents who support and enjoy improved walking and bicycling facilities to attend the event. Citizen presence will demonstrate interest for other planned and to-be-planned improvements to Middletown’s pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure. Westlake multi-use trail map b
To reach the ribbon cutting, drive north on Newfield Street toward Cromwell. But just ¼ mile before reaching Cromwell, turn left on Tuttle Road. Drive ¼ mile to Tuttle Place on the right. Park along Tuttle Place where the bike lanes are painted (even though parking is usually not permitted in this location). To view on Mapquest, click

Upcoming and Recent Events

JONAH CENTER PROGRAMS ARE POSTED AS SOON AS SCHEDULED.  (Please send us a message to receive Jonah Center News emails — on average 1x per month.)

Over 100 Souls Participate in Crowd Performance Art Paddle River Mandala by Bill BynumOn June 28, 2014, over 100 individuals, including over 20 students from Macdonough Elementary School, photographers, videographers, and a record number of paddlers, managed to deal with a strong breeze while forming a rosette or mandala just south of Wilcox Island in the Connecticut River. The colorful arrangement of canoes and kayaks was photographed from the Arrigoni Bridge above.  (Photo by Bill Bynum) Crowd Performance Art On The Connecticut River Paddle collage v2This year’s Jonah Center canoe and kayak paddle will create a living art work. We hope you will help make it happen on Saturday, June 28, launching from the boathouse ramp at Harbor Park at 1 p.m. After launching and a short paddle up river to Wilcox Island, all the boaters will “raft up” in a rosette near the southern tip of the island, just under the Arrigoni Bridge. We will then float slowly in formation under the bridge, where photographers will be posted to capture the art work in still shots and video from above. We will then then paddle upstream around Wilcox Island, exploring its many small beaches and access points, before re-gathering at the southern tip. From there, the boats will return in close formation to the launch area, this time being photographed from Harbor Park. The still and moving images of all the canoes and kayaks will promote protection of local waterways and the creative possibilities of Middletown’s riverfront. As in recent years, the paddle will include as many as 16 Macdonough School 4th-graders, most of them experiencing for the first time close-up the spectacular waterway that borders their neighborhood.  The Macdonough School PTA, the North End Action Team (NEAT), and financial donors collaborated with the Jonah Center to support the involvement of these children. Paddlers need to provide their own boats, paddles, drinking water, sunscreen, and life jackets. Participants will be required to register at the launch site and are asked for a $10 donation to the Jonah Center to help cover insurance costs. Advance registration is not necessary. The entire activity should take approximately 2 hours. For more information, or for a last minute update in case of inclement weather, call John Hall at 860-398-3771 (mobile). For directions to the launch site, point your location device or browser to “76 Harbor Drive Middletown CT.”

Taking Care of Forests and Open Space March 12, 2014, 7 – 8:30 p.m. at The DeKoven House (Corner of Washington St. and DeKoven Drive) Forest management before & after resetThe Jonah Center for Earth and Art and Middletown’s Environmental Collective Impact Network (Ecoin) invite the public to learn about woodland management and its role in open space conservation.  Local experts Tom Worthley, UCONN Professor of Forestry from the Middlesex County Extension Center, and Jeremy Clark, a CT Certified Forester and newly elected member of Middletown’s Planning and Zoning Commission, will lead the discussion. Middletown has been successful at protecting key parcels of open space – woodlands, farms, floodplains, and shrub lands – to preserve the community’s rural beauty and biodiversity. Now, in our role as stewards of these properties, what steps should we take to manage them for their optimum benefit to human residents and the many other plant and animal species in our ecosystem? What are the potential benefits of timber harvesting on public land, as well as the potential risks or costs of this activity?  How can additional open space acquisitions contribute to the health of these lands by linking isolated parcels for wildlife migration? Middletown’s Environmental Collective Impact Network includes The Jonah Center for Earth and Art, Middlesex Community College, Middlesex Land Trust, Middletown’s Conservation Commission, Middletown’s Urban Forestry Commission, Earth Ministry, and The Rockfall Foundation.  Those organizations all contributed to offering this program. Representatives from other Ecoin members will be present as well, to take part in a rich and informative discussion. The event is free, open to the public, and no reservations are required.  For more information, call the Jonah Center at 860-398-3771, or visit to learn more about the Jonah Center or Ecoin.  

Bringing the Air Line Trail to Portland

Tuesday, November 26, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Portland Library, Mary Flood Room

Air Line Trail 1Presentation and Discussion on the campaign to extend the “south” section of the Air Line Trail from East Hampton to Portland. John Shafer, President of the Jonah Center for Earth and Art, and Deanna Rhodes, Planning and Zoning Administrator for the Town of Portland will describe the project through photos, maps, cost estimates, planning process, and community organizing that will be required to realize this vision.

Making Middletown Bike- and Pedestrian-Friendly

Tuesday, December 3, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Middletown’s Russell Library, Hubbard Room

Logo-v01-OTPresentation by Middletown’s Complete Streets Committee on Middletown’s “Master Plan” to encourage safe cycling and walking, and the use of public transit. The program will include priority areas of Middletown identified by the Master Plan; proposed routes to connect residential neighborhoods to the downtown area, parks, and schools; the already-funded multi-use trail from the Wesleyan Hills area to Wesleyan University and a new sidewalk along Saybrook Road near the  Stop & Shop; proposed improvements in the area of Veterans Park and West Street; Safe Routes to School programs; results of a recent bike-pedestrian traffic count; and state-wide advocacy for biking and walking.

Jonah Center News

Saybrook Rd 7Middletown Voters – Please support the “Road Bond Referendum” on Election Day, Nov. 5. The ballot question includes $200,000 for the addition of a badly needed sidewalk along Saybrook Rd.  near the Stop & Shop, between East Main St. and Tryon St. This project was included on the road bond project list as a result of advocacy by the Jonah Center and Middletown’s Complete Streets Committee. Currently, this area is dangerous to people who walk to buy groceries or catch a bus.

Home Energy Efficiency

Home air flowThe City of Middletown and Ecoin (Environmental Collective Impact Network) are promoting Home Energy Solutions, a state program to help residents make their homes more energy efficient. For each Middletown residence that takes advantage of the program, a $25 donation will be made to Middletown’s “Tree Planting Fund.”  Visit , call 860-398-3771, or reply to this email for more information.