Issues Involving Arrigoni Bridge, St. John Square, Main Street, & Spring Street

While the project to repair and replace the approach ramps and sidewalks of the Arrigoni Bridge is underway, controversy about the work continues to swirl. Apparently, CT DOT’s original plan was approved by the previous Middletown administration with no public hearing or citizen comment. The stated goal of the project, according to CT DOT, was to improve the efficiency of Main Street between Washington and Hartford Ave. and the entrances to Route 9 and the Arrigoni Bridge. DOT’s interest in reducing congestion in this area is probably related to future plans to remove traffic signals from Route 9, which will involve some changed traffic patterns in the downtown area, especially near the bridge. Here are some of the issues and concerns surrounding the project. Continue reading

Replace Our Trees — Time For Action

The Jonah Center’s campaign to add at least $50,000 to the City of Middletown’s tree planting budget has been successful so far. The Mayor’s proposed budget includes this additional funding. Now this proposed budget is under consideration by the Common Council. Majority Leader and the Chair of Public Works Commission, Gene Nocera, and Minority Leader Phil Pessina are both in favor of an increase of $70,000 for tree planting. This higher amount would enable the city to begin recovery from accumulated tree loss over multiple recent years, whereas the lower amount would allow for planting to compensate for tree loss in a single year. Whatever the final figure, we are delighted that Middletown’s elected leaders recognize the importance of reversing the loss of approximately 100 trees each year.

Now, we need to reinforce this proposal to all members of the Common Council. You may email them all via one message send to Council@MiddletownCT.gov . Below is a sample message.

I very much support the Jonah Center’s initiative to reverse the loss of trees in our community due to climate change, pests, and drought. I am encouraged by the addition of $50,000 to the Mayor’s budget for tree replanting to compensate for annual tree loss. I am writing now to support the initiative of Majority Leader Gene Nocera and Minority Leader Phil Pessina to increase the tree planting budget by $70,000 over last year’s budget. This will allow the city to recover from accumulated tree loss over multiple years. Trees are essential to our quality of life and provide many documented benefits, including carbon absorption, air cooling, removal of air pollution, improved physical and mental health, enhanced beauty, increased property values, and reduced crime.

Use the email address Council@MiddletownCT.gov to reach all the members of the Common Council with one message. The email addresses of individual members of the Common Council may be found here: http://www.cityofmiddletown.com/458/Common-Council

Please Bcc: or Cc: John Hall at jhall@thejonahcenter.org  so we know whether our campaign is having an impact.

 

 

Water Chestnuts Threaten The Floating Meadows

water chestnut pull July 22The aquatic plant known as the water chestnut (trapa natans, not the kind you eat in Chinese food) showed its invasive potential this past summer at many points along the Connecticut River and its tributaries. In our own Floating Meadows, the freshwater, tidal marshland formed where the lower Coginchaug and Mattabesset Rivers converge, the presence of these plants was first recorded in 2009.  The Jonah Center has been monitoring the area closely since 2013, pulling out a few plants each year.

The summer of 2016 was different! Water chestnuts abounded as we have never seen before, forming expansive, dense patches at multiple locations.  The Jonah Center and its partners removed approximately 48 canoes full in the course of 8 separate work parties.  The most productive effort was on July 22, when we had 14 canoes, 2 motor boats, and 16 kayaks deployed. Each canoe was filled at least twice, yielding a total estimated haul of 30 canoes full on that single afternoon. Continue reading

Fight Climate Change and Plant A Tree

In the course of our campaign to increase Middletown’s tree-planting budget, some people told us they would like to donate their own money to plant trees. That’s commitment!  Then we heard about Sustainable CT’s program to match dollar for dollar any community-generated funds raised for qualified projects through IOBY (In Our Back Yards) – a crowdfunding service.For example, your $20 gift will instantly become a $40 gift.

Sites for new trees in Middletown and Portland are being considered. In Middletown, priority will be given to the North End, where the tree canopy is even sparser than in other parts of the city, and to high-visibility commercial corridors. In Portland, priority will be given to areas in the town’s central residential and commercial area where trees were removed for sidewalk replacement or due to disease. Funds will be allocated between the towns based on the residence of donors. 

 Click here to read more or donate. (100% of all donations will be used for trees; not administration.)

Action Alert — Support Bike Infrastructure

Governor Lamont’s CT2030 Transportation Plan Now Includes Bike- And Pedestrian Infrastructure

(Or so they say.)

The Governor acknowledges that we need to increase the use of public transit and that public transit needs to work better. But how are people supposed to get to a train or bus station?  One way is by bicycle!

The first public release of Governor Lamont’s Transportation Plan includes no mention of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Obviously, such infrastructure needs to be included in any smart transportation plan. To address climate change, air pollution, and highway congestion, we need to reduce the miles traveled by car, and to do that we need to improve access to public transit. Bicycles do that by providing a way for people to reach trains or buses (the “first mile”) and a way to reach their final destination (the “last mile”). Continue reading

Bike-Ped Improvements On West Street Bridge

West Street Bridge before improvements

West Street Bridge after improvements

The West Street bridge that crosses the railroad tracks just east of Washington Street was opened for travel recently after many years of study, plans, plan revisions, public review, more revisions, and construction. Prior to this improvement, this bridge was a narrow, wood-decked structure that allowed traffic to cross only from one direction at a time. This was a hazardous area for pedestrians, bicyclists, and wheel-chair users attempting to reach businesses on Washington Street.

The Jonah Center and the Complete Streets Committee became involved in this project as early as 2013. The Complete Streets Master Plan recommended West Street to serve as a major north-south bike route within the City, in spite of many issues, including the West Street bridge. We encouraged the public to attend hearings on the project, and we collectively recommended that the plan include at least one widened pedestrian and bicycle sidewalk over the tracks. During this process, we became aware that several users of motorized wheelchairs also used the bridge, even in its condition. Continue reading

Linden Tree Planted In Honor of Krishna Winston

Photo by Laurie Kenney

Photo by John Hall

The linden planted on November 15 near the corner of High St. and Wyllys Avenue honors Krishna Winston’s fifty years at Wesleyan as a professor of German Studies, an administrator, and, for the last ten years, also a professor in the College of the Environment. The Jonah Center celebrates this tree planted adjacent to a public street because Krishna has been an environmental leader in our wider community for many years. She has served on the Jonah Center’s Board of Directors since 2012 and as its president since 2014. Wesleyan’s replacement of lost trees along High Street, once renowned for its thick elm tree canopy, supports the Jonah Center’s Replace Our Trees campaign in Middletown. Continue reading

Replace Our Trees — Sign The Petition

In recent years, the City of Middletown has removed dead and dying trees at a much faster rate than the city has planted new trees. Due to the Emerald Ash Borer, about 300 dead ash trees currently need to be removed, according to the Urban Forestry Commission. A line of dead ash trees along Church Street between Broad and High (shown here, before removal in late 2019) is one striking and sad example.  Only 20-30 trees will likely be planted city-wide in the current year, given the available budget. Removing a large tree is far more expensive than planting a younger, smaller tree. For this reason, the urban forestry budget is being exhausted by the need for tree removals.

To make a donation to the Replace Our Trees fund, click here.

Climate change is playing a role in this process, just when trees are more urgently needed to mitigate climate change. Invasive plants, changing insect populations, and damage by vehicles are additional negative factors. Continue reading

It’s Time To Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

The Jonah Center reminds residents to take advantage of the State’s Home Energy Solutions (HES) program, and other low-cost, high-return opportunities to make your home more comfortable and energy efficient. This program, subsidized by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, reduces home utility costs, on average, by $200 per year. The co-pay for HES has been reduced to $75 for all types of heating, and $0 for income-eligible residents (up to 60% of the state’s median income level). Your home will have air leaks sealed, energy-efficient light bulbs and shower heads installed, and insulation evaluated. Low cost, subsidized insulation options are also available. Every HES visit earns your municipality credits towards energy efficiency grants that your community can use to improve its energy portfolio. The Jonah Center continues to partner with New England Conservation Services, the company that actually performs the service. Call NECS at 877-389-7077 or visit their website at https://www.neconserves.com/ for more information.