Vote “YES” for Parks Bond Referendum

Middltown logoA Parks Improvement Bond Referendum will be on the Nov. 3 ballot in Middletown, authorizing the city to spend up to $33.5 million on badly needed improvements to City Parks and athletic fields. Middletown’s parks have needed attention and facility upgrades for many years. The Jonah Center, the Complete Streets Committee, and Ecoin (Environmental Collective Impact Network) ask Middletown voters to choose “YES” on the ballot.

Many details of the Parks Bond can be found on a PDF downloaded from the City’s website here. (Note that this “Parks Study” document does not reflect, at the time of this writing, the removal of synthetic turf and the addition of 6 new natural grass athletic fields; see below.)

Logo-v01-OTBy recommendation of the Complete Streets Committee, the proposed investment includes funding for a multi-use trail (approximately $4 million) to extend the current Mattabesset Bike Trail 3.2 miles from Tuttle Place to Veteran’s Park. A map of the proposed route can be downloaded here.

By recommendation of Ecoin (Environmental Collective Impact Network) the Common Council removed “synthetic turf” from the bond ordinance language, so that only “natural grass” fields could be funded by this bond. By recommendation from Mayor Drew, six new athletic fields will be constructed to address the high demand for playing field time by organized sports leagues. The subject of “synturf” and its potential health risks was a topic of intense debate at Common Council meetings in late August and early September. Information on artificial turf can be found here.

Other projects to be funded by the parks bond include:

Improvements to Harbor Park, specifically a new boat dock system for rowing crews. With the prospect of a redeveloped riverfront, and the desire to increase recreational use of this area, rowing should be supported through this timely investment.

A new swimming pool and splash pad at Veterans Park.

Forest Management Educational Workshop Series at Wilcox Preserve

Event 1: Reading the Wooded Landscape
· When: Saturday, October 17, 2015, 9:00 am to 1:00 pm
· Where: Wilcox Preserve off Footit Drive in Middletown
· Instructors: Tom Worthley, Associate Extension Professor, University of Connecticut and UConn Extension Forestry Staff
You can become part of an investigative team that will explore, inspect, investigate and describe in detail the woodlands of the Wilcox preserve. Under the guidance of expert instructors we’ll make note of habitat features, measure trees, learn to navigate with a compass, map trails and other features and collect all the detailed information needed to formulate management decisions. Are you a woodland owner wanting a plan for your property? Or are you interested in how plans are created for managing public open space parcels? This workshop will provide the foundation you’ll need.

During the course of this workshop we will cover the following topics:
· Boundaries and boundary evidence
· Seeing history on the land
· Recognizing habitat features
· Forest cover types and plant communities
· Tree measurement tools
· Not getting lost: Keeping track of distance and direction
· Observations and diagnostics: What does the data tell us?

The rain date for this event is Sunday, October 18, 2015 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.

Event 2: Chain Saw Safety and Operation

· When: Saturday, November 14, 2015, 9:00 am to 1:00 pm
· Where: Wilcox Preserve off Footit Drive in Middletown
· Instructors: Tom Worthley, Associate Extension Professor, University of Connecticut and UConn Extension Forestry Staff

Whether you find yourself needing to use a chain saw for property cleanup, making firewood, maintaining trails or woodland management, this workshop will be of interest. Homeowners and property managers, folks who find they need to use a saw occasionally at work or those who regularly cut wood for their own use need to be familiar with the basics of personal safety, and safe and efficient operation of the saw itself, and how to know that their saw is in good working condition.

During the course of this workshop we will cover the following topics:
· Personal protective equipment
· Saw safety check
· Reactive forces while operating a chain saw
· Parts of the tooth and sharpening techniques
· Basic maintenance tasks
· Work planning and hazard assessment
· Tree felling and bucking demonstration

The rain date for this event is Sunday, November 15, 2015 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.
Both workshops are free to Middletown residents. Wear sturdy shoes, bring drinking water and lunch. Hearing and head protection are not required, but bring them if you have them. If there is heavy rain, lightning or high winds, the workshops will be re-scheduled to the rain dates as posted. Spaces are limited for each event so please RSVP to Michelle Ford at or by phone at 860-638-4837 to ensure availability.

Middletown Parks Bond — Where Does It Stand?

On September 2, Middletown’s Common Council voted 7-5 to adopt the Mayor’s proposal to add 6 new natural grass playing fields to the Parks Bond package.  This proposal was aimed at accommodating the high demand for field playing time by city-wide sports leagues, demand that has been the driver for the use of synthetic turf.  The total amount of the bonding authorization was reduced from nearly $37 million to approximately $33.5 million. A provision was added to allow improved fields to be constructed at any Middletown school — not just those on the original list that left out Macdonough and Bielefield Schools. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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 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.