Middletown 200 million Years Ago

Dana Royer croppedA Presentation by Dana Royer
Professor of Earth and Environmental Science, Wesleyan University

Tuesday, March 10, 2014, 7 – 8:30 p.m. (snow date March 24)
At The deKoven House, 27 Washington Street, Middletown

You may know something about the human history of Middletown, but what about our region’s geologic history? Our city and its surrounding towns have a very interesting tale to tell, one that spans several hundred million years. Professor Dana Royer will tell us about one waypoint along this journey: 200 million years ago.

At this time, the supercontinent Pangea was breaking apart right here in the Connecticut River valley, bringing fresh lava to the surface. With this lava came many gases, including greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, which caused severe global climate change and one of Earth’s largest mass extinctions. This led to the 135 million-year-long domination by dinosaurs (whose footprints are preserved throughout the valley). This lava cooled to form basalt rock, whose remnants we still see and enjoy in the trap rock ridges of Mt. Higby. The sediments that weathered from the basalt 200 million years ago turned into our beloved brownstone, for which Portland and its quarries became famous.

Cash Lane Slim – Downshift – Live In Concert

Cash Lane SlimThe Jonah Center of Earth and Art is pleased to sponsor the return of Middletown’s Cash Lane Slim in an exclusive one-night performance. Doors will open at 6:30 PM, and the 2- hour show will begin at 7 PM on Saturday, March 21st in the main hall of the Community Health Center, 675 Main Street in Middletown, CT.

Songsmith and guitar master Cash Lane Slim takes you on a trip through the heart of Americana with a blend of folk, rock, blues and ballad; an energizing mix of originals and standards with his unique interpretation and voice. The songs combine into stories of life and love, gains and loss, fall and redemption. His solo acoustic hybrid performance is a dynamic reinvention of the genre; building layers of voice and instrument live on stage. There is an emotional range in the music, from pure and evocative acoustic simplicity to lush soundscapes formed in progressive overlays. At times switching mid-song between six string acoustic, electric, and 4 string bass, there is a kinetic artistry that can only be appreciated in live performance.

The concert has been organized as a free-will donation benefit and fundraiser for The Jonah Center. There is no admission charge. Cash Lane encourages all attendees to take the opportunity to make a donation to The Jonah Center for Earth and Art, a 501c3 organization in Middletown CT. Jonah Center staff will be present with information.

Making A Place For Wildlife In Our Communities

liv_baker_200dpi aPresentation by  Liv Baker, PhD

College of the Environment, Wesleyan University

Tuesday, February 24, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
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. Continue reading

Middletown Common Council Moves Bike Path Forward

On February 3, Middletown’s Common Council voted to appropriate $50,600 to pay for the City’s share of the engineering work to design the multi-use path from Wesleyan Hills (or, more specifically, the intersection of Randolph Rd. and Long Hill Rd.) to the intersection of Cross St. and Vine St. on the Wesleyan University campus.

The Jonah Center for Earth and Art is the “Community Project Advocate” for this trail, which in Dec. 2011 was awarded a grant of $800,000 ($200,000 per year for 4 years) in U.S. Dept. of Transportation funding. In 2012, the U.S. Congress reduced the grant award to $400,000 ($200,000 for 2 years).  This reduction in funding is why the trail will not continue all the way to downtown Middletown, at least at this time.

A map of the trail route may be viewed here: Multi-Use_Downtown_Wes_Hills_Trail

Pierce Property Update

On Wed. Jan. 28, Middletown’s Finance and Government Operations Commission postponed action on the purchase of 110 acres on Mt. Higby, known as the Pierce Property, so this matter will NOT be on the  Feb. 2 Common Council agenda.  See earlier post for more details on this subject.  An email will go out to all subscribers when the Pierce Property is scheduled for the Common Council.  To subscribe to our email list, use the form on the left side of this page.

For an overview of Mt. Higby and the land under consideration, download the pdf image of the area here:  Pierce Property Access


Wesleyan’s College of the Environment invites the public to an exciting talk about the  impact of lawn chemicals and other pollutants on the endocrine systems of frogs — with obvious implications for humans. Thurs. Feb. 5, at noon.  Lunch provided at no charge  for all who attend. (Woodhead lounge is on 1st floor of Exley Science Bldg.)  RSVP to Valerie Marinelli, whose contact info can be found on the flyer here.  Sex, Drugs, & Suburbia

Snapping Turtles Need Your Voice Now!

Snapping turtle emailYou can help Connecticut’s Snapping Turtles most effectively right now. Here’s why, and how to do it.

House Bill No.5023 has been referred to the Committee on the Environment. The Proposed Bill would amend current law and protect Connecticut snapping turtles from commercial harvest. See below for a list of legislators email addresses so you can indicate to them your support for these ancient creatures who play a key role in our environment. Continue reading

Success! Environmental Planner Position Restored

After a stressful few weeks and some bewilderment, the “Questions for Directors” session of Middletown’s Common Council revealed what had gone wrong when the position of “Planner and Environmental Specialist” was de-funded last May, after the search process began but before the hiring of Michelle Ford to fill the position in November 2014.

Apparently, the Common Council had planned for the “Environmental Specialist” in the Water & Sewer Department, Jim Sipperly, to take over those duties, but that idea was never implemented, and the Director of Planning,  Conservation, and Development Michiel Wackers was never informed of that intention. That plan was problematic, however, from a union perspective, and de-hiring (firing) Michelle Ford at this point could lead to a large liability claim against the City.  Director Wackers apologized and took full responsibility for not noticing that the position had been “zeroed out.”

About 30 members of the Environmental Community — mostly members of  Ecoin, the Environmental Collective Impact Network — attended the meeting and expressed hope that the position’s funding would be restored with an allocation of $24,5000 to cover the position’s budget for the remainder of the fiscal year.  The Common Council voted 7 to 4 in favor of restoring the funding.

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.

$451,250 is a significant amount for the Common Council to appropriate, and doing so requires the support of citizens and stakeholder groups. For the past 4 years, a number of nonprofit groups and City commissions – known collectively as the Environmental Collective Impact Network, or Ecoin – have urged the Mayor and Common Council to support an open space bond referendum so that funds for such opportunities would be available. We have not had a voter referendum for open space preservation since 2009; instead, the city’s leaders have voiced a preference to appropriate funds for open space on a case by case basis, as key properties become available. The Pierce Property is such a key property. A pdf file showing a larger view Mt. Higby and the location of the property in question can be found here: Pierce Property Access

Continue reading

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. Continue reading