A New Venture–The Air Line Trail To Farmington Canal Trail Connector Route

The Jonah Center for Earth and Art is promoting an 18-mile bike route that would allow cyclists on the Air Line Trail to reach the Farmington Canal Trail in Cheshire (part of the East Coast Greenway). The route would consist mostly of off-road trails traveling westward from the Arrigoni Bridge through Middletown, Meriden, and Cheshire. Of this 18-mile route, approximately 7 miles have already been built or planned in Meriden and Middletown. To view this entire route in detail, click here: Air Line Trail to Farmington Canal Trail connector route

Coming eastward from Cheshire, bicyclists could reach the extremely scenic Air Line Trail in Portland and continue for 25 additional miles to reach Willimantic and reconnect with the East Coast Greenway.

Most important for Middletown itself, this connector trail would also be a boon to bicycle transportation in the city, providing a continuous route from downtown Middletown to the commuter rail hub in Meriden, passing through the Westlake residential area and the Industrial Park Road commercial district.

As an early step toward this vision, the Jonah Center is working with Middletown’s Public Works Department to begin work on the Newfield Corridor Trail for which funds were allocated in the 1916 Parks Improvement Bond Referendum. This 3-mile segment (shown in blue or red on the right side of the map) would connect the existing Mattabesset Bike Trail (shown in green) with a point near downtown Middletown–either Veterans Park or the North End.  Note: The map above shows all the sections of the connector trail that would pass through Middletown. The section in green has already been built; sections in blue, red, or gold are envisioned.) Continue reading

Middletown’s New Policy On Sidewalks & Snow Removal

City residents should take note of a new policy, and new ordinance, on sidewalk snow removal.  In the past, property owners could be fined for failure to remove snow and ice from sidewalks after snow storms. Under the new policy, those who fail to remove snow and ice within 24 hours after a storm will still be fined, but the fine will increase for each violation.

Also, and perhaps most significant, in the past the fines did not always accomplish the goal of getting the sidewalk cleared, leaving the situation still dangerous for children walking to school and for other pedestrians.  (Perhaps some property owners found it more convenient to pay the fine than to get the work done. Maybe they didn’t pay the fine.) But under the new ordinance, the City may hire someone to remove the snow and bill the property owner for the job,  then place a lien on the property if the bill is not paid.

Below is the actual ordinance.  It’s another step toward safer walking conditions–in other words, Complete Streets–in Middletown!

Sidewalk shoveling ordinance 2017-09

 

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 is $149 for most residents, or $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, along with the City of Middletown, 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.

An Evening with Henry David Thoreau

Henry David ThoreauThis year is the bicentennial of Henry David Thoreau’s birth, and to celebrate, Mattabeseck Audubon Society, the Rockfall Foundation, and the Jonah Center are co-sponsoring a program, “An Evening with Henry David Thoreau”, with Thoreau impersonator Richard Smith, a historian and staff member of the Thoreau Society in Concord, MA. The program is scheduled to be held on Thursday, September 28 at 7:00 pm at the deKoven House in Middletown.

 

Paddle With A Purpose – July 8 at 9 a.m. (rain date Sun. 7/9, 9 a.m.)

The aquatic plant known as water chestnut (trapa natans) showed its invasive potential last 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 through 2015.

The summer of 2016 was different! Water chestnut proliferated as we have never seen before, forming expansive, dense patches at multiple locations. Left unchecked, these plants can choke off sunlight and oxygen, threatening native plants, fish, fish-eating birds and other aquatic species. Some waterways, including local ones, have become impassible by water chestnut infestations.

For the coming season, paddles were held on June 10, June 24, and the third is planned for Saturday, July 8, 9-11  a.m. (The time of the July 8 paddled has been changed to 9 a.m. because wind conditions on the earlier afternoon paddles were a major obstacle to progress. In case of bad weather on July, we will attempt to go out on Sunday, July 9, at 9 a.m.) Canoes and kayaks will start and finish at the launch site at 181 Johnson Street, adjacent to Middletown’s recycling center. For each of these outings, we need many volunteers, including those with access to motorboats. Here’s why.

Continue reading

Watery Art Videos — “Tides” and “Downstream”

Here are 2 excellent videos produced by Kate Ten Eyck and Joseph Smolinksi, friends of the Jonah Center. These works of environmental art were projected onto the white walls of the pedestrian tunnel under Route 9 during the Riverfront Encounter Festival at Harbor Park, Middletown, in May 2016.

Tides by Kate Ten Eyck — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viwcecoGVO0&sns=em 

This animation takes the viewer into the mystery of tides, waves, and the creatures that inhabit the watery underworld.

Downstream, by Joseph Smolinski — https://vimeo.com/167206035

This two channel video follows two local rivers, Sumner Brook and the Coginchaug River, that flow into the Connecticut River. The right side of the video is filmed upstream while the left is filmed downstream. The installation is projected on opposing walls so the viewer can pass through a virtual flow of water. Note the rich soundtrack of river sounds. Throughout the video sculptural compositions appear that were made by collecting debris, 3D scanning the objects and then compositing them into the footage. This project was filmed in the Spring, 2016, through a grant from Wesleyan University Center for Fine Art.  The Jonah Center assisted through site selection and by identifying access points.

Air Line Trail Update & Upcoming Walk

Air Line Trail 1The Air Line Trail Steering Committee in Portland had a successful year in 2016, bringing the vision to extend the trail from East Hampton into Portland closer to reality.  Now that the major funding and permission obstacles have been overcome, we can foresee the day when construction will begin. Here is their 2016  progress report.

  • We received a license from Eversource for use of the Air Line Trail property.
  • The Town of Portland received a State of CT Grant to fund the Air Line Trail ($686k).
  • The Town of Portland purchased the Keegan Property (a significant parcel off Middle Haddam Road, east of the YMCA Camp Ingersoll, and adjacent to the trail) for use as a trail head and additional open space, thereby completing our required match for the state grant.
  • Jeff Sanborn & Associates completed a survey for the new trail in November and submitted results to the engineering firm, Nathan L Jacobson & Associates. Kati Mercier of Jacobson and Associates presented a preliminary design to our committee. We provided additional input and expect multiple additional meetings to finalize the design. We anticipate presenting the final design to the Board of Selectmen for review and final approval so that the project can go out to bid for construction.

The third annual “Freezin’ For A Reason” walk will be held (weather permitting) on Saturday, January 14, 2017 starting at 10am from the upper parking lot of the Portland YMCA Camp Ingersoll (follow signage). Adults and children invited (and dogs on leash) to participate. Please arrive 15 minutes early to register. Contact is Lou Pear at (860) 262-2745

Additional information on the Portland Air Line Trail can always be found on our Facebook Page. Committee meetings are usually held the last Wednesday of the month in the Portland Library.

Make Your Home Comfy & More Efficient For Winter

Home air flowAs colder weather finally arrives, it’s an obvious time to make your home more comfortable and energy efficient. The best investment you can make – in terms of “payback” or avoided heating costs, is this: Seal air leaks and add insulation.

First, you want to stop warm air from moving up through the frame of the house and getting into the attic. This air movement is called the chimney effect. Sealing air spaces to prevent hot air from rising through your home is critically important. Sealing around drafty window frames, the foundation, and pipe entrances is also highly cost-effective.

After air-sealing, you want to improve the R-value of your attic insulation. This is usually easy and quite inexpensive. Blowing insulation into poorly insulated or non-insulated walls is also recommended. State programs provide generous financial incentives to help get this work done. Continue reading

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

Changes To Route 9 & Main Street Are Coming

Evening commute back-up on Route 9 southbound at Hartford Avenue

Evening commute back-up on Route 9 southbound at Hartford Avenue

The CT DOT plan to remove the traffic signals from Route 9 in Middletown seems likely to go forward in some fashion, based on the public meeting held on July 26, 2016 and the subsequent comment period.  There is broad, enthusiastic support for the main goal from many Middletown residents and elected officials, including Mayor Dan Drew. The pollution, accidents, wasted time, and constant irritation caused by the lights all add up to something now deemed intolerable, so the wheels of state government are starting to move. To view the project on-line, go to www.ct.gov/dot and click on the link “Rte 9 Middletown Projects” on the left side of the home page.

The specific proposal does, of course, raise concerns, as any project of this scale would.  The most often-expressed concern on July 26 was that increased traffic on Main Street north of Washington Street will make peak congestion even worse. The second most-voiced concern was that the elevated southbound highway near Washington Street will block views toward the river and aggravate the existing visual and psychological barrier between the downtown and the riverfront, the same barrier that we have been decrying and seeking ways to mitigate for the last several decades. Continue reading