Paddle With A Purpose – June 10, 24, and July 8

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, work parties are planned for Saturday, June 10 at 1 p.m.; Saturday, June 24 at 1 p.m.; and Saturday, July 8 at 1 p.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.

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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. Teams of boaters have been summoned to remove these tenacious plants from many other sites along the Connecticut River. 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

See A Turtle? Take A Photo and Become A Citizen Scientist

CT Turtle AtlasAll you need is a digital camera and an internet connection to take part in an exciting turtle-tracking project. The Bruce Museum in Greenwich is looking for Citizen Scientists to record observations wherever they occur in Connecticut  The project is called the Connecticut Turtle Atlas. There is an iNaturalist smart phone app that makes it even easier. To learn why this is so important and how to get started, see below. Continue reading

Common Council Adopts Complete Streets Ordinance

Logo-v01-OTOn Monday, March 7, 2016, at its 7 p.m. meeting, Middletown’s Common Council unanimously adopted the Complete Streets Ordinance proposed by the City’s Complete Streets Committee. We wish to thank the many citizens who attended the meeting to show their support. The ordinance requires the City to consider the needs of all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, users of wheelchairs, and public transit riders when planning transportation improvement projects. The text of the draft ordinance can be viewed here.

In practice, passage of the ordinance means that the Complete Streets Committee will have an official role in planning these improvements, insuring that our streets and roadways are modified (wherever possible and where costs are justified by the likelihood of significant community benefits) to make them safer, more usable, and more attractive for all residents, not just those driving cars and trucks.

Bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly improvements are expected to be made when roadways and sidewalks are scheduled for work as part of road bond projects, with priority given to areas around schools and commercial districts.  The Complete Streets Committee is already working with Middletown’s Public Schools to encourage more students to  walk or bike to school. The construction of multi-use trails to connect various parts of the city for non-motorized transportation and recreation is another goal of the Complete Streets Committee and the Jonah Center.  For more information on these plans, click here.

2016 Edition of the Middletown Trail Guide

Trail Guide For Sale FlierMayor Daniel T. Drew is excited to announce the release of the 2nd Edition of the Middletown Trail Guide. The Trail Guide, which was last updated in 2004, is the result of the diligent work and perseverance of the members of the City’s Conservation Commission and community volunteers along with assistance from City staff. The updated trail guide includes maps and narrative descriptions for over 20 areas for hiking, biking, nature viewing and kayaking. Some new additions to the trail guide include the nearly 5-mile long multi-use trail, a 1.6-mile downtown walking loop, and the Mattabesset River Canoe/Kayak Trail which utilizes the City’s new car-top boat launch off Johnson Street. Continue reading

Notice to Subscribers of Our Website

Dear Friends of the Jonah Center:

Due to a large volume of spam registrations on our website leading to potential security breaches, we have been forced to purge the bulk of our user database and implement a new more secure registration procedure.  If you had previously registered for the web site, your username and login information may have been deleted.  If this is the case and you are unable to login in to the site, please re-register by sending a request through our contact page with your name and email address:

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