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

What Does “Balance” Mean? What Should It Look Like?

The draft Connecticut State Water Plan, and the State law that authorizes the creation of the plan, recommend “ the utilization of the state’s water resources … in a manner that balances public water supply, economic development, recreation, and ecological health. In one part of the document, the plan calls for a balance in the use of “in-stream water” and “out-of-stream water”— the latter being water removed from the river for other human purposes.

Below is an extended excerpt from the Jonah Center’s comment on the draft Water Plan, submitted in November 2017. All residents are invited and encouraged to submit comments on the plan by November 20, 2017. The final draft of the plan is expected to be released in January 2018, after which it will go before the State Legislature for an up or down vote. We support a “yes” vote on the plan, but urge that definition be given to the term balance.

“Balance” is an agreeable-sounding term. Who can oppose “balance”? But we need to face the question: what should this balance really look like? The plan refers to achieving a balance between “in-stream water” and “out-of-stream water” – the latter going to a variety of purposes beyond drinking water supply, such as industrial processes, agriculture irrigation, lawn and golf course irrigation, car washing, and others. Surely, a balance between “in-stream” and “out-of-stream” uses would not divide a river’s flow by assigning 50% to each. So how would “balance” be defined? Any useful definition should recognize that, when water supply is threatened, or when a river is literally going dry, some uses of water have a greater claim to moral legitimacy than others. Most important, when it comes to our environmental needs in the largest sense — insuring long-term sustainability in the relationship between humans and other forms of life, the forms of life we ultimately depend on for our own health and survival — the goal of “balance” is not a nicety whose meaning should be assumed to be universally agreed upon.  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

Help Us Protect Snapping Turtles

Snapping turtle emailIn response to our campaign for better protection for snapping turtles, DEEP has proposed amending the current regulations concerning bag limits. The new draft regulation reduces the season limit (also the daily limit) from 30 to 10 adult snapping turtles. You can view the “Notice of Intent” on the DEEP website here.

While greater restrictions are certainly welcome, this limit is still virtually unenforceable. Without data on snapping turtle population, we have to assume that they, like all other turtles, are threatened by habitat loss. Snapping turtles are the only wildlife species further threatened by “commercial taking.” (Note: Prior to our action in 2014, there were no limits on commercial trapping of snapping turtles.) Your voice will help us further reduce the commercial “taking” of these ancient creatures. Continue reading

Imagine The East Coast Greenway Coming Our Way

Logo-v01-OTThe East Coast Greenway (ECG) is a 2950 mile bicycle route from Key West, Florida, to Calais, Maine at the Canadian border. 30% of the route currently follows off-road trails, with the remaining 70% following on-street routes that are usable by experienced cyclists. The goal is to have the entire distance be off-road. The ECG is a fantastic, long-term project, but one with a lot of work to be done.

In Connecticut, 33% of the ECG route has been completed using such off-road trails. The main route follows the Farmington Canal Trail from New Haven to East Granby, where it turns southeast through Bloomfield, and east through Hartford, Manchester, and Willimantic. This route takes advantage of significant stretches of already-built recreational trails, but it also includes a number of serious obstacles before approaching the 100% off-road goal.

The Jonah Center for Earth and Art is advocating a 50 mile bike trail route that would depart eastward from the Farmington Canal Trail in Cheshire, follow mostly off-road trails east through Meriden and Middletown in order to connect with the Air Line Trail in Portland. This route would utilize existing bike trails in Meriden and Middletown, plus approximately 25 miles of the extremely scenic Air Line Trail to reach Willimantic, where it would reconnect with the East Coast Greenway. Of this proposed 50 mile Cheshire to Willimantic route, approximately 32 miles have already been constructed. Most of the remaining 18 miles follow routes already planned, designed, or proposed by engineering staff in Middletown and Meriden.
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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

Synthetic Turf Proposed For City Athletic Fields

Ecoin logo 3aSeveral members of Ecoin (the Environmental Collective Impact Network) have raised concerns about the plan to install synthetic turf in 9 athletic fields in Middletown. Risks to children’s health from inhaling crumb rubber dust, to the environment (from toxic materials leaching from the material) and higher maintenance and disposal costs than estimated, are among the issues. Below is the op-ed piece posted by Ecoin.
Nine Artificial Turf Fields—A Costly, Risky Solution to Improving the City’s Playing Fields
You may not have heard that the Middletown Parks Department is considering installing nine artificial turf playing fields at City parks and schools, based on recommendations made as part of an evaluation of the City’s athletic fields and parks. These artificial fields would be funded through an upcoming bond referendum. There will be a Common Council Workshop (with no public input) on Tuesday July 21 at 6:30 pm, at which the Council will learn about the Parks Proposal from Milone & MacBroom, the firm that prepared the report. At an August Common Council meeting (date to be determined) members will vote on whether to bring this proposal to referendum in November – or not. We ask that the artificial fields not be included in the bond referendum, and encourage the public to inform themselves about the serious health, fiscal and environmental impacts of these artificial fields. Continue reading

It’s Time To Call Your Legislators

CGACurrent law already bans pesticides (with some exceptions) on elementary schools and day-care centers. Now we need to expand this protection to high school students and the general public.  Also, these chemicals are killing our ponds, rivers and Long Island Sound.

Please take a few moments to call or email your Ct State Rep or Senator.  Legislator contact info and a sample message are below.

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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