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.

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Traprock Field Trip

On April 29, 2017, Mattabeseck Audubon Society, with the Jonah Center for Earth and Art and the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA), is pleased to offer a special trip to a variety of significant nearby geological sites. Leading the event will be Dr. Peter M. LeTourneau, author of the recently published book, The Traprock Landscapes of New England: Environment, History, and Culture, and Robert Pagini, whose photographs are featured in this work. The field trip, like the book, tells the story of the hard rock ridges that form the backbone that runs through the center of our state. Topics will include the geology, ecology, and human history of the area, beginning 200 million years ago and concluding with the present crisis to preserve the rocks and protect the unique plants and animals that exist only in the crags and talus of this ancient place.

Participants will meet at CFPA at 16 Meriden Road (Route 66) in Middlefield at 9 a.m. and end @ 2 p.m. Bring lunch. We will carpool to the various stops:

Stop 1: Black Pond state boat launch, Middlefield (Off route 66 near Meriden-Middlefield town boundary). Walking difficulty is moderate, about 1/4 mile on level but irregular and rocky terrain.

Stop 2: Giuffrida Park/Chauncey Peak, Meriden. Participants may split into two groups, one up a steep, challenging trail to the summit (<1/2 mile), one easy to lakeside vista and points of geologic and biologic interest (1/2 mile on level but irregular terrain).

Stop 3: East Peak/Castle Craig in Hubbard Park, West Peak, Hubbard Park (drive to summit). Easy walking, no access issues, some irregular, rocky terrain

There is no fee, but please email Alison Guinness at wjguinness@snet.net to register so that we have an idea of the number of participants.

More Trees, Nicer Streets

tree-lined-streetThe Jonah Center for Earth and Art and The Rockfall Foundation invite the public to learn about plans to increase the number of trees in Middletown and to make streets safer and more inviting for walking and bicycling. The program will take place on Tuesday, April 11, 7- 8:30 p.m. at the deKoven House, 27 Washington Street, in Middletown.  Presenters will be Jane Harris, chair of Middletown’s Urban Forestry Commission, and John Hall, co-chair of Middletown’s Complete Streets Committee.

What makes a place nice to live in? Trees and safe places to walk are key to a city’s attractiveness. We like the softening effect of shade trees and the birds that sing in those overhead branches. Neighborhoods become more desirable and businesses thrive when there is plenty of foot traffic, with clean air and low noise levels. Planning departments, educators, and health advocates increasingly recognize the many benefits that follow when shops, schools, and restaurants can be reached on foot. 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

Public Input Sought For Wilcox Preserve

Wilcox PropertyThe Wilcox Conservation Area is a 126-acre forested, City open-space property located off Atkins Street and Footit Drive. The City is in the process of developing a management plan for the area and is looking to engage residents on their use (or lack thereof), concerns, and thoughts about the property.

On Wednesday June 15 at 6:30 pm, the City’s Department of Planning, Conservation and Development in conjunction with the Conservation Commission and the Connecticut Forest and Parks Association (CFPA) will hold a public forum at CFPA, located at 16 Meriden Road (Route 66) in Rockfall, to discuss the conditions and future vision for the Wilcox Conservation Property.

Residents are strongly encouraged to attend to share their views on the property and to provide input on future management activities. Citizen hopes and concerns will shape and support forest and trail management efforts at the property.