Completing the Air Line Trail Gap In East Hampton

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While Portland was working on its phase 1 section of the Air Line Trail, completed in 2017, East Hampton was planning to extend its part of the trail westward to connect with the Portland segment. East Hampton completed that extension in 2018, except for a 1200 foot gap that could not be constructed due to the presence of wetlands—actually a stream runs through a narrow gorge. Also, Eversource utility poles occupy that same gorge. A decision was made to construct a boardwalk trail over the wetland, but that plan required the utility poles to be moved first.

After several years of off and on discussions between the Town of East Hampton, DEEP (The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection), and Eversource, it appears that a plan to move the poles and “complete the gap” is now emerging. Though the details are tentative or incomplete at this point, the parties seem to have made significant progress toward an agreement that will result in Eversource relocating the poles and transmission line onto town property at East Hampton’s Water Pollution Control Authority. We hope that that work can be completed in 2021.

In the meantime, phase 2 of Portland’s Air Line Trail has been designed and awaits a funding opportunity for construction.

The Jonah Center will  continue to keep the public informed as new developments emerge.

Saybrook Road Bike-Ped Improvements Expected Soon

Present (2020) state of roadway.  No sidewalk, no crosswalk, no pedestrian crossing signal, no bike lanes.

In 2012, the Jonah Center and Middletown’s Complete Streets Committee prioritized for improvements one of the most dangerous areas in Middletown. At least, we expect huge improvements to the area in the coming year. It’s been a long wait, but we are very excited to know that the needed changes will happen soon. Continue reading

$55 Million Infrastructure Bond Referendum on Middletown’s Nov. 3rd Ballot

Note: Middletown voters approved the borrowing authorization (voted YES on the ballot question).  Below is the post recommending a YES vote prior to the election.

Image of ballot for Middletown District 1. $55 Infrastructure Bond Question at the top of the ballot is circled here in red. Don’t forget to vote on this question.

On Nov. 3, Middletown voters will decide whether to authorize the city to borrow funds for a variety of long- term infrastructure projects. No final decisions on these projects have been made, but the referendum asks voters to authorize the borrowing that will be necessary for them.

The Jonah Center Board of Directors recommends a “yes” vote on the ballot question (see below).

Continue reading

Forest Meditations On Sunday Afternoons — You’re Invited

 

Erik Assadourian leads a weekly forest meditation at a local Middletown park (often but not always Wadsworth Falls). Meditating in the forest (sometimes called Forest Bathing or Shinrin Yoku) is a good way to quiet the mind and connect more deeply with the natural world. The small (socially-distanced) group learns the basics of the meditation (the style varies each week) and then finds a spot in the park to meditate. Afterwards participants come back together to sit quietly, reflecting on the experience if so moved. The entire practice is about 45-60 minutes and then we invite participants to stay for tea and cookies. The next meditation will be on the top of Indian Hill at Indian Hill Cemetery at 3pm on 10/25. We’ll do a corpse meditation as it’s almost Halloween! For the full calendar, weekly details, and map of the specific locations, visit here.

Paintings by Steve Cronkite

The Jonah Center recently became aware of the artwork of Steve Cronkite, a longtime Middletown resident and artist. Steve is a semi-retired civil engineer who enjoys biking and paddling in our area.  He and his husband Paul love to grow interesting trees and shrubs in their yard. Steve volunteers as a literacy tutor and is curating a new pinetum at Wickham Park in Manchester. Other paintings by Steve may be viewed on his Instagram page @s.n.cronkite_art . (The pinetum, an aboretum of pines or conifers generally, may be viewed on Instagram @wickham_park_tree_fan.)

The paintings below help us appreciate the special beauty in our own corner of the world. Do you know the scenes or locations featured below?  Answers can be found at the bottom of this post.

Where is this paddler?  What bridge is shown, from which direction?

What is the name of this hill, and where was the artist standing?

Can you guess what kind of tree this is, and where do these trees grow locally in abundance?

This type of tree is large and  rugged. It thrives in an urban environment, even under harsh conditions.

 

 

Answers:

  1. “Coginchaug Paddle” — on the Coginchaug River approaching the railroad bridge near the kayak and canoe launch from upstream.
  2.  “Higby Nightscape” — Mt. Higby viewed from the Country Club Road bridge over Interstate 91.
  3. “Moondance” — Cottonwood Tree, common  near the mouth of the Mattabesset River and on Wilcox Island
  4. “Sycamore” — Sycamores and their related hybrid species, London plane trees, are common in our area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Family-Friendly Bike Route In Portland

Portland’s Complete Streets Group has put together an in-town bike route for people who want a less strenuous ride, mostly flat, and want to stay near the town center. Below is an image of the route, but if you want to view it on Google Maps and zoom in for fine details, here is the link. 

“Replace Our Trees” Update

Thanks to the generous donors to our Replace Our Trees Campaign, the Jonah Center is planting 22 street trees around the Middlesex YMCA (red maples, dogwoods, hawthorns and lindens), and along William Street and Church Street, north and south of the Traverse Square apartments (red maples, ginkgoes, and ornamental cherries), where the Middletown Housing Authority is contributing to the cost of the new plantings.

The City of Middletown’s increased tree-planting budget, recommended by the Jonah Center last spring and supported by many who sent emails to city officials, will result in approximately 150 new trees planted by the city, according to Urban Forestry Chairperson Jane Harris, who oversees the new tree-planting operations. Continue reading

Support Pedestrian & Bike Access In The North End

Upgrading the Berlin Court Tunnel is the key to improved bike-ped transportation in Middletown’s North End. At the moment, the tunnel is a rather forlorn and unimproved underpass next to the railroad tracks under Newfield Street, near the Water & Sewer Department on the east side and Veterans Park on the west side. But it’s the safest and easiest way for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross Newfield Street, and it is heavily used.

Another improvement for pedestrians and bicyclists would be a pedestrian and bicyclist bridge from the end of Jackson St. across the Coginchaug River into Veterans Park. The old stone bridge abutments remain from a bridge at this location many decades ago. The Jonah Center began a conversation with the City in 2013 about these potential bike-ped infrastructure possibilities.

The city has now decided to renovate the Vets Park pool, construct a splashpad, and begin design and construction of the Newfield Corridor Trail, which brings into clear view the relationship these projects have with each other. Director of Public Works Bill Russo described the tunnel and bridge access route together as “an important part of the puzzle and just as much a top priority as the pool and splashpad. Those [facilities] are going to be a magnet for kids and families. I don’t want anyone from the North End having to cross Newfield Street in the middle of that high-speed traffic. Plus, this will let people walk or bike to the drugstores and other businesses around the intersection of Washington and West Streets without having to get on Route 66.”

These are exciting plans, and we are delighted about Director Russo’s enthusiasm for them. But they are still plans, and the public needs to express support for them so that they become reality over the next few years. The map below shows how many potential routes and destinations would be served by these improvements.

(Below: map showing overview & with planned or possible trail routes.)

Overview showing how the Berlin Count tunnel is the key link for bike-ped traffic crossing Newfield St.

Citizens may express their support for these key bike-ped improvements by emailing Director Russo at william.russo@middletownct.gov , members of the Common Council at council@middletownct.gov, and Mayor Ben Florsheim at mayor@middletownct.gov.

Additional details and information: Making the Berlin Court Tunnel more useful and appealing involves improved approaches from both sides, a sturdier fence or other barrier inside the tunnel to separate it from the railroad tracks, and a gradual ramp to replace the steps on the west side. Director Russo envisions the new Jackson St. bridge as part of a 10-foot-wide, multi-use trail crossing the river to Walnut Grove Road in Veterans Park, recrossing the river via the footbridge behind Palmer Field, and leading to the intersection of Washington and West Streets.

Funding for engineering and design of both the tunnel and bridge projects would most likely come from the 2015 Parks Bond, but construction costs could be supplemented through the road bond portion of the 21st Century Infrastructure Development Bond that will be on the Nov. 3 ballot in Middletown.