Who’s Walking In Portland

Cora Chenier is a proud and happy walker.

The coronavirus pandemic has been hard on everyone, but especially on elementary school children. It’s an age of rapid development – intellectual, social, and emotional. When students had 3 days per week of “virtual” classes from home, learning was limited. Children’s development was restricted just when it needed stimulation through adventure, growing independence, and socializing with classmates.

But despite those limitations, families found ways to make the most of a rough time. That was the case for Cora Chenier, who became a walker. During the pandemic, school buses carried their own obvious risks. So, in spite of some sidewalk deficiencies in the neighborhood, Cora and her parents found a safe route to school using side streets and a “back entrance” to Gildersleeve School. Some of Cora’s friends were dropped off at her house by their parents, so they could all walk to school together. It became a “walking school bus.” Continue reading

Traffic Calming in Portland

First Selectman Ryan Curley was the first to sign the Pace Car Pledge.

By Amanda Foley

Portland’s Complete Streets Group (CSG) invites Portland residents to participate in the Pace Car program by signing a pledge to drive safely, courteously, within the speed limit, and to share the road with pedestrians and cyclists. A Hartford Courant article published on 3-19-22 stated that the number of pedestrians struck and killed by cars on Connecticut roads has more than doubled in the past 10 years. Factors cited include speeding and distracted driving. Portland Complete Streets Group has introduced this Pace Car program as a traffic calming initiative to address these factors. Continue reading

Close Lyceum Road & Protect Wildlife Habitat

This article (not including the update at the end) originally appeared on June 9 in the Middletown Press.

Lyceum Road in May 2022. Photo credit Jon Morris.

Over the past winter (2021-22) Middletown’s Department of Public Works proposed to close Lyceum Road, a 3/10-mile road south of Randolph Road, between Millbrook and Chamberlain Hill Roads. It crosses Sumner Brook (below) and its surrounding floodplain. For years, the road has been in chronically poor condition due to its low elevation and frequent flooding.

Culverts through which Sumner Brook passes under the road.

The Public Works Department consulted the Middlesex Land Trust, South Farms Fire District, the Middletown Police Traffic Division, and the Mayor about the option to close the road to motor vehicles and let it continue as a linear park for pedestrians and bicyclists. All parties found no objection to closing the road as recommended.  In fact, the Middlesex Land Trust, that owns most of the property on both sides of the road as part of the South Farms Preserve, had previously requested the road closure due to the frequent flooding and to protect local wildlife.  There are no abutting residences that require Lyceum Road for access.

Middlesex Land Trust’s “South Farms Preserve” Photo credit Jon Morris

At the February 9 meeting of the Public Works & Facilities Commission, the Public Works Department explained that the road foundation is easily washed out due to flooding, resulting in road surface potholes. The road could theoretically be reconstructed with better drainage at an estimated cost of $750,000, plus permitting and inspection costs.  The damage to the animals and plants in the area from such a project would be severe — all for a 3/10-mile road that is no longer needed. Continue reading

Paddling Season Is Here!

The Jonah Center is looking for paddlers to help save the Floating Meadows (Mattabessset River) in Middletown from invasive water chestnut. This is a fun, satisfying activity — combining paddling, teamwork, enjoying beautiful scenery and wildlife. We are looking for 20-30 volunteer paddlers on each of the 4 Saturday mornings, 9-11 a.m. We launch from and return to the canoe and kayak launch near the Middletown transfer station. (Navigate to 185 Johnson Street.) It’s an activity everyone seems to enjoy! Continue reading

Dams of Middletown — Past & Present

A Jonah Center tour of local dams included the remains of Middletown’s first dam on Pameacha Brook near Sumner Brook. Photo credit: Trevor Davis

MIddletown’s First Dam (Stroud’s Dam) at an earlier, unknown date.

Recently, discussions about the removal of several dams from Middletown waterways have arisen. The primary reasons for dam removal are 1) to allow fish migration 2) to prevent flooding upstream from the dams, and 3) because several dams are in danger of failing.  The dams in question now are along the Sumner Brook watershed and Sawmill Brook (west of Route 91).

Back in 2013, Wesleyan Professor Elise Springer (then a Jonah Center board member) developed a survey and map of Middletown’s dams and their history. A significant factor in Middletown’s development in the 17th and 18th centuries was the availability of water power for grist mills, saw mills, and manufacturing.  View Professor Springer’s website Dams of Middletown, Connecticut — Past and Present Dams.

5 Climate Bills Pass

After several years of virtually no progress on climate-related legislation in the Connecticut General Assembly, we finally have some good news. As of May 2, five bills have passed in the Senate and the House of Representatives and have been signed into law by Governor Lamont.

  • SB 176 doubles the caps on commercial and industrial solar, allowing more rapid deployment of renewable energy. Of all the bills under consideration, SB 176 was the primary focus of the Jonah Center and Ecoin’s Citizen Advocacy program. It supports the goal of decarbonized electricity sector by 2040, a goal included in the state’s Comprehensive Energy Plan and the Integrated Resource Plan. Thank you and congratulations to everyone who sent emails to your legislators. It clearly made a positive difference. SB 176 passed with broad bipartisan support.
  • SB 10 establishes in state law the commitment to achieve a fully decarbonized electrical grid by 2040. This  bill also passed with broad bipartisan support.
  • SB 4 strengthens the Clear Air Act to add incentives and deploy electric vehicles such as school buses and other government vehicles; tightens emission standards for medium and heavy duty trucks that are a major source of air pollution; and adds charging stations to encourage EV deployment. SB 4 was passed by Democrats, along a strict party line vote.
  • HB 5327 authorizes measures for electric distribution companies to deploy electricity storage to support more use of renewables and to increase resiliency of the electrical grid.
  • SB 5200 authorizes a study and pilot project on the generation and use of hydrogen in the state’s energy system.

Here’s how our local State Senators and Representatives voted on these bills.

 

If you’d like to become a Citizen Advocate, let us know by using the Contact tab. You will receive occasional action alerts pertaining to local and state-wide environmental opportunities and challenges.

Our Black Bear Neighbors

Bears are a wonderful part of the earth’s community, and they can coexist with humans very nicely. But it is critical that we do not become a source of food for bears. Birdfeeders and unsecured trash containers are tempting to bears and can lead to bears’ presence becoming problematic. Having said that, enjoy this video captured by Tom Humphreys in Portland.

Air Line Trail – Farmington Canal Trail Connector Route Update

The Jonah Center’s most far-reaching project — to connect the 2 longest multi-use trails in Connecticut — was awarded a $350,000 route study grant by CT DOT this past February. We are well on our way to making the connector route a reality for regional bicyclists.

Of the 23 miles between the western terminus of the Air Line Trail in Portland and the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail in Cheshire, approximately 8.5 miles already exists in the form of shorter trail segments along the way. Another 8.6 miles has been planned or is in the process of being planned. That leaves about 5.5 miles in need of a routing study.  The project has was recognized in state law in 2019 as the Air Line Trail – Farmington Canal Trail  (ALT-FCT) Connector. 

The Jonah Center collaborated with the Lower CT River Valley Council of Governments (the RiverCOG) in applying for the grant of $350,000 to study the whole connector route, with particular focus on the 5.5 miles between Smith Street in Middletown and North Broad Street in Meriden, and Newfield Street in Middletown. The grant was awarded by CT DOT in February 2022.

The ALT-FCT Connector, when completed, will use off-road trails for about 16 miles, and about 7 miles of on-road bike routes — provided that some sections of the Air Line Trail railroad bed and some parcels that include the old Middletown-Meriden trolley line can be utilized. Completion of the ALT-FCT Connector would result in completion of a 111-mile Central Connecticut  Loop Trail (shown below). Click here for a Google Map of the Loop Trail that allows you to zoom in for more detail.

 

Who’s Running In Portland?

Since 1980, Bob Sequenzia has been running and walking on the Air Line Trail, even when it was an overgrown dirt path prior to its reconstruction for public use in 2016. He runs year-round, but when there is deep snow on the ground he runs a loop on local roads — Job’s Pond, Middle Haddam, Penfield Hill, and Pepperidge. He enjoys the feeling of accomplishment from finishing a run. He starts out with his wife Barbara, also an avid exerciser, before they diverge onto their different routes. Since the pandemic began, Bob has ramped up his routine to 6 days a week, covering 30-35 miles per week on average. Continue reading

Talking Trash with the City’s Recycling Coordinator

As most of you are aware, the state is bracing for a trash disposal crisis.  In CT we are losing the capacity to handle our waste in-state, which will increase the impact on the environment and increase costs for everyone.

It is Important we take action at all levels – government, businesses and individuals. Here are some updates. Continue reading

An Invitation From Middletown’s Complete Streets & Bikeways Committee

by Laura Baum

We are a city committee and we meet on the second Monday of each month at 7pm (via Webex). We would love for any citizen to attend a meeting and get to know our friendly, collaborative team. Every new person brings new insights.

In the broadest sense, we’re working to make Middletown a safer and more enjoyable place to bike and walk. Some people choose to bike and walk, for others it’s a necessity. We work with city staff and raise issues and draw attention to big multi-year projects like the Long Lane bike path all the way down to small, but important sidewalk gaps. We maintain a map of priority walking and biking routes and we see ourselves as watchdogs for people who walk and bike in Middletown. Where do we need sidewalks, how could the city make it easier to bike where you want to go? Continue reading