Declaration of a Climate Emergency — An Update

On September 8, 2020, the City of Middletown Common Council voted unanimously to pass a Declaration of a Climate Emergency “that threatens the existence of our civilization and the natural world.”  The declaration included bold statements of resolve: to make the declaration the “foundation up which the City of Middletown shall develop future priorities, legislation, policies, plans, budgets, and actions; to end City-generated greenhouse gas emissions by 2030; to establish plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by both the City and the wider community; and to advocate for coordinated climate action at the regional, state, and federal levels.”  The Declaration included recognition that environmental justice is a racial justice issue and that “an equitable transition to a fossil-fuel-free economy requires full community participation.”

Over the past year, we haven’t heard much in terms of follow-through on the Declaration. Continue reading

Portland Receives National Roadway Safety Award

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the Town of Portland’s Complete Streets achievements in recent years. This National Roadway Safety award recognizes the town’s sidewalk replacement program, road improvements, digital speed sign installation, bicycle routes, and the Air Line Trail.

The Jonah Center is proud to have played a role in all of these developments — in the formation of the Air Line Trail Steering Committee and the Complete Streets Group in 2014, and by urging the town to take advantage of a state-sponsored road safety audit that qualified the Town for 2 Connecticut DOT Community Connectivity grants.  John Hall and former Jonah Center Board member Bob Herron co-chaired the Sidewalk Committee.  Portland citizens and Town officials have been very supportive and resourceful in support of these initiatives.  Congratulations, Portland.

Shown below at the Award Ceremony are (from left to right): Rosario Rizzo, Air Line Trail  Committee; Lou Pear, Air Line Trail Committee and Selectman; Midge Malicki, Alice Schumacher, and Kathy Herron of the Complete Streets Group; Bob Shea, Public Works Director; Susan Bransfield, First Selectwoman; Jim Tripp, Selectman; and Mary Dickerson, Economic Development Consultant.

Speak Out For The Environment

In light of increasing threats to the environment and inadequate response from all levels of government, the Jonah Center and Ecoin (the Environmental Collective Impact Network) are ramping up citizen action.  We need more people to get involved, and we need to focus and coordinate our efforts more sharply.

In short, WE NEED YOUR VOICE. You can join this effort by filling out the questionnaire below. Tell us what you care about most — enough to send an email about it.  Stay informed by joining our email lists — if you aren’t already on them.  THANK YOU.

Help Us Make A Better World

A Sad Sight at West & Middlefield Streets

A land parcel at the intersection of West St. and Middlefield St. in Middletown (just west of the Aldi’s and CVS development at West & Washington) was approved for 17  town houses by Inland Wetlands and Planning and Zoning in recent years. Now the property  is now for sale by the owner. (See rendering of project below.)  Apparently, there are no regulations to prevent tree removal when there is no immediate construction planned. The photo below and commentary are from Ecoin member Zoemma Warshafsy, who lives nearby.

The majority of this property was nicely wooded with large mature trees that have now all been clear cut and stacked in giant piles. This area now looks devastating and the clear cutting was a complete waste of forested area along a sensitive river habitat. There is trash everywhere on the property as well. It has been like this for about two weeks and there is currently no sign of activity for further cleaning up the property. It could sit like this for years if it is not bought. Clear cutting before a property has a buyer is a terrible process that has no clear benefits for the environment or the adjacent land owners. What a sad sight to see every morning.

Middletown’s Clean Energy Task Force Kicks off Funding Campaign and HeatSmart Program

The City of Middletown, through its Clean Energy Task Force (CETF) and its CHEER Middletown program, has partnered with SustainableCT’s Matching Grant program and People’s Action for Clean Energy (PACE) to provide important energy-related programming in the City of Middletown.

CHEER is CETF’s program helping local residents address health and safety barriers in their homes in order to facilitate energy efficiency improvements and improve access to lower cost renewable energy. The HeatSmart program helps residents explore ways to improve how they heat and cool their homes by using efficient, electric heat pump systems.  Together, the programs provide information and resources including educational events, home energy assessments, and connections with energy and remediation experts as well as local heat pump installers. Continue reading

City Implements Complete Streets Improvements on Spring Street

Congratulations to Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim and the Public Works Department for supporting and implementing the Complete Streets Committee’s recommendation to reduce cut-through traffic on  Spring Street by making it one-way eastbound between High Street and Rome Avenue.

The Complete Streets Committee pushed to include a westbound bike lane in the one-way section, since Spring Street is included in the Air Line Trail – Farmington Canal Connector Route and is important for bicyclists riding from Portland into Middletown. The City decided to include bike lanes in both eastbound and westbound directions, which will reduce illegal parking that narrows the travel lane. In a WTNH News 8 interview, the Mayor supported the development of off-street parking in the area to address the need for resident parking. Continue reading

Trees Planted In Portland

As of today (late June 2021) the Jonah Center has been successful in planting 17 trees in “high public benefit” areas in Portland. 8 trees were planted in the Quarry Heights and Chatham Court neighborhoods of the Portland Housing Authority (see above); 3 trees were planted in the Quarry View Brownstone Park; 3 trees were planted on East Main; 2 trees were planted on Main Street; and 1 was planted on Waverly Avenue.  We thank all the Portland donors to the Jonah Center Tree Fund who made these new trees possible. Pictured above are: Milca Santiago; Bonita Brockers and her son Cartier Brockers; Jesslyn Jordan her daughter Savannah LaFountain and son Travis LaFountain.

Shown above is one of the red maples planted at Quarry View Park.  Pictured are Darlene Rice (co-owner of the park) and John Hall. Photo credit: Dean Soucy, the other co-owner and park developer.

The Quarry View Park assumed 1/2 of the cost by delivering and planting the trees themselves, and Portland Housing Authority paid 3/5 of the cost of the ornamental trees they received. Most of the 17 trees were larger-growing shade trees such as red maple, oak, London plane, and linden.

Below are the 2 red maples and 1 pin oak on East Main Street near Fairview.

 

 

Air Line Trail – Farmington Canal Trail Connector Route

The Jonah Center’s most far-reaching project is to connect the 2 longest multi-use trails in Connecticut.  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 a 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. We have reason to believe that our projected will be successful when awards are announced by CT DOT in November 2021.

The ALT-FCT Connector would 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.