Route 9 Middletown-Cromwell Multi-use Connector Trail

The proposed connector trail is indicated by the yellow line. The Arrigoni Bridge is at the bottom.

Let’s make it possible to bicycle or walk safely from downtown Middletown to Main Street in Cromwell via a multi-use trail constructed on the existing access road the lies parallel to Route 9, between the highway and the railroad tracks.

Here’s the background: Governor Lamont’s Executive Order No. 21-03, signed on December 16, 2021, lists actions to be taken by CT State agencies to achieve the goals of the Governor’s Climate Change Coalition (GC3).  Among them was this item:

DOT shall set a 2030 vehicle miles traveled reduction target and develop a plan of investments to contribute to and encourage the achievement of such targeted reductions. Continue reading

Middletown Open Space Purchases 2019 – 2021

By Elisabeth Holder – Chair of the Acquisition Committee of the Middletown Commission on Conservation & Agriculture

Since the $5-million-dollar Open Space Bond was passed by voters in 2019, about three quarters of the money has been spent to acquire properties. Middletown’s Commission on Conservation and Agriculture has been inspecting properties for sale using a 14-point criteria evaluation while balancing costs and benefits to Middletown residents.  Each property was assessed using the same criteria, such as the presence of aquifers and water bodies, distance to high-density census tracts, and suitability for different kinds of recreation. Once a total score has been tallied, the properties with the highest scores were appraised, and discussions were pursued with the owners regarding possible purchase by the city. Whenever possible, grants and additional funding sources were used to offset the purchase cost.

In the last two years about 275 acres have been added to the 1,100 acres of open space in Middletown that had been preserved in previous years. This represents a 26% increase in conservation lands. Continue reading

Butternut Street & Park Accessibility Improvements

Governor Lamont has announced that improvements to Middletown’s Butternut Street and Park will be funded in the amount of $580,000 through the CT DOT Community Connectivity grants program. Phases 1 and 2 of the project include a sidewalk from West Street to the park and completion of a paved walking trail around Butternut Pond for park users. Phase 3 of the plan (which may not be fully funded by this grant) calls for a realignment of Thomas Street to allow for a larger parking lot, needed because the recently improved park attracts many users.

Middletown’s Complete Streets Committee and the Jonah Center began advocating for this project several years ago, since Butternut Street has no sidewalk even though the park is heavily used. Butternut Street links the Wesleyan campus and West Street. This is a priority area in the city’s Complete Streets Master Plan. The Governor’s Press Release on this and other projects can be found here.

 

Who’s Walking In Portland

To promote healthy activities like walking and bicycling, Portland’s Complete Streets Group and the Jonah Center celebrate those who serve as an example for others. Monica Jensen, a recently retired nurse, walks 4-5 miles a day, usually early in the morning, through her neighborhood, past the town schools and community centers such as the library. Sometimes she takes her granddaughter’s service dog, Liberty, out to the Riverfront Park.

As an RN who managed programs to prevent diabetes, heart disease, and strokes, Monica said, “The health benefits of walking and biking motivate me, but I’m also inspired by my mom, aunts, and uncles who have stayed active and thrive into their 80s and 90s. My grandchildren inspire me, too. I want to be able to sled, bike, play with them, and someday dance at their weddings. Continue reading

Middletown Power Plant Sold to ArcLight Capital Partners

Power plant on River Road now owned by ArcLight Capital Partners. Photo by John Hall, taken from Portland

In our previous newsletter, we reported that last Middletown’s Common Council terminated the tax agreement with NRG (strongly opposed by the Jonah Center and local advocates in a public hearing last April). That tax agreement would have supported a new 375 MW fossil gas turbine generator at a time when the state is trying to wean itself from electricity generated by fossil fuels.

Since that newsletter, we have learned that NRG, in December, closed on its sale of 4.9 gigawatts of generation capacity in New York, New England, and California to ArcLight Capital Partners and its subsidiary, Generation Bridge, for $760 million.

In a press release, ArcLight announced that it does not plan to go head with the 375 MW fossil gas project proposed by NRG 2019. It’s plan, rather, to develop renewable energy and energy storage. The River Road plant in Middletown is an obvious site for a storage facility due to the high voltage transmission line associated with the site and due to the 200 MW of offshore wind currently being developed in Long Island Sound, which will require an updated grid and nearby storage capacity. To read the press release click here: ArcLight Closes Acquisition of 4.9GW Power Generation Portfolio from NRG Energy.

New Swap Shack Open

Middletown’s new Swap Shack at 185 Johnson Street (part of the city’s transfer station) is open just in time for Christmas. There are lots of toys and other times for free pick-up. Pictured below are the new building and some of the offerings inside.  For information on what kinds of items can be dropped off, and where larger items like furniture can be donated or dropped off, click here.

Who’s Walking In Portland?

In its mission to promote healthy and eco-friendly activities like walking and bicycling, Portland’s Complete Streets Group wants to celebrate those who already engage in these activities and serve as an example for others. Shown here is Jeff Burgess who walks 4 miles on Main Street every day, from Edgewood Road to the Arrigoni Bridge and back, in any weather. He said, “After I retired, I started walking to get in shape. It clears my head and gives me time to think about things or listen to a podcast. The round trip takes me about 1 hour and ten minutes, unless I run into someone along the way and stop for conversation.”

Asked if anything along the way interfered with his enjoyment of walking, he cited broken and uneven sidewalks in some places and property owners who don’t remove snow and ice after storms in the winter. As for any tips he’d offer as encouragement to others to start walking, Jeff said, “Try out Main Street. It’s flat. Take it slow at first and gradually increase your distance. It might be tough to get started, but once you get moving, you’ll enjoy it.”

NRG Power Plant Tax Agreement Terminated in June

NRG power plant in Middletown as seen from the Air Line Trail in Portland. Photo by John Hall

The Jonah Center recently learned that the tax agreement between the City of Middletown and Middletown Repowering (the NRG entity that proposed a new 375 MW gas turbine at the plant on River Road) was terminated at the June 7 meeting of Middletown’s Common Council. The issue was not on the meeting agenda, but rather was “taken off the table” during the meeting.  It passed unanimously.

This is good news for those who are concerned about climate change and local air pollution, and for tax payers. (The agreement froze taxes at the 2019 level until the project became operational.) Still, in light of the high level of public engagement in the preceding months, how and why the agreement was terminated without our knowing about it and without a public statement is a bit of a mystery,. Continue reading

Ask Common Council to Support TCI

The Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) is a carefully constructed regional plan to  reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.  If  implemented, TCI will create allowances for the wholesale distribution of oil and gas, place a fee upon those allowances, and invest the resulting revenue in clean public transportation, electric vehicle infrastructure, and non-motorized transportation options such as bike routes. Over time, the allowances will decline and the cost will rise, to ensure lower emissions from transportation.

The emission reductions will occur because the revenue from the sale of allowances will be invested in clean transportation. For example, more electric school buses will use less gasoline and diesel fuel. That will also reduce emissions of particulate matter (PM) that are so harmful to respiratory health, especially for children whose developing lungs are especially vulnerable to particulate matter pollution. Asthma is often a direct result of PM pollution, and diesel school buses are notorious emitters of PM.

In short, TCI will produce a double benefit: 1) reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and 2) reduce air pollution that is especially harmful to children and low income residents of who live near highways and congested streets where air pollution is the worst.

In the 2021 session of the Connecticut General Assembly, TCI was vigorously opposed by Republicans and the oil and gas industry who called it a disguised gas tax that would lead to exorbitant gas prices at the pump that would ruin the economy and hurt the poor. But TCI actually includes a mechanism to ensure that the wholesale fees will not raise gas prices by more than 5 cents per gallon. And if Republicans really wanted to help the poor, they could 1) expand the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit that would offset a higher price for carbon, and 2) relieve the poor from the harmful effects of air pollution.

Since retail gas prices have risen in the past months, TCI is sure to face stiff opposition from its usual opponents. But if we delay climate action until a time when it is easy, painless, and convenient, we can be sure that no action will happen.

Urge Middletown’s Common Council and Mayor Florsheim to urge our local legislators and the leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly to pass legislation to enact TCI.

 

 

Finally, It’s Becoming A Reality

The City of Middletown is now constructing a walking trail to the top of the retired landfill — a project that the Jonah Center has been advocating since 2005. The views from the top are spectacular, and sure to be a magnet for residents of the North End and elsewhere.  We will let our readers know when the trail is open for public access.  Below are some pictures of the site taken 16 years ago, when our project advocacy began.

On November 6, an article on the project appeared in the Middletown Press.

View from the landfill mound south to downtown.

View from the landfill mound looking north over the Floating Meadows (Mattabesset River). Cromwell is in the background.

Aerial view of the landfill mound (center).

“Bugsgiving” at Wesleyan, 11/20

Fun, educational, and delicious – learn about why edible insects are the future of food from one of the world’s foremost leaders in the industry. Come join us to learn about the many benefits of entomophagy (eating insects) and to taste some delicious insect-based dishes prepared by chef Joseph Yoon! There will be activities, tastings, and more! Please bring a chair/blanket and your friends and family for our Bugsgiving picnic, and RSVP at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bugsgiving-tickets-19186267542.
 
Chef Joseph Yoon founded Brooklyn Bugs in 2017 with the mission to normalize edible insects, and has worked closely with museums, universities, and institutions to fundamentally change the way we can reimagine them as a sustainable, nutrient dense, and delicious sources of protein. His work has been featured on PBS Nova, The New York Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, BBC, Popular Science, Live with Kelly and Ryan and much more.