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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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.

 

Middletown Common Council Adopts Declaration of Climate Emergency

As you may have noticed, our national government has utterly failed to provide leadership in the face of the global climate crisis. Once we get through the Covid-19 pandemic — another area of failed leadership — we will still face this even more threatening, though slower moving, crisis. Regardless of what you hear on the evening news lately, climate change has not been put on pause. What are concerned, climate-conscious citizens to do? In addition to reducing our individual carbon footprints, we need to take political action at the local level. Continue reading

Is your garden producing more than you can use?

It is that time in the season when you may have more cucumbers and zucchini then you can eat or put up.  If you find yourself in this situation, consider donating your excess produce to our local food pantries and put it to good use.  Details for Middletown and Portland are below:

Middletown

Amazing Grace Food Pantry, 16 Stack Street, Middletown, CT

Drop off on Wednesdays and Fridays 9 am – 5 pm

Bring produce around back

Questions? Call Kathleen Kelly at 860-347-3222

Portland

Portland Food Bank, Waverly Center – 7 Waverly Avenue, Portland, CT

Drop off on Mondays 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm

Bring produce to Food Bank, door at the bottom of ramp. Please wear a mask.

Questions? Call Ruth Maio at 860 342-0527

Water Chestnut Control Efforts

For the past 4 years, the Jonah Center has organized work parties of 20-30 paddlers each to remove invasive water chestnut (trapa natans) from the Floating Meadows, the 1000 acre freshwater tidal marshland formed by the Mattabesset and  Coginchaug Rivers.

The map above indicates the primary location of plants in the previous few years. This year, plants are visible upstream from this area, where the “Mattabesset River” label is seen, and still father upstream from there, where the river turns sharply to the right at the top of the map. These are the areas of primary focus.

Due to the pandemic, the Jonah Center has not organized large work parties. We have encouraged  paddlers to go out solo or in small family groups.  Bring a large plastic bag, gently pull up plants by the roots, place them in the bag, and deposit the plants near the informational kiosk in the boat launch parking area.

If you are able to pull more plants than you can carry, please place them on one of the floating drying rafts anchored in the area. The plants will drain, dry out in the sun, lose most of their weight and volume, and become easier for others to bring back to the launch site by motor boat.  We will ask the Public Works Department to dispose of them when plants have accumulated.  Please contact us if you have gone out to remove plants and let us know what you have found in terms of location and number of plants.  We will all do the best that we can.

This plant drying raft was designed and constructed by Jonah volunteer Mike Thomas.