Milestones and Key Events in the Jonah Center’s History

April – November, 2020

The Jonah Center’s Replace Our Trees campaign succeeded in adding $50,000 to the City of Middletown’s tree-planting budget ($8,500 to $58,500) to address heavy tree losses in recent years.  $20,000 was raised from private donors for trees in Middletown and Portland. Between July and November, 127 new trees were planted.

June, 2019

Ribbon-cutting for the multi-use trail on Long Lane, for which the Jonah Center was the project advocate in 2011 when the design and construction was awarded federal funding.

November, 2018

Successfully lobbied Middletown’s Department of Public Works to begin design phase of $4 million Newfield Corridor Trail.

October 28, 2017

Ground-breaking ceremony and beginning of construction work  on Portland’s section of the Air Line Trail.  The Jonah Center initiated a strategy to rebuild the Air Line Trail in Portland on  Nov. 26, 2013.  (See below.)

July 3, 2017

The Jonah Center, working through Ecoin and other environmental organizations, successfully pursued adoption of a City of Middletown ordinance  to protect children from toxic lawn chemicals. The Common Council voted 11-1 in favor of the ordinance amendment.

November, 2016

City of Middletown’s Parks Bonding Referendum includes $4 million for “bike paths” — specifically the Newfield Corridor Trail which will connect the downtown area with the Westlake section of the city and the Mattabesset Bike Path.

November 26, 2013

Program “Bringing the Air Line Trail to Portland” attended by 70 residents.  Speakers were John Shafer, president of the Jonah Board of Directors, Dianne Rhodes, Portland Town Planner, and Robert Haramut of the Lower CT River Valley Council of Governments.

November 5, 2013

Passage of Road Bond Referendum, including the $200,000 for a sidewalk on Saybrook Road requested by the Jonah Center and the Complete Streets Committee.

 May 18, 2013

Historic Dam Walk – 30 individuals visited 5 of Middletown’s dams, including the “First Dam” where settlers in 1650 built a grist mill on Pameacha Brook.  This event was preceded by the November 8, 2012 Jonah Center program (co-sponsored by the Middlesex County Historical Society)  “Harnessing the Waterways: the History of Dams in Middletown” by Elise Springer

December, 2011 –

Jonah Center Executive Director John Hall and board member Beth Emery are appointed by Mayor Dan Drew to organize and lead the City of Middletown’s Complete Streets Committee. 

November, 2011

The Jonah Center is the project advocate in Middletown’s application for an $800,000 federal grant for a multi-use trail from Wesleyan Hills neighborhood to downtown Middletown. The grant was awarded, but subsequent legislation by Congress divided the funding schedule into 2 phases, of $400,000 each. 

Dec. 2012 – Jan. 2013 

The Jonah Center was the only environmental organization offering oral testimony at a CT DEEP hearing to protect snapping turtles in  Connecticut.  Subsequent legislation limited commercial trapping of Chelydra s. serpentine for the first time in the state’s history.

 August 2012 –

Ecoin’s LED Exit light retrofit project results in 86 fixtures donated to local businesses.

 June 30, 2012

 River Paddle and Removal of Water Chestnuts from Floating Meadows, with U.S. Fish and Wildlife specialist Cynthia Boettner.

 November 2011

First meeting of Ecoin (Environmental Collective Impact Network) to bring together diverse environmental organizations in Middletown to achieve common goals with a positive, measurable impact on the environment.  Areas of activity selected were energy efficiency, chemical free lawn care on city property, open space acquisition, waste management, a plan to make Middletown more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly, and low impact development.

October 11, 2011

Envisioning South Cove. Jonah Center program with Director of Planning, Conservation and Development Bill Warner. This program brought public awareness and support for decommissioning the sewage treatment plant on River Road which, in turn, made possible the redevelopment of Middletown’s waterfront.

 October 2010 

After 3 years of work, agreement is reached between the Jonah Center committee CRAG (Coginchaug river Access Group) and City of Middletown on location of boat launch on the Coginchaug River at the North End Peninsula, adjacent to the city’s recycling center.

January 2010 

Testimony before the Common Council in support of the proposed Energy Plan for the City of Middletown.

 September 10, 2009

21st Century Community Learning Center program awarded Middletown Public School a  five-year grant of $585,000 for after-school program on environmental science education, with the Jonah Center the community partner.  The Jonah Center assisted in creation of the environmental framework (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water) for the program and recruited local science educators as workshop leaders.

January 5, 2009

Advocacy and Testimony before Middletown’s Common Council on the city’s acquisition of development rights for 25 acres of the Merriam Christmas Tree Farm with frontage on the Coginchaug River to prevent future negative impacts on the Coginchaug River.  The property is ripe for residential development.

July 9, 2008

Testimony before Connecticut Energy Conservation Management Board (ECMB) regarding the CT Energy Efficiency Fund to streamline and coordinate programs for consumers.

May 10, 2008 

Feet to the Fire Festival at Veterans Park, as community partner with Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts and Environmental Studies Program.

June 2007

The first education paddle led by the Jonah Center, launching at Harbor Park and paddling to Wilcox Island, and from there up the Mattabesset River to the Floating Meadows and the Coginchaug River.  45 individuals participated.  Professor Barry Chernoff provided commentary on the ecology of the river and freshwater, tidal marsh.

May 7, 2008

Testimony before Middletown Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission regarding proposal by the City PublicWorks Dep’t to enlarge and repave parking lot at Palmer Field.  Commission voted not to expand capacity and to require vegetated buffer and other environmental protections between parking lot and Coginchaug River. These modifications reduced the paved area from 4 acres to 1.3 acres of asphalt and reduced the cost by $100,000.

 June 2007

Assisted the Environmental Credit Corporation in drafting a proposal to the City of Middletown to install methane collection wells on the city’s closed landfill and use the collected landfill gas to generate electricity and/or heat. The project was to be financed in part by the sale of greenhouse gas reduction credits and renewable energy credits. Endurant Energy was brought into the partnership to purchase the gas the generate electricity. In the end, the project could not be constructed due an assessment by the CT Clean Energy Fund that the landfill was too old and the methane too depleted for the project to be economically viable.

June 2006 – February 2007•

Applied for and obtained a ruling from the Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC), declaring the BioMax 50 gasifier a Class I Renewable Energy Source. This ruling made the unit, which obtains heat and electricity from woodchips with virtually no pollution, eligible for 50% funding from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund. Preliminary to seeking this funding, John Hall and several officials from the Department of Public Works traveled to Massachusetts to see a BioMax 50 gasifier. After thoroughly inspecting the system and discussing its operation, the consensus was that the BioMax is in too early a stage of development to be a cost-effective generation system for the city.

June 2007

Actively assisted in organizing and implementing BioBlitz 2007, a project of UConn, Wesleyan, and the City of Middletown that took place on June 8-9. The brought 160 scientists from all over the United States to Middletown and resulted in the identification of 2,231 species (not including bacteria) in a 24 hour period. The Jonah Center purchased and installed 25 weather-resistant species identification markers for the plants and trees in the wooded area behind Snow School.

 March 2007

John Hall testified before the Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC) on the CT Clean Energy Options Program and submitted testimony to the Energy Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly on state energy policy. Also, the Hartford Courant published John’s op-ed article titled “A Smarter Approach to Power” in January 2007.

February 2007

Obtained a grant from the Rockfall Foundation to partner with Wesleyan University’s Environmental Studies program in creating an on-line database of plants and animals in Middletown. The database link was activated in September.  1800 plant and animal species found in Middletown have been entered into the database.

September 2006

Received a $7,500 grant from the Liberty Bank Foundation in support of general operations, particularly to hire a part-time Executive Director/Project Developer and support program costs. This has allowed us to grow as an organization and actively build on our strategic partnership with the city; continue coalition building through educational programs on community development, energy issues, and the local environment; and work toward developing alternative energy technologies in the North End. This report provides an overview of the Jonah Center’s activities and accomplishments during the grant period of 10/1/06 to 9/30/07.

July – November 2007

Engaged key city politicians and personnel in support of a “smart growth” approach to the redevelopment of the Remington Building to bring jobs and renewable energy technology to the North End neighborhood. John Hall worked with Middletown’s Economic Development Commission in drafting a Request for Proposals (RFP) to interest an appropriate developer in taking control of this project in a manner consistent with the Jonah Center’s mission.

 October 2006 – November 2007

The Jonah Center hosted a public forum on Open Space Acquisition at which members of Middletown’s Conservation Commission and City Planner Bill Warner made presentations. Mayor Sebastian Guiliano was also present to explain the process that leads to open space acquisition. 75 members of the public attended. The Jonah Center played a key role in generating support from Middletown’s Common Council for placing an open-space bond authorization referendum on the ballot.  The bonding referendum passed by a wide margin.

November 2006

Collaborated with the North End Action Team (NEAT) to distribute and install energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs and lamps free to low-income households in Middletown’s North End. The Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund provided the light bulbs and lamps, and the combined effort of Jonah Center and NEAT volunteers changed over 1,500 light bulbs in 202 households.

October 2006

Concluded the acquisition by the city from Phil Salafia of 21 acres of open space along the Coginchaug River for $20,000. This was the first step in creating a “green corridor” between Veterans Park and the North End Peninsula. The Jonah Center negotiated the purchase of this land at a favorable price on behalf of the city, thereby establishing a benchmark for future city acquisitions of open space in thatarea.

 September 2007

Obtained for the City of Middletown a $50,000 federal Recreational Trails grant to construct a 1.4 mile, handicapped-accessible, interpretive hiking trail and a car-top boat launch on the North End Peninsula. The Jonah Center applied for this grant on behalf of the city in March 2006.

September 2006

Received a $7,500 grant from the Liberty Bank Foundation in support of general operations, particularly to hire a part-time Executive Director/Project Developer and support program costs. This early grant allowed the Jonah Center grow as an organization and actively build on our strategic partnership with the city; continue coalition building through educational programs on community development, energy issues, and the local environment; and work toward developing alternative energy technologies in the North End.

November 2005

Middletown’s Common Council approved a $25,000 grant to the Jonah Center to be used to for grant-writing and development of future projects. 

March 2005

The Jonah Center received certification from the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

November 30, 2004

The “organizational meeting” of the Jonah Center, Inc. as a legal corporation in the State of Connecticut.