“Every day, weather permitting, I walk up and down High Street on the sidewalk across from my house,” says Ben Foley. “When the weather is nice, I like to go to the Portland Reservoir or the Air Line Trail.”
As many Portland residents know, when Ben was 14 years old, he survived a stroke caused by a rare arterio-venous malformation (a type of aneurism) that resulted in partial paralysis and weakness on his left side. Recovery from that was slow and difficult, but with hard work in physical therapy, he regained the ability to walk a significant distance with a cane by the time he finished high school. By the time he finished college, he walked everywhere on campus. Continue reading
by a Middletown resident
Middletown city representatives have been working hard to provide information about the RIVERBEND development planned for Middletown. The project is being developed very carefully, with information, opportunities to provide input, and time for discussion along the way. The successful completion of the project could help make the best of Middletown and its thriving Main St.
The Riverbend exhibit is adjacent to Perk on Main, in the Main Street Market mall at 386 Main Street and provides up-to-date information on the development, all in one place.
The exhibit has everything needed to begin to understand the current state of planning for Riverbend project. It provides information in various formats, from maps and photos to descriptions & illustrations of proposed stages of development. And it’s meant to evoke the kind of thoughtful input hoped for from Middletown residents.
The exhibit is a clear indication that people involved in planning the project really want & value your input: Without your input they’re not going to be able to consider your thinking on this very important development brewing in our up-and-coming community.
Middletown values your opinion and input. I urge you to look at this excellent exhibit and leave your feedback on the yellow pad. Other information is available at Return to the Riverbend, on the City of Middletown’s website. Also see Dan Haar’s article in the February 26, 2021 issue of Connecticut Magazine, “What’s next for CT’s struggling cities? Middletown’s Main Street may show the path forward.”
A key goal of Connecticut’s climate change mitigation plan is to “decarbonize the electricity sector” by 2040. This will require, among other measures, rapid expansion of solar power, which now accounts for 2.5% of the electricity produced in our state. The challenge is daunting. So far, we are not on track to meet it.
But a key opportunity lies in the vast square footage of commercial rooftops and parking lots. So let’s do it, right?
Unfortunately, state regulations currently place a 50 MW cap on new commercial solar projects and the Shared Clean Energy Facilities (SCEF) program is capped at 25 MW. SCEF allows low- and moderate-income ratepayers to own part of a solar system and enjoy the economic benefits. These two caps, together, permit only 78,000 megawatt hours of solar electricity to be added each year. That is less than .2% (two-tenths of one percent) of the electricity generated in Connecticut — hardly a path to decarbonize the grid.
To help change solar regulations, send us a message through the “Contact” button in the menu bar above.
A study to determine the best route for the Newfield Corridor Trail is underway. Design and construction of the trail was funded by the 2015 Parks Bond, and assigned a budget of $4 million. This multi-use bikeway will be an extension of the Mattabesset Bike Trail southward from Tuttle Road to Veterans Park. (To access a Google Map of the Newfield Corridor Trail options that you can zoom in on to see details, click here.)
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”