News on Jonah Center Projects

The Future of South Cove

On December 13, 2012, Middletown's Director of Planning, Conservation, and Development, William Warner, made a presentation to the Jonah Center community on issues affecting redevelopment of this key area of Middletown's waterfront.

The area known as South Cove comprises the waterfront area just downriver from Harbor Park (upper left corner of photo), along both sides of River Road between Union Street and Eastern Drive.



You can download a pdf version of Mr. Warner's slideshow by clicking here:


South Church Shares Beth Atkin's Bequest

Thanks to the generous and community-minded spirit of South Congregational Church, in September 2012 the Jonah Center received a gift of $4000 from a bequest made to the church by Beth Atkin. Beth was an avid nature-lover, bird-watcher, and protector of animals, so we will honor her life and memory through our ongoing programs to help people appreciate and to protect wildlife habitat. Pictured here are some members of the congregation, including some from its Earth Ministry group, along with John Hall. South Church also shared a portion of the Beth Atkin bequest with Literacy Volunteers and the Shepherd Home.



Ecoin Meets LED Exit Light Goal

Middletown's Environmental Collective Impact Network (Ecoin) has surpassed its first goal, resulting in a positive, measurable outcome for the environment: to retrofit at least 50 incandescent 40 watt exit lights with high efficiency 4 watt LED exit lights. Ecoin actually delivered 86 of these energy efficient exit signs at no cost to local businesses and nonprofits, thanks to a $1,200 granted from the City of Middletown's Clean Energy Task Force.

The reduced environmental impact of these 86 LED exit lights represents $4,068 worth of electricity per year, the equivalent of removing 3.7 average cars from the road or reducing gasoline combustion by 2,097 gallons per year.

For more information on Ecoin, see news item below.


Construction of Canoe & Kayak Launch Begins – September 2012

After a long process that began in 2005, Middletown's Department of Public Works recently broke ground on the access path to the proposed canoe and kayak launch on the Coginchaug River. The past 7 years have involved a grant application, multiple site selections, budgeting, city approvals, DEEP verbal approvals, more site negotiations, formal DEEP permitting, much waiting, and dozens of meetings. The project is funded by a $50,000 U.S. Dept. of Transportation grant that the Jonah Center for Earth and Art secured on behalf of the City in 2007. To read the full story, click


Proposed Middletown Bikeway

The Jonah Center is the "Project Advocate" for a $800,000 federal grant application to build a $1 million multi-use trail and bikeway. The route would connect downtown Middletown and Wesleyan University with a high density residential area (Wesleyan Hills) and surrounding communities Durham and Middlefield.

On Dec. 21, 2011, Middletown's Common Council approved $200,000 in required matching funds, plus a separate $20,000 appropriation for a professional consultant to help the city design a "Complete Streets and Bikeway Master Plan" for the city. The Jonah Center is involved in the master plan, as well.

To download a pdf of the currently proposed route of the multi-use bikeway, click here.


ECoin Launched – Environmental Collective Impact Network

Building on our success in bringing people and agencies together, the Jonah Center has convened a group of key partners in Middletown that wish to work in mutually reinforcing ways to preserve the natural environment and improve the general quality of life in our city.

Participants are currently prioritizing possible shared goals in the following areas:

  • Energy Efficiency
  • Open Space & Farm Preservation
  • Low Impact Development
  • Reducing Use of Lawn Chemicals
  • Waste Reduction
  • Making Middletown More Bicycle-Friendly

Organizations taking part in the ECoin venture, in addition to the Jonah Center, are:

- The Book Bower
- Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District
- Earth Ministry
- Middlesex Community College's Sustainability Committee
- Middlesex Land Trust
- Middletown Garden Club
- Middletown's Clean Energy Task Force
- Middletown's Conservation Commission
- Middletown's Recycling Commission and Project Green Lawn
- Middletown's Urban Forestry Commission
- The Rockfall Foundation
- Wesleyan's Department of Health, Safety, & Sustainability

The Liberty Bank Foundation plays a supportive and logistic role, since the idea for an Environmental Collective Impact Network originated at their workshop on the topic in April, 2011.

In November 2011, the Jonah Center received a $1000 grant from the New England Grassroots Environment Fund to support development of the network.


$3000 Grant  

In August 2011, The Jonah Center received important continued operations support from Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corporation. This grant enables us to continue our advocacy and education work to preserve and improve access to Middletown's waterways.


Agreement reached on Kayak Launch on North End Penninsula

In October 2010, the City of Middletown agreed to use city-owned land on the North End Peninsula, adjacent to the recycling center and the closed landfill, for construction of a kayak and canoe launch on the Coginchaug River. This project will provide public access from Middletown to the freshwater tidal wetlands known as the “Boggy Meadows” where the Coginchaug and Mattabesset Rivers converge, without requiring paddlers to enter the Connecticut River. The area is known for its rich biodiversity and spectacular scenery.

The trail to the river and boat launch will begin near the entrance to the recycling center (at the north end of Johnson Street, just across the railroad tracks). The trail will follow parallel to the railroad tracks to west (down on the picture) for approximately 500 feet to reach the Coginchaug River next to the railroad bridge. The trail and ramp will be handicapped accessible, with a floating dock at the water’s edge to make kayak launching easier for everyone, including people using wheelchairs.

(Click on picture to enlarge)

The project will be funded largely by a $50,000 federal trails grant, administered by the CT DEP, that the Jonah Center initiated and applied for on behalf of the City in 2006. The Department of Public Works will provide significant in-kind services to prepare the area, including engineering work, brush removal, and grading. The trail will be meander slightly to avoid the need to remove large trees.


Harbor Park Improvement

On April 24, 2010, in cooperation with the Middletown Lions Club and AIC (Alternative to Incarnation Center), Jonah Center and First Church volunteers helped to clean up following spring floods and remove more vines and scrub vegetation from the north end of Harbor Park. This makes the area more appealing for visitors, both from the land and the water, and it helps reconnect the City of Middletown with the Connecticut River.


A few weeks later, Middletown Girl Scout Troop 62161 used some of their proceeds from cookie sales to plant lilies along the fence line as part of their environmental project.

From all such efforts during the past 2 years, residents are now using Harbor Park more and its true historical length is more visible from the river.








$3000 Grant  

In May 2010, The Jonah Center received important operations support from Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corporation. This grant enables us to continue our advocacy and education work to preserve and improve access to Middletown’s waterways.


Jonah Center’s Advocacy Results in Parking Lot Improvements and Cost Savings at Palmer Field

In May 2008, President Barry Chernoff and Executive Director John Hall testified before Middletown’s Inland Wetlands Commission, urging improvements to the proposed parking lot construction at Palmer Field. Specific recommendations included reduction of pavement area, retention of storm water run off, and a vegetated buffer to mitigate the parking lot’s negative impact on the adjacent Coginchaug River which had already suffered from recent development projects. The parking lot project is now complete, with the results of the Jonah Center’s intervention clearly shown in the photos to the left.

Top photo: Original plan included 4.0 acres of asphalt paving, extending very close to the bank of the Coginchaug River. Run off from pavement is very harmful to aquatic life.


Middle photo: Middletown’s Inland Wetlands Commission ordered a revised plan, reducing the area of pavement to 1.3 acres and including a 40 foot vegetated buffer between the parking area and the river, sub-surface storm water retention basin, pervious gravel parking of 1.7 acres for overflow parking on rare occasions when needed. The revised plan also yielded a $100,000 cost reduction for the city.

Bottom photo: A view of the vegetated buffer, which includes 70 trees and shrubs, and the gravel parking area at right. The Coginchaug River is just down the hill to the left,




A Video Tour of the Landfill

In May 2008, Wesleyan students Eric Bissell, Lesley Chapman, Zev Frank, and Amanda Herrera made a video tour of the landfill as part of the “Feet to the Fire” program:

Wesleyan Community Research Seminar

Beginning in January 2009, we are working with Wesleyan students to survey local businesses regarding “eco-friendly” practices such as recycling, energy efficiency, purchasing local products, transportation, and other factors.  We intend to identify and reward businesses that are making a significant effort to be “green” and to lay the groundwork for coordinated energy efficiency programs in Middletown. This project was facilitated by Wesleyan’s Center for Community Partnerships.


Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb Recycling

The Jonah Center has set up a CFL recycling bin on the porch of First Church of Christ, Congregational, 190 Court Street.  Any member of the public may drop off used CFL bulbs. When the 5 gallon pail is full, the plastic liner will be tied off and the pail sent via FedEx to a disposal center so that the mercury contained in these bulbs will not be released into the environment.  Note: All fluorescent lights (not just CFLs) contain mercury and must be disposed of properly.  This recycling center was provided by the Green Action Project, sponsored by NLR, Inc.


 $3000 Grant

In December 2008, the Jonah Center was awarded a $3000 grant from the Middlesex County Community Foundation in support of our educational programs and energy-related projects for residential and commercial rate-payers. The Foundation also provides excellent resources to the Jonah Center in areas such as strategic and financial development, legal issues, and more.


Middletown’s Update to the Plan of Conservation and Development

 The Jonah Center provided material for the 2008 update of the City of Middletown’s 1990 Plan of Conservation and Development.  More specifically, we submitted recommended language on Air Quality, Water Quality, and Protection of the wildlife habitat in the Coginchaug River Watershed. We focused on traffic congestion, vehicle idling at drive-through businesses, suburban sprawl, the need for more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly streets, storm water run off into local rivers, and the loss and fragmentation of wildlife habitat.


$3000 Grant  

In 2008, the Jonah Center received a $3000 grant from Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies Company, in support of our mission. The grant empowers our efforts to bring to completion the landfill gas to energy project on the North End Peninsula, to advocate for protection of the Coginchaug and Mattabesset Rivers and the Floating Meadows, and to promote recreational access and environmental education programs related to Middletown’s natural resources.

Landfill Gas Project Moves Forward

Middletown’s Common Council unanimously approved an agreement with business partners gathered by the Jonah Center for Earth and Art to move forward on the landfill gas project. 

What are the environmental benefits of this project? 

Assuming methane emissions of 150 cubic feet per minute (a reasonable estimate), flaring the gas to destroy the methane would reduce annual greenhouse gas emission equivalent to removing 2900 cars from the road.  Utilizing this same methane to fuel a 350 KW generator would be equivalent to reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions from an additional 2800 passenger vehicles or powering 280 homes for one year(Source, U.S. EPA Landfill Methane Outreach Program).

Endurant Energy LLC (Oak Terrace, IL) is the “developer;” Environmental Credit Corporation (State College, PA) will market the greenhouse gas reduction credits; William Charles Waste Companies (Rockford, IL) will determine the best location for the wells. Highland Power (Brockton, MA) will arrange for the local test well drilling. This initial phase of the project will determine the amount and quality of the gas emerging from the landfill. If there is sufficient gas, a 350 kW electricity generator will be installed to supply power to the grid.

$4,500 Grant from the Middlesex Country Community Foundation

The Jonah Center received this generous grant from our local community foundation in May 2008.  The funds are for “operations” to enhance our capacity to follow and build upon our current projects: capturing methane at the city landfill; protecting the Coginchaug River corridor; promoting the sale and development of the Remington factory building to create jobs; preserving the city’s open space; engaging city residents and students in using and developing further Middletown’s Biodiversity Database; and hosting public meetings for environmental education and advocacy. Pictured here is Ann Faust (left) Vice President of Operations for the Foundation, with John Hall on the bank of the Coginchaug River.

Feet to the Fire Festival with Wesleyan University

This eco-arts event on May 10, 2008, drew approximately 2000 visitors to Veterans Park to learn about global warming and various responses to this looming threat to all forms of life on our planet.

Vendors of local produce, exhibitions on alternative energy technology, presentations on the effect of climate change on biodiversity, and various artistic expressions (music, dance, theater, sculpture) all worked to raise public awareness of global climate change and offer ways for everyone to contribute to constructive responses.

The Jonah Center was a community partner with Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts in organizing and staffing this first-of-its-kind event in Middletown. 

Sign of Climate Change

Black-vulture-26-Jan-08-cro.jpgThis Black Vulture, along with several others, was photographed in Middletown by John Hall in January 2008. Until recently, the range of Black Vultures extended north only to the mid-Atlantic region.  The appearance of these birds is a sign that Connecticut’s climate is changing.

On September 17, the City of Middletown was awarded a grant of $50,000 for the “North End Peninsula Hiking Trail and Car-top Boat Launch.” The Jonah Center designed the project and wrote this proposal on behalf of the city in February 2006. In January 2008, the Mayor of Middletown informed the Jonah Center that this grant would be redirected toward trail improvements at Veterans Park.  Veterans Park lies at the western end of the Coginchaug River Green Corridor that has been a focus area for the Jonah Center from our beginning.

Bald Eagle

The Middletown Biodiversity Database, a joint project of the Jonah Center and Wesleyan’s Environmental Studies Program, is now available to the public through the Jonah Center website We are looking for more photos and sightings of animals, plants, and fungi in Middletown to make this resource more useful for local schools and residents. We are also building a professional database for scientific research to track changes in Middletown’s flora and fauna for purposes of planning and environmental stewardship. This mature bald eagle was photographed on the Mattabesset River by John Turley.

barn.jpgThe Jonah Center played an important role getting the $2 million bond authorization for farm and open space preservation on the ballot and promoting its passage by a wide majority on November, 6, 2007. These city funds will be matched by up to $4 million in state and federal open space grants, so that our community can secure up to $6 in land or development rights.

In September 2007, the Jonah Center received a $3000 grant from Pratt & Whitney – Middletown and was awarded a $5000 grant from the Liberty Bank Foundation. Both of these grants are for Jonah Center operating expenses and will give us the organizational capacity to complete current projects and continue our environmental leadership in Middletown.

Global Warming Project

The Jonah Center for Earth and Art became a community partner with Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts (CFA) in a unique multidisciplinary project combining art and field science to help students and the general public understand the implications of global climate change. Titled “Feet to the Fire,” the project is funded by a $200,000 grant awarded to the CFA from the Doris Duke Foundation as a Creative Campus Innovations Grant. The various components of the program (including the “Feet to the Fire Eco-Arts Festival, see above) take place on campus and in Middletown, between January 2008 and June 2009.

Landfill Gas Project

John Hall leads landfill tour.

The Jonah Center has worked diligently since late 2004 to find a way to capture and use methane generated by Middletown’s closed, unregulated landfill. Methane escaping from the landfill is approximately 21x more harmful as a greenhouse gas than CO2, so there are environmental as well as economic reasons to capture the gas. In this picture, the Jonah Center’s Executive Director, John Hall (center), is giving a tour of the landfill to Sharad Deshpande (left) from the Environmental Credit Corporation and Craig Clerkin (right) from Liquid Solutions.

Wind Power - Student Engineering Project

Students performing wind study.

In the spring semester, 2007, students at Manchester Community College designed instruments to measure and record wind speed over time. Such devices could help us determine the feasibility of installing small wind generators on the North End Peninsula as a source of renewable energy. We are especially interested in harnessing wind power to produce hydrogen from water, through hydrolysis. Jonah Center Action Team members evaluated the class projects, at the invitation of Odell Glenn, Assistant Professor of Engineering.

General Operations Funding

In September 2006, the Liberty Bank Foundation awarded the Jonah Center a grant of $7500 for operating expenses, allowing us to hire part-time staff for the first time. This support enabled us to pursue our renewable energy projects more aggressively and to organize a variety of recreational and educational programs for the benefit of the public and our local environment. In March 2007, the Middlesex Country Community Foundation awarded the Jonah Center $5000 for operations, which further extends our reach as an organization.

Open Space Acquisition

Salafia property aerialThe Jonah Center negotiated an option to purchase 20.8 acres of floodplain property along the Coginchaug River from the children and grandchildren of Phil Salafia Sr. and Angelina Salafia, who acquired this property in the 1950s when they lived on nearby Catherine Street. (In the photo, the acquired property is the crescent of land to the left of St. John's cemetary. The landfill on the North End peninsula can be seen at the top.)
Middletown’s Common Council unanimously approved the purchase of this open space as the first parcel of a prospective “Green Corridor” extending from Veteran’s Park to the North End Peninsula. This corridor offers habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, including deer, bear, beaver, and herons. With this acquisition, city residents will have access to this waterfront property for passive recreation. The purchase price is $20,000, thanks to the generosity of the Salafia family. Phil Salafia, Jr. said, “We’re taking a minimal price for this land to pay tribute to my deceased parents and sister Hunna “Josephine” Salafia Mays.

The city acquired the property officially on Oct. 13, 2006.  The property has an interesting history, going back to the Native Americans who camped and fished with bow and arrows along the banks of the Coginchaug River at this location. The property's history is summarized in this article by Grant Walker, PhD.

Green Building Design

Alpine house modelIn February 2006, Wesleyan Architecture student Josh Aronson presented the results of his research regarding a future Jonah Center building to about thirty individuals, including Mayor Sebastian Giuliano, City Planner William Warner, and several members of Middletown’s Common Council. A Jonah Center building, constructed using sustainable materials and design, would draw visitors from a wide area and provide them with a powerful educational experience. Shown here is an example of sustainable architecture from England: The Alpine House in Kew Gardens. To read a PDF of Josh Aronson’s research paper, click here (7.2MB).

Landfill Methane Assessment

Students performing methane study.

The Jonah Center's preliminary study of the city landfill (capped in 1991) to assess its potential as a source of useable methane was completed in the fall of 2005. The study was conducted through a Wesleyan Geochemistry course taught by Professor Timothy Ku with support from a Service Learning Grant from Wesleyan's Center for Community Partnerships. Students presented their findings at a public meeting at First Church on Dec. 20, with about sixty people in attendance. The study and landfill modeling yielded an estimate that 209 cubic feet of methane is released from the landfill per minute. 

The Jonah Center sent the data from the Wesleyan study to the U.S. EPA Landfill Methane Outreach Program, which analyzed the results to determine whether it was economically feasible to capture and use the gas.

Walking Trail to the Top of the Landfill Mound

The Jonah Center has designed a walking trail to the top of the landfill so that visitors may enjoy the spectacular view of the city and the surrounding marshlands. We also worked with city officials to plan a car top boat launch on the west side of the North End Peninsula (on the Coginchaug River). On behalf of the city, the Jonah Center prepared an application for a federal “recreational trails” grant to fund this project. The City of Middletown’s Department of Public Works has pledged generous in-kind support to build an access road and to use city machinery and personnel in the construction effort.

Renewable Energy Demonstration Projects

We are exploring the feasibility of biomass, landfill methane, wind, solar, and bio-diesel demonstration projects with assistance from the University of Connecticut School of Engineering, Connecticut Innovations, and other renewable energy consultants.

Biomax 50

An exciting new renewable energy option is the process of “biomass gasification.” The energy stored in the cellulose of wood can be extracted by gasification (heating the wood in a low oxygen environment) and then using the gas as fuel for a generator. Pictured here is a BioMax® small modular gasification system developed by Community Power Corporation, of Littleton, Colorado. These portable, distributed generation systems can exhibit efficiencies in excess of 70% by using the solar energy stored in biomass for both heat and power. For every 2 pounds of dry wood chips the BioMax can generate 1 kWh of electricity and about 2 kWh of heat. In a year, a single modular biopower system could convert about 175 tons of wood chips to energy, saving the city $22,000 in electricity costs alone. Approximately 7500 cubic yards of wood chips per year are produced from brush and trees brought from all areas of the city to the recycling center; therefore, several BioMax systems could be deployed on a sustainable basis.

Connecticut Clean Energy Communities

The Jonah Center is promoting the purchase of Clean Energy Certificates by residents and businesses of Middletown and encouraging the City of Middletown to adopt the 20% by 2010 challenge. For more information on this program, visit

Environmental Art

Susan Brown, former Curator of the Laumeier Sculpture Park and Museum in St. Louis is our primary resource in the area of environmental art. We are contemplating earth mounds, stone cairns and arches, flowering vegetation patterns, and a whale-shaped vine arbor, and decorative screening and fencing made form brush and tree limbs deposited at the recycling center.