Clean Water Paddle Draws Enthusiastic Group of Boaters
The joint Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC) and the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District paddle on the Mattabesset and Connecticut Rivers on August 10, 2013 was a great success. We had a big turnout and a fun morning on the river, not to mention incredibly beautiful weather. Everyone was excited about the opportunity to participate in the group paddle, and the feedback afterward was all very positive. We started in Cromwell at the Mattabesset River Canoe/Kayak Trail launch, and took out at Harbor Park in Middletown. After getting organized and shuttling cars and people back and forth to the takeout spot, everyone heard from Jacqueline Talbot, CRWC's CT River Steward in Connecticut, and CRCCD Executive Director, Jane Brawerman about each organization's--and the state's--efforts to keep our rivers clean and build awareness about water quality issues.
On the river, we had a impressive flotilla of about 20 boats. As we paddled down the Mattabesset River through Cromwell Meadows, sightings included an adult and an immature bald eagle; a great blue heron; black ducks and lots of ducklings; black crested cormorants; a kingfisher; an eastern kingbird; barn swallows; and lots of painted turtles. There were also many beautiful fields of cardinal flowers, and large stands of wild rice. It is a truly special spot--an amazingly peaceful and ecologically rich refuge, not far from a busy commercial area and several major roads. If you've never had the chance to enjoy it, you should definitely go for a paddle there! Thanks to CRWC for inviting us to partner with them on the Clean Water Paddle, and The Rockfall Foundation for the grant funding that provided boats for a number of participants.
Organic Lawn Care at Home
The District and Middletown's Project Green Lawn partners hosted a program for homeowners in early June 2014 focused on maintaining safe and healthy yards, just in time for summer outdoor fun! Many people don't realize that traditional lawn care methods can use dangerous chemicals that are very harmful to people, pets and our environment. The program was held at Russell Library in Middetown. Matt Carroll, co-owner of Jessica's Garden in Marlborough, CT, taught us the steps to having beautiful, healthy lawns that are safe to play on. Topics covered included the benefits of soil testing, aeration, and re-seeding, as well as organic methods of dealing with weeds and fertilizing, along with recommended products. We are planning for another lawn care program in the fall, so stay tuned!
Tree Swallow Cruise and Wine Tasting Raises Fun and Funds!
Our 9th annual Tree Swallow Cruise and Wine Tasting on the CT River to benefit the Connecticut River Watch Program, held on August 27, 2013 was another great success! A warm late summer evening, beautiful scenery, delicious food, plentiful fine wine, a sky full of swallows and many other bird sightings (bald eagles, cormorants, great blue herons...), and a boatful of fun people! What more could you want?!?
Thank you to our generous sponsors--CT River Expeditions, Priam Vineyards, Organic Vintages, Clinton Nurseries and R2 Graphics--and all of the cruise participants for supporting our efforts to engage our communities in working for cleaner rivers.
District Holds Workshop: Horse Keeping to Protect and Improve Water Quality
Did you know that one horse produces approximately 8 tons of manure each year? Add to that about 3 tons of bedding material, and the total amount of waste per horse per year is 11 tons!
The waste produced by horses, and other livestock for that matter, makes it essential that livestock operations are properly managed to prevent environmental impacts. This spring, the Eastern Connecticut and Connecticut River Coastal Conservation Districts joined together with the Connecticut Horse Council to hold a workshop on best management practices for horse owners. The program, held at Killingworth Equestrian Center, featured a tour to learn firsthand from practices in place at the facility. The workshop was part of an effort funded by the Long Island Sound Futures Fund to improve nutrient management at horse operations, primarily in coastal areas.
Participants, some with large facilities and some with a few horses, learned how to make a contribution to protecting and improving water quality by using best management practices, and about technical and financial resources available to help with planning and implementation.
Presenters included Dr. Jenifer Nadeau, Associate Professor and Equine Extension Specialist, University of Connecticut; and Javier Cruz, District Conservationist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Thank you to all who attended, to our presenters, and to our hosts at Killingworth Equestrian Center.
To learn more about technical assistance and cost-share funding available to horse owners, please contact our office.
65th Annual Meeting Features Tour of Wellstone Farm
Friends and partners of the Conservation District joined staff and board members at Wellstone Farm in Higganum, CT on Saturday, November 3, 2012, a beautiful fall day, for our 65th Annual Meeting. The program featured a very informative tour of Wellstone Farm, a two acre biologically managed farm growing vegetables, flowers, berries and herbs, led by Ian and Melissa Gibson, the mother and son team who own and run the farm. Participants learned about the CSA (community supported agriculture) operation, the farm's focus on organic principles and healthy soil, as well as the many environmental initiatives and sustainable practices implemented at the farm, including a composting facility, nutrient management practices, a micro-irrigation system, and energy conservation. Following the tour, everyone gathered to hear about the Districts's 2012 conservation highlights (link to pdf of Year in Review), then for a ceremony honoring our Conservation Award Winners (link to pdf list of conservation awardees).
District Holds Workshop on Managing Livestock to Protect and Improve Water Quality
Farmers and other interested community members attended the Conservation District's evening workshop on managing livestock waste, held on October 25, 2012 at the Durham Public Library. The workshop was planned as part of ongoing efforts to improve water quality in the Coginchaug River watershed, with funding from USDA-NRCS. While intended primarily for agricultural operations in the watershed's towns--Middletown, Middlefield, Durham and Guilford--others were also welcome. Presentations were geared toward any size operation, ranging from a few backyard animals, to larger horse, cattle, dairy, pig , goat, sheep, etc. farms. Presenters included Dr. Jenifer Nadeau, Equine Extension Specialist at UConn, who discussed recommended management practices to reduce pollution from livestock; Joe Wettemann, Senior Sanitary Engineer with CT DEEP, who provided an overview of manure, wastewater, and mortality management to minimize water quality impacts; and Javier Cruz, District Conservationist with NRCS, who reviewed technical and financial resources available to plan, design and install conservation practices. In addition, Dino Esposito, owner of Stoneridge Farm in N. Guilford, spoke about his positive experience working with NRCS and the Conservation District to plan and install a number of water quality improvement practices at his farm. Attendees also received a packet of resource information. Based on feedback received from participants, everyone felt the workshop was informative and useful. See the workshop flier for more information (link to PDF flier).
Coginchaug River Cleanup a Success
On September 29, 2012 the District and Middletown Regional Agricultural Science and Technology Center held a successful annual Coginchaug River cleanup at Veterans Park in Middletown. The cleanup was held in conjunction with the Connecticut River Source to Sea Cleanup, an annual four-state community cleanup of the Connecticut River and tributaries coordinated by the Connecticut River Watershed Council. Many thanks to teacher Courtney Johnson and her students, members of the community, and the City of Middletown for their efforts to help clean up the river.
Volunteers for the 2012 Coginchaug River cleanup haul the prize--
a shopping cart lugged up a steep and slippery slope--into the
dumptruck provided by the City of Middletown
2012 Tree Swallow Cruise and Wine Tasting Enjoyed by All
What better way to spend a lovely late summer evening, than tasting wine, eating gourmet food, and enjoying the beauty of the lower Connecticut River? On Thursday, August 30, 2012, fifty-two supporters joined us aboard the RiverQuest for our 8th Annual Tree Swallow Cruise and Wine Tasting to benefit the Connecticut River Watch Program. The event featured local wines from Priam Vineyards in Colchester, organic wines from all over the world provided by Organic Vintages, a delicious dinner from The Cooking Company in Haddam, all topped off by stunning scenery, bald eagle sitings, a beautiful sunset, an almost full moon, and a most amazing tree swallow show, one of the best ever seen by many of us!!! Door prizes were also given out, including gift certificates for the Conservation District's annual native plant sale, and a cruise for two on the RiverQuest; a copy of The Organic Lawn Care Manual by Paul Tukey; bottles of Priam wine; and gemstones donated by local gemologist, Jim Sipperly. A sincere thank you to all of our sponsors whose generous contributions made the cruise possible: Captain Mark and First Mate Mindy Yuknat of the RiverQuest; Gloria Priam and Gary Crump of Priam Vineyards; Organic Vintages; Clinton Nurseries; Jim Sipperly; and R2 Graphics. Many thanks also to our enthusiastic cruise participants who helped make the event such a great success...and so much fun!
Demonstration Rain Garden Built in Old Saybrook as Part of Workshop
A beautiful and functional rain garden is now featured at the Acton Public Library in Old Saybrook as a result of our "Build a Rain Garden" workshop held in September 2011. The workshop drew a great group, who came to learn about rain garden benefits and design, and then pulled up their sleeves to help construct the rain garden on-site. We were excited to partner with the town of Old Saybrook, Connecticut Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) Program, and The Rockfall Foundation on this project to to build awareness about the "green" benefits of rain gardens and promote their use to reduce storm water runoff and protect water resources. The rain garden, with accompanied educational signage completed and installed in 2012, will serve as a learning tool and inspiration for library patrons. For more information about the project, see the cover article in our newsletter (link to PDF of newsletter). To link to a PDF of the sign, click on the sign image below.
Healthy Fall Lawns Program Features Scott Reil
As a follow-up to the spring screening of the documentary about the health and environmental risks of lawn care chemicals, A Chemical Reaction (see below), Project Green Lawn hosted a talk on making the switch to organic lawn care methods on September 12, 2011 at Russell Library in Middletown. There are many things to do in the fall to prepare your lawn for the spring growing season,like seeding and spreading compost, and it is also an excellent time to begin the transition to organic methods, according to local organic land care professional, Scott Reil, who presented the program. Scott provided many tips along with a schedule for when to do what to have beautiful organic lawns that aren't harmful to us, our pets or our environment. Sponsored by Project Green Lawn (go to Community Outreach tab).
Second Annual Screening of A Chemical Reaction an Inspiring and Eye-Opening Event
Over fifty people came out on a rainy night in March to Middlesex Community College to watch our second annual screening of A Chemical Reaction, an inspirational documentary about the dangerous health effects of lawn chemicals and a community’s successful campaign to ban them in Canada. The film followed Paul Tukey, a former lawn care practitioner and founder of SafeLawns, on his path across the county and into Canada to spread the word about the dangers of lawn chemicals and how to have beautiful, lush lawns organically. Paul’s own health was affected from using lawn chemicals and at his doctor’s advice he made a transition to organic methods. He now has extensive experience maintaining organic lawns. Through the movie Paul tracked the progress of Dr. June Irwin’s efforts to ban lawn care chemicals from her town due to the medical problems she was seeing in her patients. The ban passed, was upheld by the Canadian Supreme Court and eventually spread all across Canada.
After the film Scott Reil, a Connecticut accredited nurseryman, organic lawn care professional, and representative of SafeLawns, led a discussion on organic lawn care. He answered many questions ranging from how to make the switch to organic methods, to how to deal with poison ivy, and whether crabgrass really is bad for your lawn.
Community leaders attending the event included State Representative Matt Lesser, Middletown Common Councilmen David Bauer and Dan Drew and the Director of Middletown's Water & Sewer Department, Guy Russo.
The evening ended with a drawing for a variety of fun door prizes. Winners received low water use plants suitable for use in place of grass (donated by Scott Reil); The Organic Lawn Care Manual by Paul Tukey, and a plant sale gift certificate (donated by Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District); The Healthy Home Book by Dr. Myron Wentz and Dave Wentz (donated by Cindy Snow), a Middlesex Community College t-shirt (donated by the college); and a Green Cone food digester (donated by the Middletown Public Works Department).
Little yellow signs popping up all over at the time of the screening announced the beginning of lawn care season--the time to think about what we apply to our lawns. The film makes a compelling case for chem-free, organic lawns, not only the safe choice, but the choice for sustainable, healthy and lush lawns. When human health is at stake, “better safe than sorry” as one expert aptly told it.
More information on the film can be found at safelawns.org/chemical-reaction. If you missed the screening but would like to see the film, contact Kim O'Rourke, Middletown's Recycling Coordinator at 860-344-3526 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Other useful information about organic gardening can be found on Scott Reil’s website, www.helpfulgardener.com, and on the SafeLawns website, www.safelawns.org.
The film screening was held as part of the Project Green Lawn public awareness campaign to encourage residents and businesses to maintain healthy lawns free of chemicals that are harmful to people, pets and the environment. For more information about the campaign go to the Education page on our website (Community Outreach tab).
Workshop Participants Learn About Creating Backyard Wildlife Habitat
Beginning in 2006 we were pleased to collaborate with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Project Green Lawn Partners to promote backyard conservation for wildlife at on-site seminars highlighting a Middletown resident's yard. The last such program was held on Sunday, October 4, 2009, when 20 people gathered to learn from Eleanore Milardo's yard, transformed from a lawn dominated 3/4 acre suburban lot into a diverse array of plants and habitats, now featuring 120 native species planted to enhance wildlife value. DEP Wildlife Biologist Peter Picone gave an information-packed onsite presentation and walking tour, highlighting the relationship between the native plants and abundant insects, birds, and mammals that now share the garden.
At the workshop, we were pleased to present Eleanore with an award from the District in recognition of her ongoing efforts to transform her suburban lot into a haven for wildlife using native plants, and to teach and inspire others with her yard.
In June 2010, we were saddened to learn of Eleanore's passing. As it was her wish to allow continued use of her property for workshops, we hope to continue the tradition.