Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Construction of Middletown Boat Launch Begins

By John Hall and Kate Miller

Middletown’s Department of Public Works recently broke ground on the access driveway to the proposed canoe and kayak launch on the Coginchaug River. Located at the North End Peninsula along the west edge of the City’s Recycling Center, the launch will access the Coginchaug River just half a mile upstream from its confluence with the Mattabesset River and the Floating Meadows, an important freshwater tidal marsh. The area is a rare ecological gem in an urban setting, critical habitat for a wide diversity of plant and animal life including osprey, heron, wild rice, beaver, and native fish.

The construction, which began last week, represents a significant milestone in the project’s long history. The Jonah Center for Earth and Art initially proposed the launch in 2005 and in 2007 helped the City secure a $50,000 U.S. Dept. of Transportation grant. The project was then shelved by the City indefinitely. The Coginchaug River Access Group (CRAG, a committee of the Jonah Center for Earth and Art) and the City’s Department of Planning, Conservation and Development resurrected the proposal in 2010 and determined the best location and design. The project is under construction now due to the commitment of Mayor Dan Drew, the support of CRAG members, and hard work by City staff.  Final State DEEP regulatory approvals are now being sought.
The launch will be accessed near the entrance to the City’s Recycling Center at Johnson and North Main Streets (see the yellow dot on the aerial view photo). The driveway will go west, between the edge of the Recycling Center and railroad tracks to the launch ramp at the Coginchaug River (see the red dot on the aerial photo).
Mayor Dan Drew and Director of Public Works Bill Russo have agreed to use city resources  to clear and pave the entrance way so that work closer to the water can be completed next spring or summer after all the DEEP permits have been approved. The goal is to have a functional launch by next season. Interlocking concrete pavers will be installed near the water’s edge to provide a safe, stable ramp where the public can launch small boats. Larger boats on trailers behind vehicles will not be allowed.
Construction of the ramp and turnaround near the water will depend in part on some volunteer labor. Anyone interested and able to assist, especially those who can safely lift the 25 lb interlocking pavers, should contact the Jonah Center and CRAG through the website (here) or by calling 860-398-3771 to speak with John Hall.
The Jonah Center and CRAG wish to thank all those who have provided critical assistance with project to date, especially Mayor Dan Drew, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Joe Samolis, City Planner Bill Warner, Environmental Specialist Matt Dodge, Public Works Director Bill Russo, and Engineer Joe Wren.

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