(Courtesy of News@Wesleyan)
As part of the GIS Service Learning Laboratory course, Katy Hardt ’15 researched the wetlands, waterways and critical habitats of the northwest section of Middletown.
Hardt and fellow group members John Murchison ’16 and Catherine Reilly ’15 presented their findings to the Middlesex Land Trust.
Five groups of students enrolled in the Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Service Learning Laboratory course E&ES 324 spent their semester helping local organizations learn more about land parcels in the City of Middletown.
On Dec. 1, the students presented their research to fellow students, faculty, staff, community members and community partners.
Kim Diver, visiting assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, taught the class, which included included lessons on geographic information systems (GIS) concepts and spatial data analysis and visualization.
“GIS are powerful tools for organizing, analyzing and displaying spatial data,” Diver explained. “GIS has applications in a wide variety of fields including the natural sciences, public policy, business, humanities or any field that uses spatially distributed information. In this class, students worked to solve local problems in environmental sciences.”
The students worked closely with community partners from the Middlesex Land Trust, Middletown Conservation Commission, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and others to design a GIS, collect and analyze data, and draft a professional-quality report to the community.
Kim Diver, visiting assistant professor of
earth and environmental sciences, taught the class.
Erin McGrath ’16, Angus McLean ’16, Abrial Meyer ’16 , Dara Mysliwiec ’16 analyzed 355 land parcels in the Sumner Brook Corridor in Middletown based on eight factors to rank the parcels by importance to conservation. These included land value, elevation, proximity to water, wetlands, and open space as well as natural diversity, building cover and woodland cover. The data is generated for the Middlesex Land Trust to help in their acquisition of conservation property.
“This is such valuable material, and we’ve already purchased 100 acres of land as a direct result of classwork from a previous Wesleyan GIS class,” said community partner David Brown, director of The Middletown Land Trust. “I expect this class work will be similarly used in the future.”
Angus McLean ’16 speaks about protected open space
near the Sumner Brook Corridor in Middletown.
During the group presentations, Katy Thompson ’15, Rebecca Sokol ’15,
Chloe Holden ’15 and DeNeile Cooper ’15 discussed ways they’ve
incorporated student-mangedland areas into the
Wesleyan campus maps.
Katy Thompson ’15, Rebecca Sokol ’15, Chloe Holden ’15 and DeNeile Cooper ’15 worked with Wesleyan’s Physical Plant to create two updated versions of the Wesleyan campus map.
One map targets a Wesleyan-specific audience and includes student-managed land areas of campus, such as the Long Lane Farm and land managed by WILDWes. The students also created an online “story map” for visitors and prospective students.
“The story map is more user-friendly than the Physical Plant map and prioritizes information interesting to a non-Wesleyan audience. Pop-ups provide blurbs, images and external links for buildings ranging from residential to administrative to dining,” Cooper explained.
Sophie Breitbart ’16, Mackie Hemphill ’15, Tessa Hill ’17 and Chloe Nash ’16 assessed the desirability of land parcels that the Middletown Conservation Commission may acquire and conserve for open space. They analyzed five properties in Middletown via factors such as proximity to city water and sewer systems, distance to most populous census tracts, and whether it’s within land designated as containing valuable protected habitats.
Jeffrey Hauser ’15, Guy Davidson ’16, and Nolan Daley ’16 worked with Steve Gephard of the Inland Fisheries Division of DEEP to map dam locations and the water impoundment areas along the Coginchaug River for the purposes of fish habitat quality and migration.
Tessa Hill ’17 and Sophie Breitbart ’16 analyzed five
properties in Middletown including the
Wesleyan Woods Preserve (pictured).
The Middlesex Land Trust hosted its Annual Meeting at the Signature Palmer Taylor Preserve and had a wonderful turn out in spite of the light rain and mildly cool weather. About 30 hearty members turned out to participate in a short business meeting to elect two new board members and celebrate the Land Trust’s 27th Anniversary. Steve Gephard, a nationally known fisheries biologist who works for our own Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection gave a fascinating talk about the internationally recognized Connecticut River Estuary and the important habitat it provides for many species of birds and fish that it supports.
A walk on the newly reworked trails of Palmer Taylor Preserve was held though few took advantage due to the wet terrain. The hard work by the Stewardship Committee Trail Crews, however, was clearly evident all around the event. Most people attending preferred to join in conversation and refreshments at the Historic Erinmore Barn located at the Trail Head.
A great time was had by all.
On Wednesday evening, about forty or so people braved the cold to come out to the deKoven House in Middletown to attend a program about woodland management and its role in open space conservation.
Sponsored by The Middlesex Land Trust, along with the Jonah Center for Earth and Art and Middletown’s Environmental Collective Impact Network (Ecoin), the program featured local experts Tom Worthley, UCONN Professor of Forestry from the Middlesex County Extension Center, and Jeremy Clark, a CT Certified Forester and newly elected member of Middletown’s Planning and Zoning Commission. Both Tom and Jeremy gave wonderful presentations and then lead a wide ranging discussion about the goals and process around management plans and managing open space.
Protecting key parcels of open space – woodlands, farms, floodplains, and shrub lands – is important to preserve our community’s rural beauty and biodiversity. And in our role as stewards of these properties, it is important that we set goals and plan to manage them for their optimum benefit to human residents and the many other plant and animal species in our ecosystem.
The meeting was very positive about what can be accomplished, and in the end generated a working group of local commissions, environmental groups and concerned citizens who will focus on the management of town owned land in Middletown.
For more information or to join the working group, contact the Middlesex Land Trust.
The Middlesex Land Trust is pleased to invite all members and their guests to our 2014 Annual Meeting. The meeting will be held on Saturday, April 26th at the Erinmore Barn on MLT’s Palmer Taylor Preserve located at 258 Middle Haddam Road in Portland. A short business meeting will begin at 9:30 with a presentation on the Connecticut River Estuary at 10:00, to be followed by refreshments and a short walk on the preserve. Come join us as we celebrate our 27th Anniversary, and explore the upgraded trail system at our flagship Palmer Taylor Preserve.
The Middlesex Land Trust is pleased to announce the election of two new members to the Board of Directors.
In October, the board of the land trust voted to seat two new members on the Board of Directors: Kim Diver and Caleb Corless. Both Kim and Caleb come to the land trust from the Wesleyan community and both have been active supporters and volunteers of MxLT. They will serve on the board in interim capacities until the next Annual Meeting of the land trust in April when they may be elected to serve for a full term on the board.
Kim Diver is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences and an Affiliated Faculty Member of Environmental Studies at Wesleyan University. Her doctoral degree is from Syracuse University with an academic background in geography, specifically the biogeography of plants in insular systems and geographic information systems (GIS). Kim grew up on ten acres of woods surrounded by farmland that was in the Conservation Reserve Program, and she enjoys kayaking, hiking, biking, photography, some birding. Kim is an advocate of land trusts for their important role in building community around conserving the rural character and ecological services of open spaces.
Caleb Corliss is a Middletown resident and a Master’s candidate in Biology at Wesleyan University. He hopes to apply his research work on the basic biology of invasive species to help improve land management practices. Caleb hails from northern New Hampshire, where he spent the summer of 2013 working in stewardship for the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust of North Conway. Along with a background in biology and an enthusiasm for land conservation, Caleb brings a working knowledge of GIS to his volunteer work with the land trust that has been invaluable to the land trust’s mapping project.
The Middlesex Land Trust is very happy to welcome Kim and Caleb to the board.
The land trust would like to express our thanks to the local businesses that have assisted our stewardship efforts over the past season. Thanks to THE PAINT SPOT of Cromwell who provided exterior concrete paint at cost for our work crews to cover over some recent graffiti. And thanks to the HUBERT E. BUTLER CONST. COMPANY for donating the cost of several deliveries of trail materials to our trail crews at the Palmer Taylor Preserve. And a big thank you to Len Suzio, from SUZIO YORK HILL of Meriden, for contributing several tons of gravel for use at MLT’s signature Highland Pond Preserve.
Thank you for supporting the land trust. Your freely given donations and in kind services help MLT to continue to care for and preserve the precious land resources we have in Northern Middlesex County. Without assistance from local businesses, it would be far more difficult. It’s great to know you have our back. Thank you!
By Kim Diver
A geographic information system (GIS) is a powerful software tool that allows users to manage, analyze, and visualize geographic data – and November 20 was National GIS Day!
GIS Day is a part of National Geography Awareness Week, and every year the Connecticut GIS User to User Network hosts a GIS day event at the State Capitol in Hartford. The event included presentations, conversations, and posters of maps. This year the GIS Map Gallery, on display during the month of November, included a poster describing the successful community service-learning partnership between Wesleyan University GIS students and the Middlesex Land Trust. The recent MxLT mapping project developed several new maps for preserves created by students of GIS at Wesleyan and the land trust working together using our new GIS system. And more Wesleyan teams are working this fall with the Middlesex Land Trust and GIS to generate new maps and information to help conserve open space in Middlesex County.
Mike and Cochise at the Wolf Talk
Mixing wildlife, environment and education – wonder was brought to Portland’s Riverfront Pavilion last August in the form of a wolf named Cochise.
Long time Middlesex Land Trust member John LeShane brought together five not-for-profit partner organizations to cosponsor a Wolf Talk Educational Program presented by Michael LeBlanc. And Mike brought along his organizations beautiful female ambassador wolf: Cochise.
The land trust, combining resources with the Mashamasic Hiking Club, the Brownstone Quorum, Mattabeseck Audubon and the Portland Historical Society, brought the Wolf Talk Educational Program from Massachusetts to the Riverfront Pavilion where the hundred or so folks who attended, both young and old, got to learn about wolves in the wild – and were delighted to meet Cochise up close. While Cochise did not seem overly happy to be so displayed, Mike shared his immense knowledge and experience with great enthusiasm about both free roaming and captive wolves. Mike spoke from experience having worked with wolves for 35 years, and his talk focused on the eating habits, pack structure and wolf behavior in the wild. Furs, skulls and other items from the forest were also on display, and many questions were asked and answered. Fun was had by all!
Check out Wolf Talk on the web at: www.wolftalk.net
To celebrate Earth Day, several youth volunteers from the Middletown VoAg School helped out at MLT’s newest preserve, Shailer Ledges, in the Maromas section in Middletown. Fifteen young folks and two teachers descended on the preserve early in the day and cleared a large pile of debris from the woods. This tremendous effort by the kids is part of preparing the new preserve for marking, mapping and trail building to make the preserve ready for passive recreation. They were all terrific, and the Land Trust would like to thank Teacher Courtney Johnson and her team for a job well done. THANK YOU!
That's all, folks!
The Middlesex Land Trust has recently acquired a rather unique property located in the Maromas section of Middletown. Comprising 22 +/- acres, the property is characterized by steep outcrops and ledges enclosing deep ravines. The donors wish to remain anonymous, so MLT has gone back in time to find a suitable name for the property. Land records research revealed that the parcel was historically known as the “Shailer Tract”, named for an early 19th-century owner. Combining this reference with a physical description, MLT has named the property the “Shailer Ledges Preserve”.
The property is bounded westerly by Maromas Road, southerly by Aircraft Road, easterly by land of Pratt & Whitney (the jet engine plant) and northerly by CL&P powerlines. Best access to the property is made from an old highway (part of the original River Road) that climbs easterly from the southerly terminus of Maromas Road to a steep ridge on the southeasterly boundaries. The ridge provides a sporting scramble, but an easier approach follows another old road into the central ravine. Steep and bold ledges overlook the ravine and provide more scrambling opportunities for adventurous visitors. A loop trail will be established that will lead hikers up and over the top of the ledges along the northerly boundary. The trail will be blazed and mapped and ready for travel by late spring or early summer 2013.
This part of Middletown was formerly occupied to a much greater extent than it is today, as evidenced by the Maromas Cemetery opposite the Preserve on the south side of Aircraft Road. The poignant epitaphs on many of the gravestones harken back to an earlier time, when many lives were cut short by disease and preparation for the afterlife was a primary concern. Prior to the colonial era, the riverbanks and hillsides were home to bands of Wangunk Indians, and the central ravine may have been occupied by native wigwams and hogans. The evidence is circumstantial, but the topography resembles locales in Portland and on Haddam Neck where deep-sided ravines provided secure flanks and an easily defensible front, where the historical record notes that small groups of Wangunks made their last resorts up to the end of the 18th century. An overhanging rock shelter on the westerly flank of the ledges contains an ancient hearth, and seems likely to have been occupied in pre-contact times as a hunting camp.