April 25, 2017

Archives for February 2017

Stonewell Farm Hosts Two-Day Workshop on Dry Stone Wall Building, April 29, 30

Andrew Pighill’s work includes outdoor kitchens, wine cellars, fire-pits, fireplaces and garden features that include follies and other whimsical structures in stone.

Andrew Pighill’s work includes outdoor kitchens, wine cellars, fire-pits, fireplaces and garden features that include follies and other whimsical structures in stone.

KILLINGWORTH — On April 29 and 30, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily,  Andrew Pighills, master stone mason, will teach a two-day, weekend long workshop on the art of dry stone wall building at Stonewell Farm in Killingworth, CT.

Participants will learn the basic principles of wall building, from establishing foundations, to the methods of dry laid (sometimes called dry-stacked) construction and ‘hearting’ the wall. This hands-on workshop will address not only the structure and principles behind wall building but also the aesthetic considerations of balance and proportion.

This workshop expresses Pighill’s  commitment to preserve New England’s heritage and promote and cultivate the dry stone wall building skills that will ensure the preservation of our vernacular landscape.

This workshop is open to participants, 18 years of age or older, of all levels of experience. Note the workshop is limited to 16 participants, and spaces fill up quickly.

You must pre-register to attend the workshop.  The price for the workshop is  $350 per person. Stonewell Farm is located at 39 Beckwith Rd., Killingworth CT 06419

If you have any questions or to register for the workshop, contact the Workshop Administrator Michelle Becker at 860-322-0060 or mb@mbeckerco.com

At the end of the day on Saturday you’ll be hungry, tired and ready for some rest and relaxation, so the wood-fired Stone pizza oven will be fired up and beer, wine and Pizza Rustica will be served.

About the instructor: 

 Born in Yorkshire, England, Andrew Pighills is an accomplished stone artisan, gardener and horticulturist. He received his formal horticulture training with The Royal Horticultural Society and has spent 40+ years creating gardens and building dry stone walls in his native England in and around the spectacular Yorkshire Dales and the English Lake District.

Today, Pighills is one of a small, but dedicated group of US-based, certified, professional members of The Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA) of Great Britain. Having moved to the United States more than 10 years ago, he now continues this venerable craft here in the US, building dry stone walls, stone structures and creating gardens throughout New England and beyond.

His particular technique of building walls adheres to the ancient methods of generations of dry stone wallers in his native Yorkshire Dales. Pighills’ commitment to preserving the integrity and endurance of this traditional building art has earned him a devoted list of private and public clients here and abroad including the English National Trust, the English National Parks, and the Duke of Devonshire estates.

His stone work has been featured on British and American television, in Charles McCraven’s book The Stone Primer, and Jeffrey Matz’s Midcentury Houses Today, A study of residential modernism in New Canaan Connecticut. He has featured  in the N Y Times, on Martha Stewart Living radio, and in the Graham Deneen film short  “Dry Stone”, as well as various media outlets both here and in the UK, including an article in the Jan/Feb 2015 issue of Yankee Magazine.

Pighills is a DSWA fully qualified dry stone walling instructor. In addition to building in stone and creating gardens, Pighills teaches dry stone wall building workshops in and around New England.

He is a frequent lecturer on the art of dry stone walling, and how traditional UK walling styles compare to those found in New England. His blog, Heave and Hoe; A Day in the Life of a Dry Stone Waller and Gardener, provides more information about Pighills.

For more information, visit www.englishgardensandlandscaping.com

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Acton Library Screens “Selma,” April 28

OLD SAYBROOK  — The Acton Public Library in Old Saybrook will be hosting two film series on Fridays beginning this January and running through May of 2017 using new film projection equipment and a new 12 ft. movie screen in the Grady Thomas Room.  All are welcome to both series. Admission is free.

“Explore the World Through Arts and Adventure” will run second Fridays at 1 p.m. and will include films that explore other countries and cultures through various art forms such as dance and music, and through adventure. Details of the series are as follows:

Jan. 13: An American in Paris
Feb. 10: Seven Years in Tibet
March 10: White Nights
April 7: Out of Africa (first Friday due to April 14th closing)
May 12: to be a announced on the APL website and in the library.

“The School Series” will run fourth Fridays also at 1 p.m. and will include artistically and historically educational films. Local school groups will be invited to join for these films at Acton. Details of the series are as follows:

Jan. 27: Fantasia
Feb. 24: Constitution USA with Peter Sagal
March 24: O. Henry’s Full House
April 28: Selma
May 26: to be announced on the APL website and in the library.

For more information, call The Acton Library at 860-395-3184, or visit the library during regular hours: Monday through Thursday 10am – 8:00pm, Friday and Saturday 9am – 5pm or visit on-line at www.actonlibrary.org .

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‘Stop Ageism Now!’ Forum Scheduled at Essex Library Tonight at 5:30pm

ESSEX — St. Luke’s Community Services, a non-profit in Middletown, is co-hosting a ‘Stop Ageism Now! forum’ at Essex Library this evening, Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

This open community conversation will look at ageism in terms of:

  • Prejudicial attitudes toward older people old age and/or the aging process;
  • Discriminatory practices against older people;
  • Institutional practices and policies that perpetuate stereotypes about aging.

Ageism is an often overlooked barrier that exists across most communities in the U.S. Ageism puts unfair limitations on older adults’ abilities to live to their fullest potential and devalues them as individuals (Source: www.stopageismnow.org).

As part of the Middlesex County Gatekeeper Program mission to advocate for successful aging and independence, St. Luke’s is committed to building awareness, breaking down stereotypes and challenging attitudes to Stop Ageism Now.

In the upcoming months, the organization will campaign to Stop Ageism Now as well as in the coming years work to create a culture in Middlesex County whereby the life experiences and achievements of older individuals are celebrated. Their ultimate goal is to bring back the belief that aging is a natural part of life and not a problem to be solved.

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Middlesex Land Trust Offers Two Hikes, April 29

Middlesex Land Trust Alliance President Emeritus Rand Wentworth

Join the Middlesex Land Trust on an afternoon guided hike at one of our beautiful preserves following our annual meeting on April 29, 2017. The hikes begin at 1 p.m. at the Mica Ledges Preserve in Durham and the Palmer Taylor Preserve in Portland.

The Mica Ledges Preserve has marvelous views from the mica-studded ledges, great jumbles of large boulders (e.g. Pyramid Rock) and a lovely pond. Meet at the Cream Pot Road parking lot at the end of Cream Pot Road at 1 p.m.

The Palmer-Taylor Preserve in Portland hike features an easy loop through the beautiful wooded Palmer-Taylor Preserve at a family-friendly pace. This trail has large rocks to climb and a scenic spot overlooking the Connecticut River. This 90-acre preserve features the historic Erinmore Barn, wooded uplands, large hay fields, two ponds and Taylor Brook on the property. Meet at the Barn at 258 Middle Haddam Road in Portland at 1 p.m.For more information on the hikes, please visit www.middlesexlandtrust.org.

The hikes will follow the Middlesex Land Trust’s 2017 Annual Meeting in celebration of its 30th year and 1000th acre preserved featuring Rand Wentworth, Land Trust Alliance President Emeritus, as the special guest speaker. The meeting will take place at 9:30 a.m. on April 29, 2017 at the deKoven House located at 27 Washington Street in Middletown, CT.

A short business meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. followed by a presentation by Rand Wentworth at 10 a.m. Wentworth will discuss the challenges, changing roles, and importance of land trusts.

Rand Wentworth, visionary and effective leader for permanence of land conservation in America, was named President Emeritus of the Land Trust Alliance after a 14-year tenure as President. The mission of the Alliance is to strengthen land conservation by supporting land trusts through increased professionalism, training and education, political support, insurance and legal resources, and by building public support for land conservation across America. The Alliance is a national conservation organization that represents and supports more than 1,000 member land trusts across the country.

According to Wentworth, “Land trusts bring out the best in America: generosity, community and selfless service. At a time when our federal government is tied in knots, land trusts find win-win solutions by working locally and cultivating respectful relationships. Land trusts transcend politics and affirm our common love of the land.”

Before joining the Alliance, Wentworth served as Vice President and founding director of the Atlanta office of the Trust for Public Land. Before working in land conservation, he was president of a commercial real estate development company. Currently, Wentworth teaches at Harvard University’s Kennedy School as the Louis Bacon Senior Fellow in Environmental Leadership at the Center for Public Leadership. Wentworth is a graduate of Yale University and holds an MBA in finance from Cornell University.

A reception and light lunch will follow with two guided hikes on land trust preserves scheduled for the afternoon. For more information or to let us know if you are coming, call us at (860) 343-7537; email us at info@middlesexlandtrust.org; or visit our website at www.middlesexlandtrust.org. Space is limited.

Since 1987, the Middlesex Land Trust has been dedicated to the preservation of land for all to enjoy. Working in Cromwell, Durham, Middlefield, Middletown, East Hampton, Portland and Haddam Neck, the Middlesex Land Trust has preserved, owns and manages over 1000 acres in 52 preserves. For additional information about the Middlesex Land Trust, visit www.middlesexlandtrust.org.

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Annual Pancake Supper Today at All Saint’s, Ivoryton, Benefits Refugee/Immigrant Organization

ESSEX — Because of the extraordinary challenges faced by refugees in the present climate, All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Ivoryton plans to dedicate the proceeds of its annual pancake supper, to be held on Tuesday, Feb. 28, to the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services of Connecticut (IRIS). This event is open to the general public and will take place at the Deep River Congregational Church, at 1 Church Street, Deep River, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Ashley Makar, the Director of Community Co-Sponsorship at IRIS and a graduate of Yale Divinity School, will speak about the organization’s work and the plight of refugees, from 6 to 6:30 p.m. followed by a pancake supper from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Tickets are $10.00 and can be obtained from area churches, Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe
Zedek, at the door, and online at https://pancakesuppertobenefitiris.eventbrite.com.

If you have questions about the event or would like to volunteer services, contact John Yrchik, chair of this event, at jyrchik@comcast.net.

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‘Winthrop, CT: Who We Were – Who We Are:’ Deep River Historical Society Hosts Talk, April 27

Winthrop Country Store was located at Winthrop Four Corners and believed to have burned down in the late 1800’s. It was considered the town’s marketing center. Photo courtesy of Deep River Historical Society

DEEP RIVER — The Deep River Historical Society is holding a free presentation on the history of the small northwestern section of Deep River, known as Winthrop. This event is planned for Thursday, April 27, at 7 p.m. in the Carriage House on the grounds of the Stone House, 245 Main Street, Deep River.

Cindi Stannard, Board Trustee and Treasurer, will present an illustrated talk on the history of Winthrop from the founding of the Baptist Church in 1744 to the present day. Several slides will be shown and the history of what they were and perhaps what they are today will entertain the guests.  Anyone with stories or recollections of that period in time is encouraged to come and share.

Winthrop School for Young Ladies. Part still remains today but large portion was moved to Ivoryton for residential housing and is part of Ivoryton Inn today.
Photo courtesy of Deep River Historical Society

Winthrop has a strong history of mills and factories that established the settlement and provided a living for the local residents.

For more information, contact Cindi Stannard 860-526-3301

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Celebrate 110 Years of Montessori Education at Circle of Friends Today

CHESTER — Students and staff members at Circle of Friends Montessori, 25 West Main St., Chester, invite community members to come join in their celebration of Montessori Education Week with two special open houses.

Come take a firsthand look at their child-centered, individualized approach to education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first female physician in Italy.  See how multi-age groupings, a rich curriculum, and hands-on materials can benefit young children and help them to develop a lifelong love of learning.

The classroom will be open on Monday, Feb. 27, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. and again on Friday, March 3, from 4 to 6 p.m.

For more information or to schedule a visit, call (860) 526-9995.

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All About Hemp: Jeff the Plant Guy Presents at Deep River Public Library, April 26

DEEP RIVER — Jeff the Plant Guy returns to Deep River Public Library on Wednesday, April 26, at 6 p.m. Jeff Eleveld, Horticulture Therapist and Educator, will discuss the hemp plant.  Learn about hemp’s medicinal benefits, its fascinating past, including why it was made illegal and its future in today’s society

Participants in this class will get an opportunity to plant their own Canadian seeds that were brought through customs and are 100 percent safe.

Registration is required for this program. Space is limited. Call the library to find out more information.

For more information, visit http://deepriverlibrary.accountsupport.com and click on the monthly calendar, or call the library at 860-526-6039 during service hours: Monday 1 – 8pm; Tuesday10 am – 6 pm; Wednesday 12:30 – 8 pm; Thursday and Friday 10 am – 6 pm; and Saturday 10 am – 5 pm.

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‘The Kate’ Hosts Annual Fundraising Oscar Party Tonight

OLD SAYBROOK — The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, The Kate, will hold a fundraising benefit on Oscar Night, this Sunday, Feb. 26, beginning at 7 p.m. and continuing until the Oscars are all awarded!  The Oscar Party is The Kate’s annual red-carpet event that honors 12-time Oscar-nominated, four-time-winning theatre namesake, Katharine Hepburn, while also making for a great party.

  • Walk the red carpet.
  • Pose for a photo or two.
  • Bid on an auction item.
  • Hold a real Oscar.

Watch the Oscars live on The Kate’s gigantic screen as you indulge in delicious appetizers, treats, and beverages.  Come and celebrate like a star!

A few individual tickets to attend the event are still available at www.thekate.org or call 877-503-1286.

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Inter-Religious Clergy of CT River Valley to Hold Three-Part Interfaith Dinner Reception; Second at Meriden Mosque, April 24

AREAWIDE — An Inter-Religious Clergy Alliance of CT is organizing an unifying three-part Interfaith Dinner Reception and Scripture study of spiritually awakening proportions free and open to all ages and backgrounds. Amid rising divisiveness, multiple religious communities, including Jewish, Christian, and Islamic, of CT River Valley are uniting on an educational platform to celebrate the affinities shared between their sacred traditions and counter the rise of injustice through peace-loving action.

The progressive gatherings will feature timely topics and interactive workshops advancing fellowship and solidarity betwixt diversity followed by engaging Q & A sessions. The enlightening programs will foster unique opportunities for attendees to work together in building bridges instead of walls and serve as a workable model for the larger community. Complimentary dinners will be served.

The first of these events entitled “Peacebuilding and Justice” was held at Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek located at 55 E Kings Highway, Chester, CT 06412 on Monday, March 20.

The second of these events entitled “Responsibility to Our Fellow Human Beings” will be held at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community CT Baitul Aman House of Peace Mosque located at 410 Main St, Meriden, CT 06451 on Monday, April 24, at 6 p.m.

The third of these events entitled “Prayer and Spiritual Practices” will be held at the United Church of Chester located on 29 W Main St, Chester, CT 06412 on Monday, May 15, at 6 p.m.

These events are co-hosted also in collaboration with First Baptist Church in Essex, First Church of Christ, Congregational in East Haddam, and Trinity Lutheran Church in Centerbrook.

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Sen. Linares Proposes Electoral College Vote for 2nd Congressional District

Sen. Art Linares gives testimony in the Connecticut Senate.

AREAWIDE — State Senator Art Linares (R-33rd) on Wednesday testified before the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee in support of a bill he proposed to give the 2nd Congressional District its own vote in the Electoral College.

SB 133, An Act Concerning The Electoral College Vote Attributed To The State’s Second Congressional District, was submitted by Sen. Linares as a way to give a voice and more visibility to the people and businesses of the 2ndCongressional District.

During his testimony, Sen. Linares said that while people know the Naval Submarine Base and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, other areas of the district don’t get much notice.

“Presidents and vice presidents are customary speakers at Academy graduations. Members of Congress tour the facility that is the United States Navy’s primary East Coast submarine base,” Sen. Linares said. “However, during presidential primary and election years, the Second Congressional District and its important facilities are passed by. I’d like to change that.”

Sen. Linares said his bill would use the popular vote in the district to determine what candidate would get the Electoral College vote from the district. In addition to possibly generating more interest from presidential candidates, he said the bill would give the 2nd Congressional District the attention the unique area deserves,

Senator Linares represents the communities of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook

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Earth2 Presents a WELLfed Event Tonight in Essex to Raise Funds to Build a Sustainable Well in Uganda

Villagers in Oculoi, Uganda, collect drinking water from an unsafe source. The WELLfed event being held Friday at Centerbrook Architects will change these people’s lives by funding a well to provide them for the first time with clean drinking water.

ESSEX — On Friday, Feb. 24, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., Earth2 presents their fifth WELLfed fundraiser, at Centerbrook Architects & Planners at 67 Main St., Centerbrook, Conn. Guests will wander the tasting stations, learn about the nonprofit beneficiary and well-building partner, Call To Care Uganda, and add their artistic touch to a quilt gift that will travel to Africa.

In so doing, guests will let their kindness stretch across borders and fuel profound change, improve health and sanitation, inspire critical educational opportunities, and jumpstart the safety and empowerment of over 800 people of all ages in Oculoi Village in the Kaberamaido District in Uganda.

In-kind donors include venue sponsor Centerbrook Architects & Planners, A Thyme To Cook, Caseus, Black Hog Brewing Co., Coastal Cooking Co., Fresh Salt at The Saybrook Point Inn, RIPE Craft Bar Juices, Wright’s Steakhouse, J Cakes, La Cuisine Catering, Cafe SoL, rental sponsor Connecticut Rental Center, Earth2, Gourmet Galley, graphic designer Julie Clements-Reagan, La Belle Aurore, Savvy Tea, SKYY Vodka, Spice Catering Group, quilt sponsor The White Dress by the Shore, Zest Fresh Pastry, and more.

The brief program will include Centerbrook Architects partner Chad Floyd, Josh Chalmers (Earth2 CEO and WELLfed founder) and Martha Wells-Hoffman (Call To Care Uganda Executive Director and founder), who notes that “supplying a source of clean water to Oculoi gives the gift of life. The world doesn’t stand a chance without water. It is what is standing between a billion people and their health, safety and the opportunity to unlock their true potential!”

“Earth2’s mission statement is ‘Change the world before bedtime,’” says Chalmers, “and WELLfed brings that goal to life for our guests and empowers them to make an enormous change with a small-but-potent effort, all while eating, drinking and socializing with old and new friends. What we create in just two hours is immeasurable. Safe water means improved health, opportunities, and time for education – and the villages make a commitment to maintaining the wells for generations to come.”

Chalmers recently made a pledge to help build 100 wells by the end of 2020 and WELLfed is launching other fundraising challenges, including a WELLfed Fashion event in New York City, WELLfed WEDNESDAY restaurant day on March 22 in Boston in partnership with Summits Education to build a clean water system in Haiti, and other local and national initiatives and collaborations.

Event tickets are $75 per person, all-inclusive, with 100 percent of the ticket price going directly to the well build. Tickets and details are available at this link or by contacting Earth2 at Josh@earth2company.com.

If you cannot attend this event and want to support the dream, donation pledges can be arranged through the same contact email and fundraise.com link. You may also contact Chalmers with questions, for more information and photos, or to join the fun as a tasting station donor.

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CT Trust for Historic Preservation, SECoast, Submit Lengthy Comments Opposing FRA’s Proposed High Speed Railroad Route, Criticizing Planning Process

The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, Connecticut’s statewide historic preservation advocacy organization, and SECoast, their special project dedicated to organizing and educating the public to protect Southeastern Connecticut and the Lower Connecticut River Valley, have submitted 41 pages of comments to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the  Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which presents the Preferred Alternative of the Old Saybrook – Kenyon, R.I. bypass that runs through Old Lyme.

The powerful cover letter to the comments, the text of which is given below, summarizes the organization’s major ongoing concerns as follows: “We … remain concerned that the Federal Railroad Administration has not acknowledged public, municipal, legislative, or Congressional concerns expressed in two states about their fundamentally flawed planning process, insufficient public outreach, or un-substantiated inclusion of the Old Saybrook to Kenyon bypass in the F-EIS.”

The cover letter concludes: “No state along the entire Northeast Corridor is as significantly or extensively impacted by the NEC Future planning process as Connecticut. The representative route of the Preferred Alternative … directly impacts numerous historic and environmentally sensitive communities. Singularly and collectively, these are resources that cannot be mitigated or replaced, and the Connecticut Trust is pledged to defend them.”

The full text of the cover letter reads as follows below:

The full text of the 41 pages of comments can be read at this link.

Dear Federal Railroad Administration and NEC Future Project Team:

On behalf of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, Connecticut’s statewide historic preservation advocacy organization, and SECoast, our special project dedicated to organizing and educating the public to protect Southeastern Connecticut and the Lower Connecticut River Valley, we submit the following comments to provide feedback on the Preferred Alternative and the contents of the Tier 1 Final EIS for NEC Future. These comments are provided during the Waiting Period prior to development and issuance of the Record of Decision (ROD) for this project.

Since January 2016, the Connecticut Trust and SECoast have worked diligently and effectively to direct significant public attention to the NED Future Tier 1 EIS process. We did so out of grave concern for the impacts of proposed planning on the historic, cultural and environmental resources of Connecticut’s coastal communities. An education campaign that initially centered on Old Lyme, the western gateway of the proposed Old Sayrbook to Kenyon bypass, soon expanded region wide, jumped states to Rhode Island, and now includes Fairfield County communities in western Connecticut as well.

We have organized a notable volume of informed commentary on the NEC Future Plan, but remain concerned that the Federal Railroad Administration has not acknowledged public, municipal, legislative, or Congressional concerns expressed in two states about their fundamentally flawed planning process, insufficient public outreach, or un-substantiated inclusion of the Old Saybrook to Kenyon bypass in the F-EIS.

No state along the entire Northeast Corridor is as significantly or extensively impacted by the NEC Future planning process as Connecticut. The representative route of the Preferred Alternative identified in the Tier 1 F-EIS directly impacts numerous historic and environmentally sensitive communities. Singularly and collectively, these are resources that cannot be mitigated or replaced, and the Connecticut Trust is pledged to defend them.

Regards,

Daniel Mackay                                                                  Gregory Stroud 
Executive Director                                                           Director of Special Projects 
CT Trust for Historic Preservation                              CT Trust for Historic Preservation

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Connecticut Fund for the Environment Send Strong Letter to FRA Opposing Their ‘Preferred Alternative’ High Speed Rail Route

We have been invited to publish the text of a letter sent Feb. 23 from the Connecticut Fund for the Environment (CFE) to the Federal Rail Authority (FRA), which, while supporting the principle of high speed rail, clearly states the CFE’s opposition to the FRA’s Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the following two headings:

  1. The Current Tier 1 EIS Does Not Sufficiently Describe Why FRA Selected the Preferred Alternative
  2. The Tier 1 EIS Fails to Provide the Public with Adequate Information Concerning the Probable Environmental Impacts and Consequences of the Preferred Alternative

The Connecticut Fund for the Environment is the premier Connecticut-based legal defense for environmental actions. It also has the embedded bi-state organization, Save the Sound.

The letter reads as follows:

RE: Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement for NEC Future High Speed Rail Improvements Through Coastal Connecticut

Dear Acting Administrator,

Connecticut Fund for the Environment (“CFE”) and its bi-state program Save the Sound respectfully submit the following comments on the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) for the NEC Future high speed rail project, specifically those portions of the EIS detailing anticipated impacts to coastal Southeastern Connecticut. CFE is a state and region-wide nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental protection and advocacy that represents more than 4,700 members in both Connecticut and New York.

I. CFE is Major Supporter of High Speed Rail and its Numerous Benefits

High speed rail is critical to the transportation future of both the Northeast region and the country. CFE is a longtime supporter of high speed rail service in the Northeast. High speed rail must be an integral component of our nation’s transportation infrastructure as the United States moves further into the Twenty-First Century. In addition to making long distance travel faster and more convenient, high speed rail can serve as a major economic driver both as the result of its construction and implementation and the transport efficiencies it will provide to business and private citizens. Accessible high speed rail is not only an efficient mass transit alternative for many citizens, but an effective way of decreasing carbon emissions produced by the transportation sector. This is of particular importance to states such as Connecticut, where the largest increasing portion of the state’s greenhouse gas output originates from motor vehicle transportation.(1) Many of Connecticut’s major highways, including I-95 and I-84, become clogged with traffic during normal commute times, increasing the potential for excessive greenhouse gas emissions and inefficient use of fossil fuels. Accordingly, alternative means of transport that would decrease congestion on Connecticut’s highways in major travel corridors are a necessary and much needed public objective. Given the environmental benefits of high speed rail overall, CFE strongly supports proposals to make high speed rail a reality for commuters along the Northeast Corridor. It must, however, been done properly. The current NEC Future EIS provides such scant detail about potential site-specific environmental impacts that CFE is compelled to request that Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”) conduct a much more thorough analysis prior to making any committed decisions regarding the NEC Future project. In its current form, the EIS fails to provide any substantive information from which citizens can draw conclusions regarding the potential environmental impacts of the preferred alternative.

II. The Current Tier 1 EIS Does Not Sufficiently Describe Why FRA Selected the Preferred Alternative

As a threshold matter, CFE questions whether FRA and the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) have conducted a sufficient analysis in making the determination that the preferred alternative evaluated the Tier 1 EIS is the most feasible alternative to be pursued in order to increase rail speed along the Northeast Corridor. In regard to Connecticut, the preferred alternative entails following the existing rail corridor with a new track segment from Old Saybrook, Connecticut to Kenyon, Rhode Island and rail improvements to existing track from New Haven, Connecticut to Springfield, Massachusetts. Without meaningful environmental analysis, however, it is impossible to evaluate whether the preferred alternative is, in fact, the best alternative.

In selecting a preferred alternative so early in the process, FRA risks committing a large volume of resources to pursuing an alternative that may, ultimately, be impractical or unduly expensive to implement on the ground. This is particularly so given the preferred alternative at issue, which entails routing a new section of rail through a densely populated portion of the state and includes formidable infrastructure elements, such as a tunnel beneath the Connecticut River, discussed in greater length below. In electing to proceed along the existing coastal rail corridor, CFE is concerned that FRA may have selected convenience at the expense of overall benefit. Although FRA presumably conducted these analyses, the Tier 1 EIS contains very little comparative evaluation of the preferred alternative against the details of some of the other proposed routes through Connecticut. For example, there is no comparison between the Hartford route and the coastal route. Likewise, the EIS does not explore potential issues that may arise in regard to each alternative, such as the difficulty of blazing a brand new segment of rail through rural eastern Connecticut or the potential for the Connecticut River tunnel to be unworkable and replaced with the earlier proposal of an elevated rail bridge. As FRA prepares its final record of decision, CFE urges FRA to seriously explore the pros and cons of the preferred alternative against the routes in some of the other proposals.

III. The Tier 1 EIS Fails to Provide the Public with Adequate Information Concerning the Probable Environmental Impacts and Consequences of the Preferred Alternative

In regard to the preferred alternative as it stands in the Tier 1 EIS, CFE expresses serious concerns about the level of analysis conducted with respect to the proposed new rail bypass between Old Saybrook and Kenyon.(2) In addition to constructing a new segment of rail through a heavily populated and historic portion of the state, the EIS proposes constructing a rail tunnel beneath the Connecticut River estuary.(3) The EIS, however, is devoid of any details or feasibility analyses of such a tunnel. Indeed, there is little that can be determined from the EIS beyond the fact that the preferred alternative contains a tunnel beneath the Connecticut River in Old Lyme, Connecticut. There is no information concerning the design of such a tunnel, whether a tunnel is even feasible in the proposed location, how the tunnel will impact the Connecticut River riverbed, or the presumably extensive environmental impacts that will occur when constructing a subsurface tunnel beneath the largest river estuary in the region. Although the tunnel was ostensibly proposed in order to ameliorate the concerns that the public had with an elevated rail bridge being constructed through the heart of a historic downtown area, as the NEC Future project originally proposed, the lack of meaningful detail about the impacts of constructing such a tunnel leaves open the possibility that will ultimately prove so burdensome and destructive that FRA will fall back on its original rail bridge proposal.

CFE recognizes that the current document is programmatic in scale,(4) yet the analysis of the preferred alternative provides the public with no information other than the fact that FRA anticipates constructing a tunnel and a line on a map where the tunnel will ostensibly be located.(5) Although site specific impacts are relegated to Tier 2 in a tiered EIS process, the decision to do so in the present case leaves numerous communities and citizens in utter uncertainty as to the specifics of FRA’s exact plans in regard to the Old Saybrook-Kenyon bypass. As courts have recognized in the context of other Tiered EIS projects, the broad nature of review at the Tier 1 stage can result in serious ongoing implementation and impact problems at Tier 2 and thereafter.(6) Given the lack of precise detail about the proposed tunnel at this stage, there is a risk that when rigorous analysis of the tunnel occurs during Tier 2, FRA will encounter potential impacts that would have best been evaluated—and perhaps avoided—earlier.

For example, given the information present in the current EIS, it is impossible to know the exact manner in which the tunnel will affect the immediate river environment. The EIS does not state whether the tunnel will be through bedrock below the river or a structure along the river bottom or some other alternative. The Connecticut River estuary is unique among the region’s estuaries because of its extensive wetland and habitat resources.(7) A tunnel has the potential to seriously disrupt the Connecticut River’s natural flow into Long Island Sound and will likely affect the deposition patterns of nutrient rich sediments that flow into the estuary from further upstream. Likewise, if the proposed tunnel’s construction will disrupt the layers of sediment already present on the river bottom, such disruption will have the inevitable effect of unearthing pollutants that have become sealed off by more recent sediment deposition and reintroducing them into the water column, in effect repolluting the ecosystem with old pollutants. Yet none of these details or contingencies are addressed in the Tier 1 EIS, but relegated to later analysis at Tier 2.

Similarly, the Tier 1 EIS does not adequately address the physical impacts that would presumably occur on lands adjacent to the tunnel beneath the Connecticut River. The EIS, for example, is bereft of any meaningful analysis of the potential impacts on the invaluable wetlands that flank the Connecticut River estuary. As previously mentioned, the installation of a rail tunnel on the bottom of the river could, depending on its design and depth, potentially disrupt the historic flow patterns of the Connecticut River, which in turn could lead to the loss of wetlands. Likewise, the actual construction of the tunnel descent on the lands abutting the riverbank could negatively impact or destroy wetlands. Losing wetland acreage in a high population area such as coastal Southeastern Connecticut is a dangerous proposition, given the increased risk of shoreline flooding as climate change ushers in rising sea levels and more frequent extreme weather events. Given the level of detail in the EIS, however, it is uncertain as to whether any such impacts will occur or how extensive they may be. Due to the high risk that harm to wetland resources may ensue, such analysis should not be delayed to a subsequent stage of the administrative process.

Additionally, the Tier 1 EIS delays appropriate analysis of potential impacts to endangered and threatened species until the Tier 2 stage.(8) As is widely recognized, the Connecticut River estuary serves as invaluable habitat to a large number of species. For example, the estuary is noted as possessing one of the highest diversities of fish species in the Northeast.(9) Likewise, the estuary and river corridor serve as an important resource for numerous migratory bird species.(10) As the EIS notes, many federally endangered species are currently present in the very local ecosystem to be affected, including the Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii), Atlantic Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus), Shortnose Sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum), and several species of sea turtle.(11) As a practical matter, putting off the site specific analysis of impacts to endangered species can result in numerous problems either at Tier 2 or during project implementation, should an endangered species stand in the path of the tunnel’s proposed route.(12) The risk of such an occurrence is high, for as the EIS recognizes, Connecticut contains the highest number of endangered and threatened species of all states impact by the overall project.(13) At that point, irretrievable resources and time will have been needlessly spent in vain when an earlier analysis could have avoided such a problem while safeguarding habitat.

CFE also notes its grave concern regarding the earlier proposal for an elevated rail bridge over the Connecticut River that would direct the route of the new spur through the heart of historic Old Lyme and nearby cultural sites such as the Florence Griswold Museum. As the preparation of an environmental impact statement requires the sponsoring agency to consider the effects on the “human environment,” the health and quality of life in communities directly affected by a massive project such as NEC Future should be of paramount importance in FRA’s decision making. Should the Connecticut River tunnel ultimately prove unworkable or overly expensive, CFE shares the concerns of many citizens that FRA will implement the original rail bridge proposal instead, thereby subjecting a historic town center to irreparable damage and a diminution in aesthetic and environmental value. If there is even a remote possibility that FRA may ultimately implement a rail bridge over the Connecticut River as an alternate aspect of the new spur, it must fully present and analyze the expected environmental impacts at the current stage of the process so that the public may be fully and adequately informed of such a possibility.

Overall, CFE recognizes that the NEC Future project is one of enormous scale. Although a Tier 1 EIS is intended to be programmatic in scale, the current document provides directly affected communities and stakeholders with only the merest indications and suppositions as to what actual impacts will entail. In terms of the preferred alternative’s Old Saybrook-Kenyon spur and the subsurface tunnel included therein, the lack of concrete detail leaves local communities in a state of uncertainty as to what such a massive infrastructure project will mean in terms of impacts on the human environment and nearby ecosystem resources. As it is entirely possible that a yet unforeseen environmental impact will prevent actual implementation of the preferred alternative as presented, affected communities and the public are justly concerned that a subsequent, on the ground decision will result in earlier aspects of the proposed project being spontaneously resurrected as a means of quickly avoiding a major environmental impact and moving ahead with the project without additional delay. Given the importance of high speed rail to the future, it is necessary that the environmental impacts of any proposal are fully evaluated and understood by all stakeholders prior to moving forward.

Respectfully submitted,

Andrew W. Minikowski, Esq.
Legal Fellow Connecticut Fund for the Environment
900 Chapel Street, Upper Mezzanine
New Haven, CT 06510
203-787-0646 ex. 108

Supporting notes referenced by number in the text:
1 Acadia Center, “Updated Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory for Connecticut: Recent Increases and Underlying Factors,” (June 13, 2016), available at http://acadiacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/CT-GHG-EmissionsInventory-Report-2.pdf (last visited Sept. 9, 2016).
2 Federal Railroad Administration, “Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement,” Appendix A, 40–41 (Nov. 2016), available at http://www.necfuture.com/pdfs/tier1_deis/appendix/app_a.pdf (last visited Jan. 30, 2017).
3 Id. at 7.5-7.
4 American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, “Guidelines on the Use of Tiered Environmental Impact Statements for Transportation Projects,” 3 (June 2009); see Ilio’ulaokalani Coalition v. Rumsfeld, 464 F.3d 1083, 1094 (9th Cir. 2006).
5 Federal Railroad Administration, supra note 2.
6 See Hoosier Environmental Council v. U.S. Dept. of Transp., 2007 WL 4302642, *7 (S.D. Ind. Dec. 10, 2007).
7 Jenna Pirotta, “Connecticut River Estuary: Haven for Juvenile Fish and Migratory Fish Highway,” N.O.A.A. FISHERIES GREATER ATLANTIC REGION, available at https://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/stories/2012/haven_for_juvenile_fish_and_migratory_fish_highway.h tml (last visited Jan. 30, 2017).
8 Federal Railroad Administration, supra note 2, at 7.6-9.
9 Glenn D. Dreyer and Marcianna Caplis, “Living Resources and Habitats of the Lower Connecticut River,” 56 (Dec. 2001), available at http://digitalcommons.conncoll.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1037&context=arbbulletins (last visited Jan. 26, 2017).
10 Id. at 48.
11 Federal Railroad Administration, supra note 2, at 7.6-5.
12 See generally Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153, 98 S.Ct. 2279, 57 L.Ed.2d 117 (1978).
13 Federal Railroad Administration, supra note 2, at 7.6-3.
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Solarize Chester/Deep River Participation Deadline Extended to March 31


CHESTER & DEEP RIVER: 
The deadline has been extended to March 31 for homeowners who live, work, and/or worship in Chester and Deep River to receive discounted rates for residential solar installations through the Solarize Chester/Deep River program.

The Chester Energy Team and the Towns of Chester and Deep River have worked with a single installer, C-TEC Solar, over the past 18 weeks doing solar education and outreach, as well as offering discounted pricing for residents.

Due to high recent interest in the program, the Solarize Chester/Deep River deadline has been extended and the reduced pricing will be held for residents who participate by March 31.

The Solarize Chester/Deep River offer saves residents an average of $4,032 or 20 percent off what they would pay for a system at market pricing. The Solarize Chester/Deep River program offers residents quality equipment with a reputable company for a lower investment than what is typically available due to the aggregated savings of residents going solar together in the community.

People who are interested in finding out more about the program or if their home is right for solar can stop by can sign up to have an evaluation of their home for solar at no cost when they sign up at solarizect.com/Chester.

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Site for New Housing Development Cleared on Plains Rd. in Essex

This machine is being used to clear the area on Plains Rd. in preparation for construction of new homes. Photo by Jerome Wilson.

ESSEX — Quite a while ago, the area pictured in the image above was the site of an active business — The Iron Chef — and many, many years before that, the site of a movie theater.  Now, after the long derelict area has finally been completely leveled by a huge machine (pictured above), the empty site awaits the construction of a new apartment complex.

The building site is just to the north of the Valley Railroad station.

Read a related article by Jerome Wilson titled, “Plains Rd. Development of 52 New Homes in Essex Scheduled to Begin … Finally,” published Jan. 12, 2017, on ValleyNewsNow.com.

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Talking Transportation: Who Should Pay for Sound Barriers?

Sound barriers … great idea, but who should pay for them?

Building and maintaining our highways is expensive.  But here’s a quiz question:  on interstates 95 and 84, what costs a half-million dollars a mile to construct?  The answer:  sound barriers.

Why are we spending that kind of money to enshroud our interstates simply to protect the peace and quiet of its neighbors?  Didn’t they know that living that close to a highway came with the twin costs of increased noise and air pollution along with the benefits of proximity to the highways?

Do you have sympathy for people who live near airports and then complain about the jets?  Neither do I.  But the solution to highway noise is not to create a walled canyon paid for by others.

Sound barriers, in my view, are a waste of precious resources.  They don’t reduce accidents, improve safety or do anything about congestion.  And they’re a magnet for graffiti artists.  Three miles of sound barriers on both sides of an interstate would buy another M8 railcar for Metro-North, taking 100 passengers out of their cars.

Worse yet, sound barriers really just reflect the sound, not absorb it, sending the noise further afield.  But there are alternatives:

1)     Why not sound-proof the homes?  That has worked well for neighbors of big airports and would be a lot cheaper than miles of sound barriers.  Plus, insulation against sound also insulates against energy loss, saving money.

2)    Rubberized asphalt.  Let’s reduce the highway noise at its source, literally where the “rubber meets the road”.  Using the latest in rubberized asphalt some highways have seen a 12 decibel reduction in noise.  And rubberized asphalt, as its name implies, is made from old tires … about 12 million a year that would otherwise be junked.

3)    Pay for it yourself.  Create special taxing zones in noisy neighborhoods and let those home owners pay for their sound barriers.  They’re the ones who are benefiting, so shouldn’t they be the ones who pay?  And that investment will easily be recouped in increased property values.

4)    Penalize the noise makers.  Let’s crack down on truckers who “Jake brake,” downshifting noisily to slow their speed instead of using their real brakes.  And motorcyclists or those cars with busted mufflers, they too should be penalized.

5)    Go electric.  Electric cars are virtually silent.  And there are electronic ways of using noise cancellation technology that, on a large scale, can induce quiet at a lower price than building wooden barricades.

6)    Go absorbent.  Where there is room, erect earthen berms alongside the highway which will absorb the sound.  Or if you are constructing sound barriers, fill them with sound absorbing material, treating the noise like a sponge, not bouncing it off a hard, flat reflective surface.

Our interstates, especially I-95, are carrying far more traffic than they were ever planned to handle.  And there is no sign of it decreasing.  In Fairfield County the rush hour starts about 6 a.m. and runs continuously until 8 p.m. without a break.

If our state’s economy depends on these highways, we will have to live with the karmic cost of a little noise.  But if it’s too much to take, why ask others to pay for its remediation when they are the only ones benefiting from that spending?

Republished with permission of Hearst CT Media.

Jim Cameron


About the author:
 Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.  You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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Free Dance Class Offered Mondays by The Estuary for Those with Parkinson’s Disease

OLD SAYBROOK — The Estuary Council of Seniors 220 Main St. Old Saybrook has partnered with Rehab Concepts physical therapy to offer a free class to those folks living with Parkinson’s disease.

The Class meets Mondays at 1 p.m. and offers participants the opportunity to, boost confidence, and focus all your senses on movement and balance.

The class instructor is Rose Costanzo, a physical therapist who specializes in Parkinson’s therapy.

To register, call 203-458-6268

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Take a Mat /Chair Adaptive Yoga Class at the Estuary, Fridays

OLD SAYBROOK — The Estuary Council of seniors 220 Main St Old Saybrook has a new yoga class that meets on Fridays at 10:30 a.m. and the cost is $6 a class

The class is designed for individuals who find it a challenge to get up and down from the floor in a yoga class. You will use a chair, yoga mat and other props to enable safe adaptations of yoga poses that will help build confidence, strength and flexibility.

Bring a yoga mat and wear comfortable clothing

For more information, email yogakeepsmefit@gmail.com or call Rachel Baer at 860-859-7217

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Diabetes Screening Ongoing at the Estuary Council, 2nd & 4th Wednesdays

OLD SAYBROOK — The Estuary Council of Seniors offers diabetes testing for people age 50 and over twice a month at their facility at 220 Main St. Old Saybrook.

Testing is done by a registered nurse, fasting is required and no appointment is necessary.

Testing is available on the 2nd Thursday of each month from 7:30 – 9am and the 4th Wednesday of each month from 7:30 – 9am. There is no charge for this service, donations are welcome.

For additional information call the Estuary Council at 860-388-1611 x 202

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A La Carte: Feeling Like a Fluffy Pancake? Make the Fluffiest Ever

Fluffiest pancakes ever.

My mother, as I have mentioned in other columns, didn’t cook much. Actually, rarely, unless it was necessary. One of those necessary times was breakfast. Every morning I would attempt to flee the dreaded bowl of cream of wheat and run out the door.

Maybe she made eggs and bacon, but all I remember is that white bowl of white cream of wheat. Never oatmeal or Maypo. And the only dried cereal I remember is Shredded Wheat. So I would grab the orange juice, swallow it up (an awful flavor after I had just brushed my teeth) and then I flew the coop.

I don’t remember going out for breakfast until I met my husband Doug, who loved to go out for breakfast. During the week I made breakfast, but every weekend, Saturday and Sunday, off we went for our first meal of the day. When we lived in Massachusetts, it was always Ralph’s in Worcester, the city where the first diner was manufactured.

Once we moved to Connecticut, it was first a quasi-diner in Plainfield. When we moved to Old Lyme, it was the Shack (originally in East Lyme, and now also in Waterford and Groton), the Broken Yolk in New London (now the Yolk), More recently, Monica’s in New London and Christy’s in Westbrook.

These days I’m either back to not eating much of a breakfast, taking a bagel out of the freezer, making an omelet out of whatever veggies I have in the refrigerator or, when I’m in a breakfast mood, to one of my regular favorite restaurants.

But as I was reading my latest issue of Cooking Light, I saw a recipe for fluffy pancakes that included ingredients like oatmeal, white whole-wheat flour and maple-sweetened almond butter, which cut the calories and up the fiber. These are just delicious.

Our Fluffiest Pancakes Ever (From Cooking Light, March 2017)

Yield: Serve 4 (serving size 3 pancakes about 2 tabelspoon sauce and berries), about 324 calories)

Two-third cup old-fashioned oats

1 and one-third cups nonfat buttermilk

One-quarter cup warm water

One-quarter cup natural almond butter (or any nut butter you have)

2 and one-half tablespoons maple syrup, divided

3 ounces white whole-wheat flour (about three-quarter cup)

2 teaspoon baking powder

One-quarter teaspoon baking soda

One-quarter teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

one-third cup fresh raspberries (or any berries), optional

Method

Combine oats and buttermilk in a large bowl; let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine warm water, almond butter and 1 and one-half tablespoons syrup, stirring with a whisk until smooth.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry meaning cup, level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt, stirring well.

Heat a large nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Stir remaining 1 tablespoon syrup, vanilla and egg into oat mixture; add flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Spoon a one-quarter cup batter per pancake onto hot griddle. Cook until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look dry and cook, about 2 to 3 minutes on other side. Serve with almond butter sauce and berries.

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Celebrate Winter Today at Chester’s 26th Annual Winter Carnivale

Street entertainers delight the crowds at the Chester Carnivale. File photo by John Stack.

CHESTER — The townspeople of Chester are looking forward to their 26th annual winter celebration, Chester Winter Carnivale, on Sunday, Feb. 19.

That’s when the picturesque small town of Chester is filled with people cheering on ice carvers as they create beautiful sculptures from blocks of ice, while laughing at the antics of street performers and applauding a long parade of new and antique tractors being driven down Main Street by their proud owners. All that, and food, music, art, and shopping too!

Bill Bernhart stands proudly beside his ice carving at the Chester Carnivale in this 2012 file photo by John Stack.

The day begins at 10:30 a.m. when the carvers get started on their ice sculptures. Both professional and student ice carvers will be hard at work, demonstrating their techniques to onlookers while they try to be finished by 1 p.m. for judging.

Meanwhile, the Chester Hose Company, Inc. is holding its annual “Chilly Chili Cook Off” fundraiser. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., go to the Chester Hose Company Fire House at 6 High Street and pay your $5 admission so you can taste all the different chilis cooked and dished out by restaurants, caterers and fire departments. You can vote for your favorite fire department chili, favorite restaurant chili, most original chili, and best dressed chili serving table.  Beverages will be sold. All proceeds go to the Chester Hose Company.

Still hungry? Pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, soups, and lots more will all be available inside and outside the restaurants in town. Also, popcorn and kettle corn.

Just be sure to be back out on Main Street by 2 p.m. for the 15th Annual Chester Tractor Parade. Colorful and rusty, big and small, antique and new, decorated and plain – tractors are driven through the town center in an incredibly long parade. You never knew there were so many tractors in the Connecticut River Valley!

Free activities will keep the whole family entertained for the day. Colorful beads and balloons will be handed out throughout town all day and face painting is available. The Chester Museum at The Mill will be open at no charge, offering a place to explore Chester history. Galleries and shops will be open, many with special events.

Tractors and more tractors descend on Chester on Carnivale day for the Annual Tractor Parade. File photo by John Stack

Chester Winter Carnivale is held rain or snow or shine.  Main Street will be closed to traffic. Free parking is available in the commuter lot on Rte. 148 at the foot of Rte. 9 and in the Roto-Frank parking lot on Inspiration Lane (exit 6) and at Greenwald Industries on Rte. 154 (212 Middlesex Avenue). (Follow the signs.) All lots will be served by courtesy shuttle buses to the town center.

Tractor Parade at a previous year’s Chester Carnivale. File photo by John Stack.

For more information, visit facebook.com/chesterctwintercarnivale or https://finditinchesterct.wordpress.com/

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Essex Winter Series Presents Dan Levinson’s Roof Garden Jass Band Today

Essex Winter Series Artistic Director Mihae Lee.

ESSEX — Known for its unique concerts of world-class talent and diversity, Essex Winter Series plans to celebrate its 40th anniversary year with a robust schedule for the winter months. The season-opener on Sunday, Jan. 8, at 3 p.m. at Valley Regional High School in Deep River is a musical tour de force led by Artistic Director and pianist Mihae Lee.

Lee has carefully curated a program featuring breathtaking music that spans over 600 years. She will be joined by audience favorites William Purvis, Patricia Schuman, Randall Hodgkinson, the Attacca Quartet, as well as emerging young artists.

The concert begins with a celebratory fanfare of Copland, then a high spirited string quartet by Haydn, wonderful cabaret songs and jazz ballads. The first half ends with the ultimate crowd-pleaser, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue arranged for piano four-hands and performed by Ms. Lee and Mr. Hodgkinson.

The second half begins with beautiful Renaissance music for brass, then an aria from the opera Carmen and the finale movement of Brahms Piano Quartet in G minor, both in a passionate gypsy style. The concert will end with a bang with hot jazz performed by Jeff Barnhart, Vince Giordano, Paul Midiri, Joe Midiri, and Jim Lawlor.

The season continues on Feb. 19 with the Stu Ingersoll Jazz Concert featuring Dan Levinson’s Roof Garden Jass Band performing a centennial celebration of recorded New Orleans Jazz. On March 5, it’s Garrison Keillor and “Stories in Mind, Poems by Heart.” The beloved raconteur, author, and entertainer will share his unique brand of wisdom and humor in what is sure to be an unforgettable afternoon.

Chanticleer, an orchestra of voices, returns to the series on April 2 to perform the program “My Secret Heart” which includes a world premiere by Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, Cole Porter and Noel Coward standards, and the return of Augusta Read Thomas’ “Love Songs” to the repertoire.

All performances take place on Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m. with the Jan. 8 and Feb. 19 concerts at Valley Regional High School in Deep River, and March 5 and April 2 concerts at Old Saybrook High School. Individual tickets are $35 and $5 for full-time students with savings offered for subscriptions to all four performances. Seating is general admission. To purchase tickets or learn more, visit www.essexwinterseries.com or call 860-272-4572.

The 2017 season is generously sponsored by The Clark Group, Essex Meadows, Essex Savings Bank, Guilford Savings Bank, Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC, and Tower Laboratories. Outreach activities are supported by Community Music School and donors to the Fenton Brown Circle.

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Registration Now Open for AARP Driver Safety Class at Chester Village West, April 18

CHESTER — Has it been awhile since you’ve brushed up on your driving knowledge and skills? Want the latest information to help you stay safe on the road? Sign up for an AARP SmartDriver™ Course on Tuesday, April 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Chester Village West, 317 West Main Street, Chester CT 06412. Refreshments will be served.

Cost for the course, payable by checks only, is $15. Call Chester Village West by April 2 at 860.526.6800 to reserve attendance for yourself and/or a loved one.

The April 18 SmartDriver™ course at Chester Village West, to be taught by AARP driver safety instructor Cliff McGuire, will help attendees re-familiarize themselves with the current rules of the road, defensive driving techniques and how to operate their vehicle more safely in today’s challenging driving environment.

The course is designed to help participants:

  • Learn research-based safety strategies that can reduce the likelihood of having a crash.
  • Understand the links among the driver, vehicle, and road environment, and how this awareness encourages safer behavior.
  • Learn how aging, medications, alcohol, and other health-related issues affect driving ability,
  • and ways to adjust to allow for these changes.
  • Increase confidence.
  • Know how to drive safely when sharing the road with other road users.
  • Learn the newest safety and advanced features in vehicles.
  • Learn when driving may no longer be safe.
  • Explore other ways to travel.

After completing the course, participants will have a greater appreciation of driving challenges and a better understanding of how to avoid potential collisions and injuring themselves or others.

Connecticut offers price reductions or discounts on auto insurance to motorists who complete the AARP Smart Driver™ Course. Upon completion of the course, participants should contact their auto insurance agent to determine if they are eligible to receive an auto insurance discount.

 

The AARP Smart Driver course, offered by AARP Driver Safety, is the nation’s first and largest refresher course designed specifically for drivers age 50 and older. For more than 30 years, the course has taught millions of drivers proven safety strategies so they can continue driving safely for as long as possible.

Located in historic Chester, Conn., Chester Village West gives independent-minded seniors a new way to experience retirement and live their lives to the fullest. Since it was founded more than 25 years ago, Chester Village West residents have directed and embraced active learning. Within a small community of private residences that offer convenience, companionship, service and security, Chester Village West enriches lives with a comprehensive program that enhances fitness, nutrition, active life, health and well-being.

Find out more at chestervillagewestlcs.com; visit the community on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/ChesterVillageWest.

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Childress Gives Talk Tonight on, ‘Architecture of Gardens’

ESSEX — The Centerbrook Architects Lecture Series continues with architect Jim Childress, Fellow of the American Institute Architects (FAIA), presenting “The Architecture Of Gardens: Man-made Nature.”

Gardens have captured people’s imagination for centuries.  On Friday, Feb. 17, at 7 p.m., architect Jim Childress will illustrate the design ideas behind some of world’s best small gardens.  He will explore how they are planned and how the plants are integrated.  And, to escape winter for an hour – there will be plenty of images of gardens in full bloom. 

This program is free and open to the public.

For more information or to register for this program, call the Essex Library at (860) 767-1560. Centerbrook Architects’ office is located at 67 Main Street in Centerbrook.

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9 Town Transit Partners with Google Maps for Online Trip Planning

AREAWIDE — Finding local bus route information just got a whole lot easier.  In fact, you probably already have it available on your smartphone.  Google Maps now includes local bus routes and schedules in its directions feature.

Riders no longer have to read timetables.  They simply enter the date and time that they hope to arrive at their destination and the trip planner will provide three options, showing the amount of time and number of transfers for each option, letting you easily select the most convenient trip.

Google Maps can even provide walking directions, so you can find out exactly how to get to the nearest transit stop or station, and how to get to your destination once you leave the train/bus.  For extra convenience, Google Maps has most locations already stored, so you only need the location name or just a category, such as fast food.

“We are pleased to welcome 9 Town Transit to Google Maps.”, says Ryan Poscharsky, Strategic Partner Manager at Google.  “This partnership shows 9 Town Transit’s commitment to innovating, as well as serving and attracting new riders. Together we can provide useful and accurate information to help people quickly get to where they want to go.”

Another important feature is the ability to plan trips across agencies and modes.  CT Transit New Haven and Hartford, CT Transit Express, Shoreline East and Metro North are all available in Google Maps, so it is easy to plan your trip from Old Saybrook to Hartford, from Manhattan to the outlet malls, or from your Clinton to downtown New Haven.  Google Maps tells you all transfers required along with the connecting agency name and contact information.

“We hope this tool makes it easier than ever to plan your trip by bus or train in our region”, says Joseph Comerford, Executive Director of 9 Town Transit.

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Hear ‘A Conversation About Opera’ with Three Area Opera Directors Tonight; All Welcome, Free

Salt Marsh Opera Executive Director Simon Holt is a participant in the discussion ‘A Conversation About Opera,’ Feb. 16, at the Community Music School.

“A Conversation About Opera” with Alan Mann, artistic director of the Opera Theater of Connecticut, Simon Holt, artistic director of the Salt Marsh Opera, and Adrian Sylveen, artistic director of the Connecticut Lyric-Opera / Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra will be held Thursday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m., at the Community Music School in Centerbrook,

The Greater Middletown Concert Association is hosting the panel discussion and Barbara Waterman Arafeh, the Association’s president, will be moderator for the panel’s discussion.

All these three leading Connecticut professional opera companies present fully-staged productions that take place in venues located in one of the state’s newly-designated Arts Regions. This region is one of nine in the state and is overseen for the Connecticut Office of the Arts in Hartford by the Shoreline Arts Alliance, which has headquarters in Guilford.

Towns and cities in this Arts Region are Lyme and Old Lyme along with Branford, Chester, Clinton, Cromwell, Deep River, Durham, East Haddam, East Hampton, East Haven, East Lyme, Essex, Guilford, Haddam, Killingworth, Madison, Middlefield, Middletown, North Branford, Old Saybrook, Portland, Salem and Westbrook.

There is no admission charge for this Feb. 16, program, but those wishing to attend should call 860 343-7555 to reserve seating. Space is limited.

The Community Music School is located at 90 Main St., Centerbrook.

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Siegrist Requests Changes to House Bill to Allow Chester to Receive Funds to Combat Invasive Species

Rep. Bob Siegrist testifies during a Public Hearing about invasive species.

HARTFORD – State Rep. Bob Siegrist (R-36) recently testified during a public hearing regarding a proposal that he co-sponsored, namely House Bill 5503, An Act Concerning Lake Authorities and Combating Invasive Plant and Animal Species. Siegrist asked that the legislation be amended to assist local towns like Chester.

Under current law, 25 percent of Community Investment Account funds within the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection can be used for municipal open space grants. House Bill 5503 would provide grants to lake authorities for the control of invasive species.

Rep. Siegrist is in full support of House Bill 5503, but suggests that the bill be amended to allow municipalities access to the grants to combat invasive species.

“Current law states that two or more towns that have a body of water of state water within their territory can establish a lake authority. Cedar Lake in Chester is wholly within the Town of Chester. The problem in Cedar Lake is similar to what many lakes are dealing with — invasive species,” Siegrist said.

“Mitigation of this problem can be very expensive and requires ongoing maintenance, approximately every two years depending on the aggressive nature of the species. Cedar Lake is a 70-acre-lake fully owned by Chester, whose residents enjoy it for passive and active recreation. This legislation as it is currently written, would not allow such towns to have access to this grant. It is my hope the legislature’s Environment Committee would consider my language to make it fair for those towns like Chester.”

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Letter From Paris: A European in Washington

Nicole Prévost Logan

On Jan. 27,  Theresa May was the first foreign leader to visit the White House during Donald Trump’s era.  The prime minister’s red dress matched the US president’s red tie and they both seemed  determined to cheer each other for the wonderful things they were about to accomplish together.

On the eve of Brexit, it was crucial  for the British visitor to obtain US support. For Trump,  it was a chance to welcome the UK as a “privileged” partner, to stress how the latter will benefit from Brexit and become a model for Europe in freeing itself from the “Brussels consortium.”

Actually, at this point, the US is not in a position to be much help for England. It is a matter that will have to be worked out directly between the UK and the European Union (EU.)   Beyond the posturing, the British prime minister was trying to reconcile her vision of a “global England” open to the world with the protectionism policies launched by Trump.

The task for May is incredibly complex since she has made clear her intention not to sever all ties with the continent while implementing  the “hard Brexit”and also to avoid a “cliff edge” situation.  She will need all her political acumen to surmount the obstacles coming from all sides and negotiate the best deal.

British Prime Minister Theresa May meets US President Donald Trump.

The “divorce” process has not even started and already dissenting opinions are being heard, even in her own camp.  On Jan. 3, Sir Ivan Rogers, the permanent British representative to the EU,  resigned after sending warning signals, and was immediately replaced  by “euro-skeptic” Tim Barrow, former ambassador to Moscow.  On Jan. 11, the Minister of Immigration, Robert Goodwill, proposed to impose a tax of 1,000 British pounds on EU workers. The business circles protested and the government backed down.  Andrea Leadson, Minister of Agriculture,  had to reassure farmers that the hiring of seasonal labor would not come to a stop.  Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer disagreed  with the minister of Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson and proposed a departure “a la carte” from Europe. 

On Jan. 24, the British High Court voted by eight to three to route the Brexit process through parliament.  This decision created another hurdle for the prime minister. The House of Commons passed the text overwhelmingly.  The House of Lords will be next.    

The worst enemy of the UK in the Brexit process is the timetable.  Once triggered, Article 50 of the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon will take two years to be implemented and, of course, will have to be approved by all the EU members.  After that, it will take five or possibly 10 years for Britain to be legally able to conclude free trade bilateral agreements with other countries.

On Jan. 17, May gave a major speech at Lancaster House in which she spelled out the main points of her program.  This was followed a few days later by the publication of a White Paper containing a road map.  Control of immigration is a central preoccupation for the UK government.  It is understandable,  given the fact that that, from 2015 to 2016, 650,000 immigrants entered the country  (including 284,000 coming from the EU).  Britain had opted out long ago of the Schengen Zone, which allows for free circulation of goods, people, services and capital .

Right now Britain is a member of the European Customs Union and of the European single market. * Being a member of a single market like the EU, created by the 1957 founding treaty of Rome, comes with many constraints such as the harmonization of regulations, compliance with certain standards and the required contributions to the EU budget (Britain has already  committed 40 billion euros for the period 2016-2020.)  The European Court of Justice (based in Luxembourg) enforces those regulations and this explains May’s particular dislike for that institution.

In case of the departure of Britain from the EU,  there are alternatives to its present trade arrangements such as the ones used by  Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein, which are not part of the European Customs Union.  Three of them are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which puts them close to the single market. Another example is Turkey, which is not part of the EU single market, but benefits from a special free trade agreement with Europe.  After her visit to Washington, May met with President Erdogan in Ankara to discuss these matters as well as a post-Brexit trade and military partnership.

One  of the most contentious issues of the Brexit is the future of The City.  For 30 years, it has been the financial hub of activities for the huge European market of 500 million people.  By leaving the single market, The City will lose its  “European passport”  and its say over the new regulations issued by Brussels every year.

Guy Verhofstadt, called “Mr. Brexit” at the European parliament, denounced the “illusion that it is possible to leave the EU while retaining its advantages.”

Michel Barnier has been appointed by Jean Claude Yunker, president of the European Commission, to head the negotiations with Britain.  This was a good choice.  Barnier is a man of consensus, experienced and pragmatic, according to The Telegraph.   Economist by training, he has held several posts as European Commissioner of various departments including finance, banking and defense. Interestingly, it was Barnier who supported the adhesion of Britain into Europe in 1972.

*for more on Cameron’s negotiations with the EU, which led to the June 23 referendum, see Logan’s article published by VNN on March 5, 2016.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole LoganAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Local Lawmakers Urge State to Support ‘The Kate’ with Highway Tourism Signage

Rep. Carney (left), The Kate’s Director of Development Dana Foster (center), and Paul Formica (right) at the Jan. 29 public hearing on the proposal to install signs for The Kate on local highways.

OLD SAYBROOK -– Old Saybrook lawmakers are urging the state legislature to help support the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center (‘The Kate’) by passing legislation that would allow tourism signage for the center to be placed on Rte. 9 and I-95.

Sen. Paul Formica (R-20th), Sen. Art Linares (R-33rd) and Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) submitted testimony in favor of House Bill 5574 and spoke before the Transportation Committee to urge fellow lawmakers to support the local theater. ‘The Kate’ is a theater in the Town of Old Saybrook that provides entertainment for the region and is named for Connecticut Hall-of-Famer, multiple Academy Award winner, and former Old Saybrook resident Katharine Hepburn.

“We believe that ‘The Kate’ deserves to have signage along both I-95 and Rte. 9 because it will attract tourists to the theater and create an interest for those passing by the signs,” the lawmakers said in their written testimony, adding, “Similar theaters have signage along various highways throughout the state due to their importance and popularity and ‘The Kate’ is no different.”

They continued, “It is a cultural hub with entertainment that draws people from across the state and the country. It is an economic engine, not only for Old Saybrook, but for the region as a whole and helps nearby businesses like the many restaurants and shops in town. Signage along the highway will only improve the number of tourists to town and we believe it is in the state’s best interest to promote this important theater with the signage suggested.”

Sen. Formica and Dana Foster, Director of Development and External Relations at The Kate, testify before the Transportation Committee in favor of House Bill 5574 An Act Concerning Signs Indication the Location of the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center.

Sen. Formica testified in person with Dana Foster, Director of Development and External Relations, at ‘The Kate,’ on Jan. 31, before the Transportation Committee on which Rep. Carney is a ranking member.

Foster explained the importance of signage along the highways, saying, “Signage would help our growing audiences navigate the multiple exits to Old Saybrook and help to further attract additional tourists and others to our historical building, great exhibit, and incredible arts and programming.”

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US Institute for Peace President Nancy Lindborg Speaks This Evening on ‘Building Peace in a Fragile World’

USIP President Nancy Lindborg

AREAWIDE — The Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council (SECWAC) hosts the president of the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), Nancy Lindborg on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m. She will speak on “Building Peace in a Fragile World” at the Saybrook Point Inn   USIP is an independent institute founded by Congress in 1984 to provide practical solutions for preventing and resolving violent conflicts around the world.

Tickets are $20 for the general public and free for area college and high school students, and SECWAC members; tickets can be obtained at info@secwac.org. (The ticket cost can subsequently be applied towards a SECWAC membership.)

The event will take place at 6 pm, Wednesday, Feb. 15, at the Saybrook Point Inn in Old Saybrook. It will be preceded by a 5:30 pm reception.  Immediately following the presentation, SECWAC members with reservations (made by Friday February 10th) will reconvene for dinner ($35) at the Inn.

Lindborg has spent most of her career working in fragile and conflict-affected areas around the world. Prior to joining USIP, she served as the assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) at USAID. There, she led DCHA teams that responded to the Syria Crisis, the droughts in Sahel and Horn of Africa, the Arab Spring, the Ebola outbreak and other global crises.

Prior to that, Lindborg was president of Mercy Corps, the globally respected organization known for its innovative programs in the most challenging environments. She has held a number of leadership and board positions, including serving as co-president of the board of directors for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition; and cofounder and board member of the National Committee on North Korea.

She is a member of Council on Foreign Relations. She holds a B.A and M.A. in English Literature from Stanford University, and an M.A. in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

The presentation is a part of the SECWAC Speaker Series.  SECWAC is a regional, nonprofit, membership organization affiliated with the World Affairs Councils of America.  Its mission is to foster an understanding of issues related to foreign policy and international affairs through study, debate and educational programming.

Through its annual Speaker Series, SECWAC arranges up to 10 presentations a year that provide a public forum for dialogue between its members and experts on foreign relations.  Membership information is available at www.secwac.org.

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A la Carte: Craving a Crunch? Enjoy These Cashew Butterscotch Bars

Cashew Butterscotch Bars

It has been a while since we had a one-two-almost-three punch snowstorm. On the Wednesday before the storm, I had a meeting at 6 p.m. and then another at 6:30 (I was about 15 minutes late for the second one). In the first, my condo board meeting, we talked about the fact that snow was on its way.

We tried to figure out whether it was really going to be a tough one, or not. I felt it might be a real one, and I was prepared. Plenty of food for the cats (because, after all, they could not care less as long as they had a few warm velour throws, a clean litter box and cans of Fancy Feast to go with their dry food).

I do have a freezer full of people food, but that freezer is in the garage, a good walk easy when the weather is good but possibly not so if it really does snow for hours and hours. As it turned out, it snowed for around 10 hours and I couldn‘t get out of my condo for another half a day (except to shovel a path from my back door to the bird feeders).

But I had decided I wanted to cook.

It is actually my therapy, whether the weather is too hot or too cold, or too snowy. I had gotten chicken thighs from the freezer the day before and bought a big chunk of beef chuck and some ground meat for chili. For two of the recipes I used my slow cooker. I bought my first just  after my first marriage dissolved; my new one I have had for about eight years; I love my slow cooker although I usually sear the meat that will go into the crock pot these days.

The chicken thigh recipe was more work than it was worth  The pot roast was amazing (I added almost everything except the kitchen sink including half a can of Campbell’s tomato bisque from the fridge.) The chili, for which I used a package of Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm Fire Chili, was yummy.

But a few days later, I wanted something sweet. Not chocolate, though. I found this recipe I had saved from the New York Times years ago. Boy, are these addictive.

Cashew Butterscotch Bars

From the food section of The New York Times, sometime within the past ten or so years

Yield: 36 bars*

Ingredients:

Two sticks plus 5 and one-half tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus butter for greasing pan
Three-quarter cup plus 2 tablespoons (packed) light-brown sugar
1 and three-quarters teaspoons kosher salt
2 and one-half cups all-purpose flour
10 ounces butterscotch chips
One-half cup plus 2 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon and 2 and one-half teaspoons water
2 one-half cups salted cashew pieces

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-18-inch jelly roll pan, including sides.

2. To make the crust: in a mixer with a paddle or in a bowl with a rubber spatula, best ½ (one-half) plus 2 tablespoons butter and all the brown sugar together until smooth. Stir salt into flour, then add flour to butter and sugar mixture. Mix until dough is well combined but still crumbly; if dough is mixed until a ball forms, crust will be tough.

3. Pat the dough evenly along bottom of buttered pan, taking care not to pack the dough down. Place pan in oven and bake 5 minutes. With a fork, prick dough deeply all over. Return pan to oven and bake until sough is lightly browned, dry and no longer soft to the touch, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack; do not turn off the oven.

4. To make butterscotch topping: In a large saucepan, combine remaining 3 ½ (three and one-half) tablespoons, butterscotch chips, corn syrup and 1 tablespoon plus 2 ½ (two and one-half) teaspoons water. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until butter and butterscotch chips are melted, about 5 minutes. Pour topping over crust, using a spatula to spread, evenly all the way to the corners. Sprinkle cashew pieces on top, pressing down light.

5. Bake until topping is bubbly and cashews are lightly browned, 11 to 13 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before cutting into two-by-three-inch bars.

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CANELLED: Leif Nilsson Presents ‘The Lost Acres String Band’, Sunday

The Lost Acres String Band performs Sunday at the Spring Street Studio.

CHESTER — 02/12 UPDATE: THIS CONCERT HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO THE IMPENDING WINTER STORM.  Leif Nilsson hosts a Sunday night ‘Concert in the Garden,’ Feb. 12, from 4 to 6 p.m.,  featuring The Lost Acres String Band inside the Gallery at the Spring Street Studio at 1 Spring St, Chester Center.

The Lost Acres String Band serves up a flavorful mixture of songs and instrumentals from a wide variety of musical traditions with the added spice of several exotic original compositions. A typical show includes blues, Gypsy jazz, old-time and contemporary fiddle tunes, a haunting Hispanic ballad from the old Southwest, a classic number by The Mississippi Sheiks, and swing tunes from the 1930s.

After study of Western classical and South Indian classical violin, since 1975 Gordon Swift has been playing fiddle, electric violin, and baritone violectra in bands ranging from jazz-rock fusion to reggae to country-and-western. Gordon holds a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University and blends musical influences from around the world into a distinctively American violin/fiddle style. He organized LASB in 2008 and writes the band’s original material.

Master guitarist Paul Howard is a long-time member of the CT Americana/string band Last Fair Deal, with whom he has recorded four albums. Paul runs Valley Music School in Avon, CT and is a founding faculty member of the National Guitar Workshop with five music instruction books to his credit. Paul is an eclectic guitarist bringing influences from swing, old-time, bluegrass, and folk/rock music; he’s also an accomplished vocalist.

Jon Swift (Gordon’s brother) is a veteran of the New England bluegrass and roots music scene. He was a founding member of the popular bluegrass band Traver Hollow, playing bass and singing with the group for 13 years. He has also sung and played bass or acoustic guitar in several other groups (currently BluesGrass and Deep Ellum) as well as performing solo. Appearing here on upright bass, Jon lays down a solid foundation for the band.

“Impossible to pigeonhole…an unpretentious mood-booster…ranging confidently through several different styles, all handled with aplomb,”  says Grammy-winner Stacy Phillips about the band in Fiddler magazine.

This monthly concert series highlights eclectic international singer/songwriter artists from cool jazz to blue grass.

Gates open half hour before the show — first come first seated. Seating is Bistro Style in the amphitheater. The concert will be moved indoors in the event of inclement weather.

A $20 donation is appreciated. The event is BYOB – pack a picnic and buy your own wine or beer at the Chester Package Store across the street.

For more information about the band, visit http://www.lostacresstringband.com

For more information about the studio, visit http://www.nilssonstudio.com or call 860-526-2077

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Celebrate Valentines with Mimosas, Chocolates at Maple & Main, Today

Vivid swirling brushstrokes by abstract artist Lesley Koenig compose this dynamic acrylic painting of a single red rose, surrounded by luscious bursts of bright pink, yellow, blue, orange and green.

CHESTER – In celebration of Valentines, mimosas and chocolates will be served to visitors at Maple and Main Gallery Sunday, Feb. 12, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The gallery has a large selection of small paintings at reasonable prices which would make perfect and unique Valentine’s gifts.

The annual Juried Show and Winter Exhibit are on display representing new work by over 80 artists in a variety of styles and medium.

Maple and Main, at One Maple Street, is open Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 6 p.m., Friday from noon to 7 p.m.; Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mapleandmaingallery.com; 860-526-6065. Visit the gallery on facebook.

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Musical Masterworks Hosts Two Concerts This Weekend Featuring Pre-concert Talks

Soprano Hyunah Yu

AREAWIDE — In February, Musical Masterworks will shine a light on the relationship between Schumann and Brahms, as the elegant soprano Hyunah Yu returns to sing Schumann’s transporting song cycle Frauenliebe und -leben.

Also, as part of a new Musical Masterworks venture, join Edward Arron one hour before the February concerts for an in-depth pre-concert talk about the lives and compositions of Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms.

The February performances are Saturday, Feb. 11, at 5 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 12, at 3 p.m. at The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, an acoustically rich and beautiful venue for chamber music.

To purchase tickets ($35 individual; $5 student), visit Musical Masterworks at www.musicalmasterworks.org or call 860.434.2252.

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Letter to the Editor: Valley Shore Clergy Association Stands in Solidarity with Immigrants, Refugees

To the Editor:

We, a group of interfaith clergy from many religious streams and beliefs, feel called to express our support for refugees, immigrants, asylum-seekers, and others who wish to live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Our sacred texts provide the lens through which we view the world around us; these teachings affirm the following shared values across faith traditions:

• Every single human being is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:28), and we support the integrity and sanctity of every individual.
• We heed the teaching of Leviticus: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
• We are instructed to “Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18),” and thus to treat others how we wish to be treated.
• We are obligated to follow the prophetic call: “And what does the Eternal require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
• We are reminded of basic human kindness and compassion: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” (Matthew 25:35)

We are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants. We have all known what it is to be the stranger. Safety and security of all is critical, and we understand the importance of appropriate and thorough vetting of all those who wish to be part of America. However, fear cannot dictate our values. Rather, we are reminded again and again that, when we reach out in love and righteousness, we are most secure.

We know all too well what religious bigotry has wrought in the past. History is filled with many reminders of the horrific destruction caused by hatred, persecution, and intolerance. Instead, we share a message of solidarity, understanding, and dialogue.

We denounce any laws or orders based on xenophobia, discrimination, or fear which run counter to our national interests. We are proud Americans, and we hold dear our country’s core beliefs in religious diversity, ideological diversity, and cultural diversity.

We call upon people of faith to represent moral conscience, compassion for all, and an overarching sense of justice and righteousness.

Sincerely,
Valley Shore Clergy Association

Rev. Martha Bays
The Congregational Church in Killingworth, UCC

Rabbi Marci Bellows
Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek, Chester, CT

Rev. Robin Blundon, Interim Pastor
Northford Congregational Church

The Rev. Dr. M. Craig Fitzsimmons
United Methodist Church of Clinton

Rev. Laura Fitzpatrick-Nager, Pastor
First Church, East Haddam

The Rev. Dr. Jonathan H. Folts
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Essex, CT

Rev. Dr. Jan Gregory-Charpentier, Pastor
First Congregational Church of Westbrook, CT

Brett Hertzog Betkoski
Trinity Lutheran Church – Centerbrook, CT

Reverend Amy Hollis
Winthrop Baptist Church

Rev. Lee A. Ireland
Interim Pastor, United Church of Chester

Rev Charlotte LaForest
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Essex, CT

Rev. Joy Perkett
First Baptist Church of Essex

Rev. Suzanne Personette
Middlefield Federated Church

Rev. Kenneth Peterkin
First Congregational Church, UCC, Essex, CT

Rev. Geoff Sinibaldo, Pastor

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Old Saybrook, CT

Pastor Les Swenson
St. Mark Lutheran Church, Norwich, CT

Rev. John Van Epps, Pastor
North Guilford Congregational Church UCC

Rev. Cynthia C. Willauer
First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, UCC

Pastor Ryan Young
Living Rock Church of Killingworth

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‘Stop The Bypass’ Rally in Mystic Today; Blumenthal, Courtney, Formica and Carney All Slated to Attend

Photo courtesy of Robin Breeding.

AREAWIDE — A protest rally against the Federal Rail Administration’s proposed high speed rail route through southeastern Connecticut will be held this Saturday, Feb. 11, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Olde Mistick Village, 27 Coogan Blvd, Mystic, CT.  The meeting point for the rally is the Caboose in the north end of the parking lot.

US Senator Richard Blumenthal, US Representative Joe Courtney (2nd District), State Sen. Heather Somers (R-18th), State Sen. Paul Formica (R-20th), State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd), Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons, and Greg Stroud of SECoast and CT Trust are all planning to join the protest.  Stroud is the founder of the non-profit SECoast, which has worked tirelessly to research all aspects of the proposed bypass and campaign objectively against them.

Organizers of the rally include Olde Mistick Village, Westerly Chamber of Commerce, Mystic Chamber of Commerce and many more.

For more information, contact Stephenbessette@gmail.com

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Niko’s Snow Blankets the Region

A winter wonderland. Photo by Jerome Wilson.

AREAWIDE — Winter Storm Niko pounded the Tri-Town region yesterday dropping some 12 inches of heavy, wet snow, thus creating some challenging snow-clearing.  It also created some picture-perfect snow scenes like the one captured above.

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A La Carte: Preparing Perfect (Eggplant) Parmagiana

Eggplant parmagiana

It has been a long winter punctuated by a couple of visits to California and the march in DC

I have found that these quick visits that require long plane trips make me sick. Literally. A vicious head cold arrived from a flight from Kennedy to San Diego and the red-eye back home in six days. A drive to DC and back, still nursing that cold, dropped me like a stone with an almost-three-week flu-ish illness. (Yes, I got my flu shot in October. I really didn’t know there are other flu-like flus. Now I know there are.)

In any case, it is over, pretty much. And it’s time for dinner parties. I had made lots of Bolognese and froze the sauce so there would be enough for the winter. One couple said that would be great, but did I know that he is a vegetarian. Those of us carnivores figure once you figure out the meat, everything else falls into place, so the dinner called for a change-up.

What shall I make, I wonder?

What is even better than Bolognese?

Eggplant parm, of course, with a big salad, garlic bread and, perhaps, a blueberry (or apple) pie., This recipe comes to me from my ex-neighbor, Kathy, who got it from the Fatone family. Evidently, Sam Gejdenson used to make the Fatone family recipe to great fanfare. It is beyond delicious.

Eggplant Parmagiana

2 and one-half pounds eggplant

2 cups all-purpose flour

6 to 7 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups finely ground breadcrumbs or panko (

One-quarter to one-half pound thinly sliced provolone cheese

One-quarter cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

4 cups or more marinara (use a very good jarred sauce or the recipe below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone pads.

Insert slicing disc, adjusted to 4 mm, into the large work bowl of the Cuisinart. Slice the eggplant into rounds. (If you do not have this food processor, use a very sharp knife and slice the eggplant into rounds or ovals.)

Put flour, eggs and breadcrumbs into shallow individual containers. Dredge each slice first in flour, then in eggs, then in breadcrumbs. After dredging in each ingredient, tap the eggplant to remove any excess. Arrange eggplant in single layers on both sheets. Bake in oven for 20 minutes. (The recipe says to flip them halfway through, but I don’t.)

When eggplant is done, take the pans from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. In two 13-inch by 9-inch pans, begin to layer the eggplant, beginning with a ladle of marinara, then eggplant, then provolone, followed marinara, eggplant and provolone until done. Top with a layer of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Easy and Delicious Marinara

This is my go-to recipe. If you use it with pasta, by the time your pasta water is boiling, the red sauce is ready.

Yield: enough for eggplant parm with some leftover to have with eggs the next morning.

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped fine

4 large garlic cloves, minced

2 28-ounce cans excellent whole canned tomatoes (I use Muir Glen, available at BJs)*

Salt and pepper, to taste

Few shakes of red pepper flakes (optional)

In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Pour in onions and saute until just translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add red pepper flakes, if you like it a bit spicy.

*I now puree the tomatoes in my blender or food processor. If you like it chunkier, use a potato masher or your hands to the chunkier you like it.

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Siegrist Criticizes Governor Malloy’s Budget Proposal

State Rep. Robert Siegrist (R-36th)

State Representative Bob Siegrist (R-36) issued the following statement in response to the Fiscal Year 2018 – 2019 Biennial Budget Address that Governor Dannel P. Malloy presented Feb. 8 to the General Assembly.

Siegrist said, “The budget proposal put forth by the governor hits middle class residents the hardest and weakens our education system. In fact, Governor Malloy suggests that Hartford get the largest increase in funds, 17 percent to be exact.”

He added, “The governor’s proposal punishes towns that are able to balance their checkbooks and bails out the ones that consistently mismanage their funds,” continuing, “This proposal hurts the middle class people of this state; the ones that work hard and balance their checkbooks responsibly. His proposal even eliminates the property tax credit, which directly impacts people in my district that are already struggling to make ends meet, and I will not stand for it.”

State Rep. Bob Siegrist represents Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam. He is a member of the General Assembly’s Insurance, Public Safety and Veterans’ Affairs.

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Winter Storm Niko Set to Hit Region Today, Parking Ban Announced in Essex

AREAWIDE — Due to predictions of 11-14 inches of snow today from Winter Storm Niko, the Town of Essex has announced a parking ban from 6 a.m. through 7 p.m. today. This will enable snow plows to keep roads clear and safe, and also open for emergency vehicles.  Many other closures are expected.

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State Public Hearing on Proposed Rail Route to be Held Tomorrow in Hartford; Carney Urges Residents to Testify in Person or by E-mail

State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd)

UPDATED 12:17am: (in red italics): Tomorrow, the legislature’s Transportation Committee is hosting a public hearing on various transportation issues, including three bills related to the Federal Rail Authority’s (FRA) proposed bypass through southeastern Connecticut.

The first objects to the proposal to build a new high speed railroad bypass through southeastern Connecticut.  The second requires municipal approval by town referendum for such a scheme to move forward and the third prohibits the state from spending any funds on such a proposal unless it has received municipal approval.

The public hearing is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 6 in Room 2E of the Legislative Office Building – 300 Capitol Ave, Hartford. State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) is encouraging constituents and local elected officials to voice their opinions and concerns. ”

He stresses, however, “Due to high interest from across Southeastern Connecticut (and possibly Rhode Island), I am anticipating a large turnout for the public hearing on Monday. Public hearings can last a very long time, so I want to remind folks that they can submit written testimony to TRATestimony@cga.ct.gov if they cannot attend or cannot spend, potentially, several hours waiting to testify.”

Carney represents the 23rd district, which encompasses the towns of Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and a portion of Westbrook.

The Committee will hold a public hearing on a variety of bills including three mentioned above and described in more detail below that State Rep. Carney and State Senator Paul Formica (R-20th) drafted. The hearing will give individuals the opportunity to speak about a number of transportation concerns facing the state.

State Senator Paul Formica (R-20th)

The following bill proposals were drafted by both Carney and Formica, and will be heard during the public hearing:

HJ 54 RESOLUTION CONCERNING THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION’S PROPOSAL TO CONSTRUCT AN ALTERNATIVE AMTRAK ROUTE THROUGH SOUTHEAST CONNECTICUT

This bill proposal objects to the proposal by the FRA regarding construction of a bypass on the Northeast Corridor rail line between Old Saybrook, Connecticut to Kenyon, Rhode Island through the scenic and historic towns of southeast Connecticut.

SB 253 AN ACT REQUIRING MUNICIPAL APPROVAL OF CHANGES TO RAIL SERVICE

Carney, the leading Republican lawmaker on the legislature’s Transportation Committee, said: “Many of our constituents felt that their concerns were not properly considered and that the FRA was trying to ram this bypass proposal through without a proper public hearing from those most affected by it. We agree. So, we drafted this proposal which would require municipal approval, through referendum, for any changes to commuter rail service through an impacted community.”

SB 263 AN ACT CONCERNING MUNICIPAL APPROVAL OF CHANGES TO RAIL SERVICE

This bill proposal pairs with SB 253 in that it prohibits the state from expending funds on rail projects that did not receive municipal approval through a referendum.

Carney added, “I would encourage you to support these concepts and express your thoughts on how you feel the FRA process has gone thus far and any concerns you may have.”

To find a complete list of relevant bills on the agenda for Monday’s public hearing, visit: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2017/TRAdata/pha/2017pha00206-R001230TRA-pha.htm

For information on how to testify visit: https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/content/yourvoice.asp.

Email written testimony in Word or PDF format to TRAtestimony@cga.ct.gov.

Anyone with questions about bills or the public hearing process can contact Rep. Carney’s office at (800) 842-1423 or by email to Devin.Carney@housegop.ct.gov.

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Rep. Siegrist to Hold In-District Coffee Hour in Deep River, April 4

AREAWIDE — State Rep. Robert Siegrist (R-36) has announced that he will be holding coffee hours during the coming weeks throughout the 36th District in an effort to meet with residents and listen to their concerns.

The public is invited to attend any of the scheduled ‘District Coffee Hours’ events to meet with Rep. Siegrist in a relaxed setting and discuss any issues they wish to speak about, including the latest updates from the State Capitol.

Residents are encouraged to ask any questions about state or local issues, including proposed legislation.

Coffee Hour Schedule:

Tuesday, April 4
8:00-9:00am
Jack’s Country Restaurant, 26 Killingworth Road, Higganum

Thursday, April 6
8:00-9:00am
Town Hall, Room 1, 29 West Avenue, Essex

Those unable to attend an event but would like to speak with Rep. Siegrist may email Robert.Siegrist@housegop.ct.gov or call (860) 240-8700.  Check www.RepSiegrist.com  for any cancellations prior to the scheduled event.

Editor’s Note: Siegrist represents the 36th District communities of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam.

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Essex Land Trust Hosts Winter Raptors Field Trip Today

Eyeing the sky for eagles, hawks and owls on last year’s Essex Land Trust birding trip.

ESSEX — Eagles, hawks and owls: Essex Land Trust is offering an outing to search for birds of prey that winter in our region on Saturday, Feb. 4, from 1 to 5:30 p.m.  The trip will be led by Jim Denham of the Essex Land Trust and Andrew Griswold of the Connecticut Audubon Society.

Meet at the Essex Town Hall Parking Lot. Bring a snack and beverage, binoculars and warm clothes.

Two vans are available to seat the first 15 people who sign up. To reserve, please contact Judy Saunders at: judith.saunders@comcast.net by Jan. 31. Inclement weather cancels.

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‘When Paris Sizzled’: Essex Library Hosts Author Talk Today by Mary McAuliffe

ESSEX — Mary McAuliffe vividly portrays the City of Light during the fabulous 1920s, Les Années Folles, when Parisians emerged from the horrors of war to find that a new world greeted them one that reverberated with the metallic clang of the assembly line, the roar of automobiles, and the beat of jazz.

On Saturday, Feb. 4, at 1:30 p.m. at the Essex Library, McAuliffe will outline this decade that saw seismic change on almost every front, from art and architecture to music, literature, fashion, entertainment, transportation, and, most notably, behavior. The epicenter of all this creativity, as well as of the era’s good times, was Montparnasse, where impoverished artists and writers found colleagues and cafes, and tourists discovered the Paris of their dreams.

Major figures on the Paris scene such as Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Picasso, Stravinsky, Diaghilev, and Proust continued to hold sway, while others now came to prominence including Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, Cole Porter, and Josephine Baker, as well as Andre Citroen, Le Corbusier, Man Ray, Sylvia Beach, James Joyce, and the irrepressible Kiki of Montparnasse.

Paris of the 1920s unquestionably sizzled. Yet rather than being a decade of unmitigated bliss, this period also saw an undercurrent of despair as well as the rise of ruthless organizations of the extreme right, aimed at annihilating whatever threatened tradition and order; a struggle that would escalate in the years ahead.

This program is free and open to the public. Call the Essex Library at 860 767-1560 to register or for more information. The Essex Library is located at 33 West Ave. in Essex.

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Celebrate ‘Take Your Child to the (Chester) Library Day’ Today; Meet the Dog Whisperer

Chester Library (Skip Hubbard photo)

CHESTER — “Take Your Child to the Library Day,” this Saturday, Feb. 4, you can meet the Dog Whisperer, Helene Ferrari, from Sheltara in Chester, and her training dog, Bodie, at the library between 11 a.m. and noon.

While you pet Bodie, Ferrari will share her secrets about how to care for a pet and the importance of training. Bring your questions and also, bring a picture of your dog to share.

Before 11, you can hear stories about amazing dogs from Mrs. Applesauce, and sign up for your own library card. Pet crafts, dog treats and treats for humans too.

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Winter Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises Depart Weekend Days from CT River Museum

RiverQuest start Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises Saturday, Feb. 4.

ESSEX  – Connecticut River Expeditions of Haddam offers cruises on the lower Connecticut River this February and March for the 14th year of Winter Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises. This year they have teamed up with the Connecticut River Museum and will be departing from the Museum’s dock in Essex. With this partnership, passengers enjoy both the river and its wildlife from the water and also the entire Museum including their special “Eagles of Essex” exhibit.

A magnificent Bald Eagle.

As the river, lakes and ponds to our north freeze, eagles and other wildlife make their way to the lower Connecticut River for their favorite food – fish. Eagles have made a major comeback over the past few decades and more eagles are being sighted in this area. On past cruises, up to 41 Bald Eagles, three types of grebe and swan and merganser, golden eagle, many different gull and hawk species, loons, coyote, fox, deer, three types of seal, and even a bobcat have been spotted.
“Winter is such a special time on the river, it is serene and scenic and there is a sense of tranquility. With no leaves on the trees, the river’s edge offers a much different view, making it easier to find and see our winter wildlife.  On this cruise we will search for the majestic Bald Eagle and other winter species,”notes Mindy, Captain Mark’s wife, crew and co-owner of RiverQuest, pointing out, “Each cruise is different and you never know what we will find.”

Winter Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises include more than just big birds. Passengers often site beautiful winter ducks and even harbor seals. Photo by: Bill Yule.

RiverQuest has a heated cabin, but it is suggested that you dress in warm layers since the best views will be from the open decks. Bring your own camera and binoculars, but if you forget –or don’t have — them, there are plenty on board to borrow during the cruise. 

“We are excited to be working with the Connecticut River Museum. We feel that our mutual interest in the river is a perfect match,” comments Captain Mark of the eco-tour vessel, adding, “RiverQuest is already docked in Essex at the Museum and we are ready to go. We are hopeful that relocating RiverQuest from her home berth in Haddam further south this winter will increase our chances of running every trip.”
 
“There are few places as breathtaking or as tranquil as the Connecticut River in winter. We look forward to working with RiverQuest and sharing this experience with visitors,” says Chris Dobbs, Executive Director of the Connecticut River Museum.
In the Museum you can brush up on your Bald Eagle facts and field identification. With life size comparisons of local raptors you will get a close up idea of how large these birds really are. You can also try your nest building skills and enjoy all the other exhibits the Connecticut River Museum has to offer.   Additional eagle related public programs will be offered at the Museum during the Winter Wildlife Cruise season.

Cruises will be Feb. 4 through March 19. Departures on Fridays are at 10am and 12:30pm. Departures on Saturday and Sunday at 9am, 11:30am and 2pm.  Cost is $40 per person.

For more information visit www.ctriverquest.com  or www.ctrivermuseum.org
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Siegrist Urges Legislature to Pair Pension Refinancing with Reform

State Rep. Robert Siegrist (R-36th)

AREAWIDE – On Wednesday, Feb. 1, State Representative Bob Siegrist (R-36th) urged fellow lawmakers to reject Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s pension funding agreement and instead advised the legislature to assess alternative means by which to address the state’s growing pension system problems.

House Republicans released data obtained from two actuarial analyses that show how additional steps can rein in the state’s unfunded pension liabilities. Both reports show how pairing pension finance changes with modifications to state employee benefits could increase the solvency of the state pension plan.

“We owe it to the people of Connecticut and to our children to come up with a better option. It is not fair for us to pass our problems onto future generations, we must be responsible and make difficult decisions to benefit to our state,” said Siegrist.

The governor’s pension proposal sought to tackle a mounting budget deficit by reducing short-term state pension contributions. In exchange for leveling payments through 2047, taxpayers would be responsible for an additional $11 billion over the duration of the deal compared to the structure of the current plan. Furthermore, the deal recommends a reduction in the investment rate of return from the current eight percent to 6.9 percent.

Many Republican lawmakers have suggested that making alterations to state employee pension benefits could reduce the unfunded liability by $200 million. If that sum were sent into the pension fund, actuaries estimate that the length of the new plan could be reduced by seven years and could decrease the additional liability from the projected $11 billion to $3 billion.

The State House voted 76-72 to ratify the deal on a nearly party-line vote, while the State Senate voted 18-17 with the Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman casting the tie-breaking vote in favor of the deal.

The 36th House District is comprised of the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Haddam.

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‘Music & More’ Season Opens Sunday in Chester with Jazz Singer Kathy Kosins

Kathy Kosins performs at Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek on Sunday.

CHESTER — Song stylist Kathy Kosins, described by one prominent music critic as “everything Diane Krall should be,” will perform in Chester on Sunday, Feb. 5, at 5 p.m.  Her appearance opens season nine of Music & More at Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek and, as always, is open to the public, and features a meet-the-artist reception afterward.

Kosins has performed throughout Europe, as well as Tanglewood in the Berkshires, the iconic Blue Note in New York City, and the Newport Jazz Festival.  She is particularly known for uncovering great songs that are overlooked by others. In all, though, her work is not easily categorized.

In 2012 she released “To The Ladies Of Cool”, a dedication to the West Coast School of Cool artists like June Christy, Chris Connor, Julie London, and Anita O’Day. Her latest release this year (2016) is titled “Uncovered Soul” and includes lesser known tunes by well-known artists like Curtis Mayfield, The Neville Brothers, and Bill Withers, along with three originals of her own.

David Zeleznik, the director of the Music & More series, says, “I am particularly excited that this concert will be Kathy Kosins’ only appearance in CT this season. Her new release ‘Uncovered Soul’ has transported her from mainstream jazz to groove-oriented soul. On the recording, produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Kamau Kenyatta, she is backed by the incomparable Gregory Porter. Visit this link to see video of Kosin performing.

Kosins is also a talented painter of modern abstractions and she will be bringing along several of her smaller works for display and sale. ”

To accompany her in February, Kathy has recruited Earl MacDonald, the celebrated jazz pianist who is Director of Jazz Studies at UConn and composer in residence at the Hartford Jazz Society. Earl has won the Hartford Advocate’s “best jazz group” award several times and will bring along a couple of other jazz professors to round out the combo backing Kathy.

Music & More, which has become a cultural phenomenon in the Connecticut River Valley, offers three more concerts for the ninth season, featuring the a capella singing group, the Maccabeats (March 19), classical pianist Dalia Lazar (April 30), and Bivolito Klezmer (June 25).

Tickets for the general public for the Kathy Kosins concert are $35 in advance or $40 at the door, with free admission for children 16 and under. Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek is located at 55 East Kings Highway in Chester.

For more information or to order tickets, visit cbsrz.org or call

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Letter From Paris: How France is Coping With the Ongoing Terrorism Threat

Nicole Prévost Logan

Two years after the “Je suis Charlie” massacre, how does it feel to be in France today with the threat of terrorism?  

Numbers seem to speak for themselves: France, which is the most visited European country, saw a decrease last year of almost 50 percent – equivalent to 84 million – tourists last year while website commentaries lament empty hotels, restaurants and museums.

This observation is not quite accurate and, besides, does not take into account the complexity of the situation. In the first place, France has not become a dangerous war zone and people here still enjoy themselves: restaurants are full at lunch time, the new Paris Philarmonie orchestra is booked solid for months and there are more fantastic art exhibits – such as the Shchukin collection – than ever.

For the French, the threat of terrorism is not measured primarily by the dollar amount lost through a decrease in mass tourism (which is not the country’s vocation in any case.) There are many other serious considerations relating to the effects of terrorism on French politics and society, or the measures taken by authorities to protect the citizens.    

The cover of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ two years after the horrific attack on the magazine’s office in Paris.

In recent years, the French have been deeply marked by terrorist attacks with 237 people killed between January 2015 and July 2016. These range tragically from the murder of cartoonists; the bombing of the Bataclan night club, several bistros and restaurants; a truck plowing through the crowd on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice on Bastille Day; to the gory assassination of 85-year-old  father Jacques Hamel, whose throat was slit on the altar of his small Normandie church in front of two elderly nuns.

The impact on France’s national consciousness of the November 2015 terrorist attacks was enormous. As the two chambers of the parliament met in a joint session in Versailles, every single deputy stood up and sang the national anthem, La Marseillaise, a solemn event not seen since 1918.

François Hollande has been literally traumatized by the terrorist bombings. The president was immediately on the scenes of the attacks, even before the areas were made secure. For him, the defense against terrorism was a brutal awakening and a priority. The political price he had to pay was very high.

Under the intense pressure of the moment, he proposed a law on the déchéance de la nationalité (loss of nationality) for terrorists. This proposal caused havoc among the leftist segment of the French population. The president never recovered politically. Recently, when he announced his decision not to run again for another five years, Hollande declared, “I was wrong to make that proposal”.

The terrorist threat has become part of French people’s daily life. Alain Bauer, a professor of criminology, recently published a book titled, “How to Live in the Terrorist Era,” in which he gives practical advice on what to do in case of attack. Defense against terrorism is a major topic for the candidates in the upcoming presidential elections. .

France has come a long way since the affaire Merah in March 2012. The young Mohammed Merah had appeared all smiles on TV screens after killing seven civilians and military in the Toulouse area. At first believed to have acted as a “lone wolf,” he  turned out to be part of a whole network of siblings, relatives and friends. During the past five years, the French authorities – Intelligence, police,  judiciary and military both inside France and abroad – have made spectacular efforts to adjust to the terrorist threat, which is changing its modus operandi almost daily. 

Today the police wear bulletproof vests, carry attack weapons, and not only have the right, but also the duty, to intervene in the case of a terrorist threat.  The Direction Générale de Securiéte Interieure or DGSI (equivalent to the FBI) has stepped up its action, thwarting  90 percent of bombing attempts every year. In the past few months, it has dismantled sleeping terrorist cells in Marseille and Strasbourg.

France is the European country with the largest Moslem population. The latter is overwhelmingly considered to have nothing to do with radical Islam.  However, subjects which used to be taboo before, such as the relationship between extremism and religion, are now openly debated. Recent books also contribute to the change in thinking.

Gilles Kepel, an authority on the Arab world and Islam, demonstrates in his book, La Fracture, (‘The Divide’) that the only way to understand extreme Islamists is to analyze in depth their ideology. One should make an effort to understand  their strategy, which is to divide society, by teaching from a very young age, hatred against non-believers and the West, through brainwashing and conversion of an increasing number of people in both mosques and also in prisons. Keppel writes, “Prisons have become the ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration or French elite school ) for Jihadists.” 

In the fall, journalist David Thomson  published “Les Revenants” (those who returned) about the young men – and women – who joined ISIS or Islamist State in 2012 at the outset of the Syrian civil war. They would announce their plans openly on You Tube  and traveled freely through Turkey toward their final destination of Rakka. In 2013 -14 their number grew exponentially. With the loss of territory in The Levant , ISIS has changed its strategy and many of the “revenants” have gone underground and become “Jihadists of the keyboard,” to use Thomson’s expression.

Is it the end of the tunnel ? Probably not and the threat remains, the experts concur. We can be thankful, however, that the Intelligence services and police have become more successful in cracking down on radical Islam.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole LoganAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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