Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District, Inc.

Middletown office:
deKoven House Community Center
27 Washington Street
Middletown, CT 06457

Phone: 860-346-3282
Fax: 860-346-3284

Welcome to Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District
soil and water conservation since 1946

The Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is
to promote the sound use and management of natural resources in our 26-town area.

The District provides technical assistance and education in:

♦ soil and water conservation
♦ erosion and sedimentation control
♦ stormwater management
♦ watershed protection

 Our programs and services are provided to:   

♦ municipal staff and land use commissioners
♦ private residents
♦ agricultural producers
♦ the public
♦ the development community 

The Connecticut River Watch Program, a citizen monitoring program for the Connecticut River and tributaries, is one of the District's flagship programs.

The District receives financial support from municipal contributions, the State of Connecticut, an
annual native plant sale, state, federal and private grants, and private contributions.


Racing to Zero Next Film in Environmental Series

The next film in The Elements: An Annual Environment Film SeriesRacing to Zero, will be shown on April 3, 2017, at Middlesex Community College Founders Hall Pavilion (map, directions and public transportation information). The screening will begin at 7 pm, but we invite people to come at 6:30 pm for BYO dinner and conversation. As always, the film is free of charge and open to the public.

Racing To Zero is about San Francisco’s efforts to achieve zero waste by 2020. As indicated on the film's website, it is a quick-moving, upbeat documentary presenting new solutions to the global problem of waste. By simply substituting the word RESOURCE for the word GARBAGE, a culture can be transformed, and a new wealth of industries can emerge. Three years ago the mayor of San Francisco pledged to achieve zero waste by 2020. Racing to Zero tracks San Francisco’s waste stream diversion tactics and presents innovative new solutions to waste. This film documents a surprising, engaging and inspiring race to zero.

We welcome everyone to stay after the film for an informal post-film discussion led by Kim O'Rourke, Middletown's Recycling Coordinator. Kim will update us on Middletown's Zero Waste program and comment on the film. We hope you can join us! Phone our office at 860-346-3282 for more information.

The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series
was begun in 2015 by the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District, Middlesex Community College Environmental Science Program, The Rockfall Foundation, and Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts and College of the Environment. Racing to Zero is the ninth film in the series. Previous films include: Elemental, Watershed, Dirt! The Movie, Chasing Ice, The End of the Line, The True Cost, Dukale's Dream, Xmas Without China, and Merchants of Doubt.



2017 Newsletter Features Fishway and Other Conservation Projects

Check out our latest newsletter (download PDF newletter), featuring lots of great project news. Read about progress on the Chapman Pond fishway, our Urban Agriculture project, and more!


Shop at AmazonSmile, Support Local Conservation!

Do you shop at Amazon? If so, you can support the Conservation District through AmazonSmile. Just click through the link below and a portion of the purchase total will be donated to the District on eligible items. Help support our technical and educational services and programs, and LOCAL conservation by adding the District as your charity of choice. Thank you!!!   


26th Annual Plant Sale: April 28-30, 2017 at Tanger Outlets in Westbrook

It may be cold and wintry out, but it’s not too soon to plan for spring planting! Now’s the time to take advantage of the wide variety of CT native shrubs, ground covers, evergreen tree seedlings, flowering perennials, ferns, grasses, and culinary herbs offered in our 2017 sale. Our selection includes several new plants, such as the hard to find pussy willow; an expanded ground cover and perennial section; two new Garden in a Box selections (Pollinator & Bird, including hummingbird and songbird attracting plants); and Collins Organic Compost.

We encourage you to order early to reserve your choices! Advance orders are due April 7, 2017.

The brochure and order form are available on our website (download PDF brochure). If you would like to receive a copy in the mail, please contact our office to be added to our mailing list, (860) 346-3282.



Merchants of Doubt Screening Draws Large Crowd!

Our most recent film in The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series, was Merchants of Doubt, shown on February 6, 2017, 7pm at the Wesleyan University Center for Film Studies. This series of free film screenings has been a big success, and this film was no exception, drawing our largest audience ever--over 100 people!

As described on the website, Merchants of Doubt was inspired by the acclaimed book of the same name by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. The film provides a satirical, often chilling expose into the conjuring of American spin, and the secretive group of pundits-for-hire who present themselves in the media as scientific authorities – yet have the contrary aim of manufacturing doubt about well-studied, serious public and environmental health threats, including cigarettes, flame retardants, and climate change. It is an extremely well-done, compelling film, with interviews of a variety of players on both sides, including Naomi Oreskes.

After the film we were lucky to have Wesleyan Psychology Professor Steve Stemmler lead off the discussion by introducing some concepts relevant to the phenomenon portrayed in the film. Many people stayed to participate in a lively post-film discussion. 

The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series was begun in 2015 by the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District, Middlesex Community College Environmental Science Program, The Rockfall Foundation, and Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts and College of the Environment. Merchants of Doubt is the ninth film in the series. Previous films include: Elemental, Watershed, Dirt! The Movie, Chasing Ice, The End of the Line, The True Cost, Dukale's Dream, and Xmas Without China.

Our next film will be Racing to Zero, about San Francisco’s efforts to achieve zero waste by 2020, which will be shown on April 3, 2017 at Middlesex Community College (movie at 7pm and BYO dinner and conversation at 6:30pm). We hope you can join us! Phone our office att 860-346-3282 for more information.


Interactive Coginchaug Water Quality Story Map Now Online

After testing a prototype and getting input from the community, the District's new web-based Coginchaug River water quality map is now available online!

For those of you who may not know, the District has been engaged in a long-term water quality assessment and improvement project to address elevated levels of E.coli bacteria in the Coginchaug River and tributaries. The river has been listed by the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) as impaired and not supporting contact recreation and aquatic life since 1996 due to high bacteria levels. Much progress has been made over the years by the District and partners to address water quality concerns, with the goal of removing the river from the State Impaired Waters List. Current activities are focused on tracking down potential sources of bacteria through water quality monitoring and other assessment activities, and planning and implementing water quality improvement projects.

For more information, we encourage you to check out our interactive map. The map includes graphic displays of bacteria data gathered with the help of community volunteers through our CT River Watch Program; river facts; water quality improvement efforts; and actions that individuals, municipalities and farms can take to protect water quality. It currently features four years of results and will be updated annually with new results. The interactive map project was funded in part by a grant from The Rockfall Foundation as part of an effort to make water quality data more accessible, and build public awareness about Coginchaug River health.



Updated, Expanded Invasive Plant Guide Now Available!

We are excited to announce the recent publication of an updated, expanded version of the District's popular guide, Invasive Plants In Your Backyard! A Guide to Their Identification and Control. Copies of the guide are available at our office in Middletown, and will be distributed to town halls and libraries throughout our area in the coming weeks. A digital version of the guide is also available here (download PDF guide).

The original guide covered detailed identification and control information for ten common backyard invasives and recommendations for native alternatives to plant in their stead, as well as background information on invasive plants and why they are a concern. The new expanded guide includes nine additional plants: Wineberry, Mile-a-Minute Weed, Goutweed, Norway Maple, Black Swallow-Wort, Mugwort, Japanese Hop, Porcelainberry, and Japanese Stiltgrass.

This is the third printing of the guide, but the only major update since we first published the guide in 2009 with support from a grant from The Rockfall Foundation. Initially, we printed 3,000 copies, then three years later, 10,000 more! When we were running out of copies of our second printing, guide users urged us to expand the guide to include additional plants that are a growing concern in CT.

We are grateful for the technical input and assistance provided by the CT Invasive Plant Working Group (CIPWG) in developing our expanded guide, and to The Rockfall Foundation for a generous grant to support printing of the guide. Project partners who supported this project by committing to buy into the print run include CIPWG, the Essex Land Trust, and other CT Conservation Districts. We printed 12,500 copies this third time, which we hope will be a sufficient supply to last for a while!


District 2016 Annual Report Published!

 We are pleased to present...the District's 2016 Annual Report! To view a PDF of the report, click on the image below.


Xmas Without China Shown as part of Environmental Film Series

The second fall film in The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series, Xmas Without China, was shown on November 14, 2016 at Middlesex Community College in Middletown. It was an interesting departure from our usual films, more of a cultural study focused on consumerism and immigration in American society, than a film with an environmental theme.  In the film, a Chinese immigrant challenges a US family to reject materialism and live without Chinese products during Christmas, touching on themes of globalization, product safety standards, the intersection of cultures, and shifts in our views of the 'American Dream'. The film provides an intimate portrait of families wrestling with their drive to consume cheap products, as well as their desire for human connection and a sense of who we are in a fast-changing world.

In the spirit of issues raised by the film about Christmas and consumerism, I assembled a list of local, sustainable and non-materialistic giving options to consider this holiday season. Ideas include local farm products; soaps, candles and lip balms; herbs, teas and botanicals; local wine and beer, and vineyard or brewery tours and tastings; yarn and wool products; local crafts; gifts certificates for local restaurants, yoga classes, theater or dance performances, concerts; massages or a day at the spa; a special outing...the possibilities are endless!

The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series was begun in 2015 by the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District, Middlesex Community College Environmental Science Program, The Rockfall Foundation, and Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts and College of the Environment. Xmas Without China is the eighth film in the series. Previous films include: Elemental, Watershed, Dirt! The Movie, Chasing Ice, The End of the Line, The True Cost, and Dukale's Dream. Our next film will be Merchants of Doubt, to be shown in early February at Wesleyan University. Stay tuned for details!


District's 69th Annual Meeting Features Cato Corner Farm Tour

A fun time was had by staff, board, partners, and members of the community at our 69th annual meeting at Cato Corner Farm in Colchester. Participants heard about the District's 2015-2016 accomplishments; helped honor our conservation award winners; and learned about the farm’s conservation practices and cheese-making operations.

Cato Corner Farm, owned and managed by the mother-son team of Elizabeth MacAlister and Mark Gillman, is renowned for its raw farmstead cheeses made by hand from the delicious milk of its 45 Jersey cows, using traditional cheese-making styles. The cows are raised humanely on a pasture-based diet without growth hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics. A lifelong goal to ensure the land would be preserved for future generations has been met with two protective easements on the land, one that protects all pastureland from development or cultivation through the Natural Resources Conservation Service Grassland Reserve Program, and the second on the entire farm held by Connecticut Farmland Trust.

The farm tour was led by Elizabeth MacAlister, who spoke about the dairy and cheese making operation, and introduced us to the herd, including serveral newborn additions. We had the opportunity to taste several of the delicious cheeses, and many of us bought cheese to take home; and all enjoyed the hot mulled cider and other refreshments brought by staff and board members. Many thanks to Cato Corner for hosting our annual meeting at the farm!


Dukale's Dream Screened as part of Environmental Film Series

We launched our 2016-2017 season of The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series with a screening of Dukale's Dream on September 26 at Wesleyan University's Powell Family Cinema. The film, about the beneficial impacts of fair trade coffee on the environment and the lives of the growers, was a welcome, uplifting story that focused on a combination of successful solutions to bring light to several human and environmental concerns related to the coffee growing industry. These include coffee farmers not being paid fair prices, and the environmental and human impacts of conventional coffee growing practices.

Surprisingly, as I learned from the Dukale’s Dream website, the coffee industry is the second largest international commodity (the first is oil), and one of the largest sites of forced labor and child slavery around the world. Coffee workers are forced to work long hours with little to no pay, and are often exposed to toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides banned in the U.S.  We can make a difference to coffee farmers and the environment by choosing to buy Fair Trade! For more information about the impact of choosing Fair Trade go to

We hope you can join us for the next film in our series, Xmas without China, on November 14, 2016 at 7:00pm, in Chapman Hall at Middlesex Community College.

The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series was begun in 2015 by the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District, Middlesex Community College Environmental Science Program, The Rockfall Foundation, and Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts and College of the Environment. Dukale's Dream was the seventh film in the series. Previous films include: Elemental, Watershed, Dirt! The Movie, Chasing Ice, The End of the Line, and The True Cost.



12th Annual Tree Swallow Cruise and Wine Tasting Held August 23, 2016

A full boat left the dock at Eagle Landing State Park for our 12th annual Tree Swallow Cruise and Wine Tasting to benefit the Connecticut River Watch Program on August 23, 2016. It was another exceptional evening on the scenic lower Connecticut River that featured a wide variety of local and organic wines, a delicious and plentiful dinner spread, many bald eagle and other bird sightings, and fun and interesting information about the natural and cultural history of the river, as told by Captain Mark and First Mate Mindy. At twilight, we settled in to watch the plentiful tree swallows return before they settled for the night in the marsh, and while they didn't entertain us with their typical swirling formations, their numbers were indeed impressive! Many thanks to our generous donors, including Connecticut River Expeditions, Clinton Nurseries, Priam Vineyards, Organic Vintages, and R2 Graphics, and to all who joined us on board to support our efforts to promote citizen science and engage our communities in river conservation through the Connecticut River Watch Program.


25th Annual Plant Sale a Big Success!

The District's 25th annual spring plant sale, held April 29-May 1, 2016 at an excellent new location, Tanger Outlets in Westbrook, was a great success! Many thanks to our dedicated, hard-working volunteers, and our welcoming hosts at Tanger Outlets, for making it all possible. This year we had another great selection of CT native plants, including some exciting new plants never offered before at our sale, as well as some tried and true favorites. If you didn't make it to the sale this year and are interested in what types of plants we offered, you can look at our 2016 plant list (download PDF brochure and order form), and go to the "Plant Sale" tab in the main menu and see the table with color photos and descriptions of all of our offerings.

For more information, or to be placed on our mailing list for next year, please contact the District office, 860-346-3282!


The True Cost Opens Eyes to Environmental and Human Impacts of Clothing Industry

The sixth film in The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series, The True Cost, was shown on Monday April 18, 2016 at Middlesex Community College. Thanks to all who came out for this Earth Week screening! The film told a very compelling story of the little known impacts of this industry, what we were told is the second most polluting industry in the world, second only to the oil industry, and did an excellent job of weaving together multiple environmental and human aspects of the story behind our clothes. If you haven't had a chance to see it, I recommend it highly. We all wear clothing, after all!

For a few tips on more sustainable and ethical clothing choices, go to the movie website, and The Good Trade, Green Choices, and Ecocult.


Our next film will be shown in Fall 2016--stay tuned for further information about the film and our schedule.  Please contact our office at 860-346-3282 with any questions.

The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series was begun in 2015 by the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District, Middlesex Community College Environmental Science Program, The Rockfall Foundation, and Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts and College of the Environment. The True Cost is the sixth film in the series. Previous films include: Elemental, Watershed, Dirt! The Movie, Chasing Ice, and The End of the Line.


The End of the Line Screening the Fifth in Our Environmental Film Series

Thanks to everyone who came on Monday, February 29, 2016 for our fifth film in The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series,  The End of the Line, a film about the devastating effects of overfishing. The film was shown at the Powell Family Cinema in Wesleyan University's Center for Film Studies. There were 65 people in attendance, there was great deal of interest in the topic, and we had a lively discussion after the film led by Barry Chernoff, Wesleyan Professor of Environmental Studies and Director of the College of the Environment, who studies fish. For resources on what you can do as a consumer, such as making more sustainable fish choices, go to the film website (3 Steps to Sustainability), and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch

The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series was begun in 2015 by the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District, Middlesex Community College Environmental Science Program, The Rockfall Foundation, and Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts and College of the Environment. The End of the Line is the fifth film in the series. Previous films include: Elemental, Watershed, Dirt! The Movie, and Chasing Ice.


District Newsletter Published

Read about the District's latest activities in our 2016 Conservation Times, available here (download PDF newsletter). 


District Receives Environmental Champion Award from Rivers Alliance of CT

We are excited to announce that at the Rivers Alliance of CT Annual Meeting on December 2, 2015, the District received an Environmental Champion Award along with the other four Conservation Districts and the CT Association of Conservation Districts. The award was given for expert and generous assistance in helping our communities preserve healthy soils and waters. We very much appreciate the recognition by Rivers Alliance of the important services we provide to our communities, and our role in protecting soil and water in the state! (photo of Executive Director Jane Brawerman and District Chairman Tom ODell taken by District board member Lorraine Jalbert)


2015 District Annual Report Published!

We are pleased to present...the District's 2015 Annual Report! To view a PDF of the report, click on the image below.


Chasing Ice Screening the Fourth Film in our Environmental Series

Bone-chilling, hair-raising, and an amazing accomplishment were some of the words used by one viewer to describe the film Chasing Ice after watching it in November as part of our series, The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series! This fourth film in our series was another well-attended event, with a group of about 50 people joining us on November 9 at Middlesex Community College to see this film focused on climate change. I think all would agree that Chasing Ice was eye-opening and well worth watching, with its stunning photography, riveting story line, and edge of your seat moments. Many stayed for the informal discussion to share their impressions after the film, led by Christine Witkowski, Coordinater of the Environmental Science Program at Middlesex Community College. 

We hope you can join us for our next film, The End of the Line, about over-fishing, which will be shown at Wesleyan University on February 28, 2016 at 7pm (exact location TBA). Check back soon for details!

The Elements: An Annual Environmental Series was launched in 2015 by the CT River Coastal Conservation District, Middlesex Community College Environmental Science Program, The Rockfall Foundation, and Wesleyan University's College of the Environment and Center for the Arts. In addition to Chasing Ice, past films include Elemental, Watershed, and Dirt! The Movie.


68th District Annual Meeting Features Hike at The Preserve in Old Saybrook

The District's 68th Annual Meeting on October 24, 2015 drew a large crowd to celebrate The Preserve, along with our 2015 Conservation Award Winners (download PDF list). Attendees joined District Board and Staff at the Saybrook Point Pavilion to elect board members, take a look back on our conservation highlights of the past year, hear about and honor the accomplishments of our award winners, learn about the long effort to protect The Preserve and plans for public use of the property, and enjoy a cool fall hike on one of the properties' many trails. The hike was led by Chris Cryder, Special Projects Coordinator with Connecticut Fund for the Environment, who played an important role in protection of The Preserve and is now active with the committee planning for recreational use of the property in balance with protecting natural resources.

The Preserve--a 1,000 acre coastal forest in Old Saybrook, Essex and Westbrook--was protected permanently in spring of 2015, a happy conclusion to a long effort that began in 2003 when development of the land was first proposed. Preservation of this significant property ensures a key link to over 500 acres of existing parkland and hiking trails will remain open to the public and provide a place to connect with nature close to home. The extensive woodland includes 38 vernal pools, 25 miles of trails, and more than 3,100 feet of streams. It is home to a variety of wildlife, including many species of special conservation concern, and is used as a refueling stop by migratory birds. The Preserve also plays a critical role in protecting water quality in the Oyster River, Mud River and Trout Brook, which flow into the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound.

Below (left), accepting the Preserve the 1,000 Acre Forest award are (L to R) Kathy Connolly (Old Saybrook resident), Alicia Sullivan (CT Trust for Public Land), and Chris Cryder (CT Fund for the Environment), along withTom ODell (Conservation District Board), and Jane Brawerman (Conservation District Executive Director).



CT River Coastal Conservation District Board Members Wanted!

The Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District Board of Directors is presently seeking interested people from our 26 District towns (link to map) for consideration for Board vacancies. We are looking for energetic and visionary people with a strong interest in protecting natural resources, who are willing to accept responsibility for overseeing District operations to assure effective and ethical management and support in partnership with the Executive Director and Staff.

The District is a nonprofit conservation organization established by State Statute whose mission is to promote the sound use and management of our natural resources through technical assistance and education. We assist municipal staff and land use commissions, work on watershed scale water quality assessment and improvement projects, help agricultural producers plan and implement sustainable practices, implement on-the-ground restoration projects, and help build awareness about natural resources through educational programs and resource materials, among other efforts.

A copy of the District Board Member Job Description is available here (link to PDF job description).

Please send a letter of interest outlining background and experience to For further information contact the District office at 860.346.3282.


DIRT! The Movie Screening a Success

The screening of DIRT! The Movie, presented as part of The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series, was a great success! A good crowd of over 60 were in attendance at the Goldsmith Family Cinema to join us in celebrating the International Year of Soils, one of the reasons we chose this film. The film provides an in-depth view of why soil is such an invaluable natural resource, threats to soil health and productivity, and how tied soil is with so many significant global, environmental, political and social concerns. For more information go to the film's website.


Durham-Middlefield High School Team Wins CT Envirothon

Kudos to the Coginchaug Regional High School CT Envirothon Team for winning this year's 24th annual CT Envirothon, placing first out of forty-two teams! CT Envirothon is a high school natural resource education program begun in 1992 by CT Conservation Districts. As part of the year-long curriculum, teams of students, mentored by their teachers, learn from web-based resources and hands-on workshops covering soils, forestry, wildlife, aquatics and a changing current issue. In late May, they test their skills and knowledge at a field competition, this year held at Connecticut College Arboretum.

Coginchaug H.S. team members, advised by Science Department Chair Susan Michael, included Amelia Bianchi, Natalie Charette, Tyler McDonald, Matthew Sawicki, and Lilian Zhou, and alternates Ryan Gossart and Troy Willis. The team is pictured below sporting their hard-won medals. Please join me in wishing them a hearty congratulations! See the District's press release for more information about the team and the CT Envirothon (link to PDF press release).



Second Environmental Film in New Series Shown in May

The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series continued with a screening of WATERSHED: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West, on May 4, 2015 at Middlesex Community College in Middletown. The new environmental film series was launched on March 30 in partnership with the Middlesex Community College Environmental Science Program, Wesleyan University's College of the Environment and Center for the Arts, and The Rockfall Foundation. The screenings are open to the public and free of charge.

Thirty-five people attended the film and participated in an informal discussion following the screening. Delicious baked goods were provided by ION Restaurant in Middletown. WATERSHED is executive produced and narrated by Robert Redford, and has received numerous awards. Using the Colorado River as an example of issues facing rivers around the world, the film tells the story of threats to the "once-mighty Colorado River, now dammed and diverted and struggling to support 30 million people." It offers solutions for "meeting the competing interests of cities, agriculture, industry, recreation, wildlife and indigenous communities with rights to the waters...and the future of the American West." In the film we learn about competing demands and uses from a fly fishing guide in Rocky Mountain National Park, a Colorado rancher, a Delta restoration worker, a Navajo Council member, a Colorado mayor, a Los Angeles native, and a group of Outward Bound teens rafting down the Colorado River, who all reflect on how a new water ethic can result in coexisting with enough for all.

The Colorado River is just one of many similarly significant rivers that run dry from overuse before they reach their outlets ( Others include the Indus River in Pakistan, Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers in Central Asia, the Rio Grande River in N. America, the Yellow River in China, the Teesta River in India, and the Murray River in Australia.

Our next film, Chasing Ice, will be shown in September at Wesleyan University (date TBA). Once again, refreshments will be served, and there will be time for informal discussion after the film. We hope you can join us! If you have questions, please contact our office, (860) 346-3282.  


Technical Assistance Available for Horse Owners

Given that one horse produces approximately 8 tons of manure each year and uses 3 tons of bedding material, managing horse waste properly is essential to prevent environmental impacts. As part of a program funded by the Long Island Sound Futures Fund to improve nutrient management at horse operations, the District has been providing technical assistance to horse owners free of charge. While the grant project is now completed, the District will continue to offer this assistance.

If you have a horse operation, or just a few backyard horses, and would like to learn more about management practices to protect water quality and available technical and financial assistance, please contact our office! We will be happy to schedule and on-farm assessment to identify  management concerns, recommend improvements, and advise on how to get help with planning and implementation. Assistance is available to anyone in our 26-town area: Berlin, Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Cromwell, Deep River, Durham, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Hebron, Killingworth, Lyme, Madison, Marlborough, Middlefield, Middletown, New Britain, Newington, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, Rocky Hill, Salem and Westbrook. 


Waterside Buffers for the Eightmile River Watershed: The Lake Hayward Demonstration Buffer

In spring 2013, the District collaborated with the Eightmile River Wild & Scenic Watershed to establish a buffer on Lake Hayward in East Haddam with the help of the Lake Hayward Association and Landscape Designer, Kathy Connolly, Speaking of Landscapes. The buffer is part of a project to promote use of vegetated buffers along streams, lakes and ponds to enhance wildlife habitat and protect water quality throughout the Eightmile River Watershed, funded in part by The Rockfall Foundation. In addition to the Lake Hayward demonstration buffer, this multi-component project consists of a Buffer in a Bag, a packet of trees, shrubs and flowering perennials suited for areas that might get flooded periodically, offered at the District's annual plant sale in 2012 and 2013. The project also includes education and outreach about the benefits of waterside vegetated buffers and information about how to create them. A poster, Waterside Buffers for the Eightmile River Watershed (link to PDF poster), has been developed to place in town halls, libraries, as well as several outdoor areas (e.g. the Lake Hayward pavillion and Devil's Hopyard State Park kiosk).

For more information, including photos and a planting plan, check out, and

Before planting the buffer the area was all turf

Lake Hayward Association volunteers assisted with the planting under the direction of Kathy Connolly, Speaking of Landscapes

One of the three segments of the buffer several months after planting


Rain Recycling with Rain Barrels

Learn about the benefits and how-tos of rain barrels from this new brochure published by the Conservation District (link to PDF brochure)! 


Tree Swallows Out in Force for River Cruise and Wine Tasting Fundraiser

A fun time was had by all on our August 25, 2015 Tree Swallow Cruise and Wine Tasting to benefit the Connecticut River Watch Program, the Conservation District’s citizen monitoring, protection and improvement program for the Connecticut River and tributaries. The weather held out and the RiverQuest departed from Eagle Landing State Park in Haddam at 5:30 pm as scheduled. Cruise goers enjoyed a beautiful evening on the CT River, tasting wines, dining, bird-watching (bald eagles, cormorants, great blue herons, and of course, tree swallows), and conversing with friends, new and old. We were all regaled by stories of the river and notable features along the way from Captain Mark, and learned about wildlife--in particular birds--from crew member and Master Naturalist, Mindy.  At dusk, the tree swallow show did not disappoint, with huge numbers of birds filling the sky and swirling around before settling into the marsh for the night.  

A big thank you to all who supported our efforts to engage citizens in river monitoring activities by attending the cruise, sending donations, and of course, to our sponsors who made it possible, including CT River Expeditions, Priam Vineyards, Organic Vintages, R2 Graphics and Clinton Nurseries.

Clean Water Paddle Draws Enthusiastic Group of Boaters

The joint Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC) and the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District paddle on the Mattabesset and Connecticut Rivers on August 10, 2013 was a great success. We had a big turnout and a fun morning on the river, not to mention incredibly beautiful weather. Everyone was excited about the opportunity to participate in the group paddle, and the feedback afterward was all very positive. We started in Cromwell at the Mattabesset River Canoe/Kayak Trail launch, and took out at Harbor Park in Middletown. After getting organized and shuttling cars and people back and forth to the takeout spot, everyone heard from Jacqueline Talbot, CRWC's CT River Steward in Connecticut, and CRCCD Executive Director, Jane Brawerman about each organization's--and the state's--efforts to keep our rivers clean and build awareness about water quality issues.

On the river, we had a impressive flotilla of about 20 boats. As we paddled down the Mattabesset River through Cromwell Meadows, sightings included an adult and an immature bald eagle; a great blue heron; black ducks and lots of ducklings; black crested cormorants; a kingfisher; an eastern kingbird; barn swallows; and lots of painted turtles. There were also many beautiful fields of cardinal flowers, and large stands of wild rice. It is a truly special spot--an amazingly peaceful and ecologically rich refuge, not far from a busy commercial area and several major roads. If you've never had the chance to enjoy it, you should definitely go for a paddle there! Thanks to CRWC for inviting us to partner with them on the Clean Water Paddle, and The Rockfall Foundation for the grant funding that provided boats for a number of participants.

Organic Lawn Care at Home

The District and Middletown's Project Green Lawn partners hosted a program for homeowners in early June 2014 focused on maintaining safe and healthy yards, just in time for summer outdoor fun! Many people don't realize that traditional lawn care methods can use dangerous chemicals that are very harmful to people, pets and our environment.  The program was held at Russell Library in Middetown. Matt Carroll, co-owner of Jessica's Garden in Marlborough, CT, taught us the steps to having beautiful, healthy lawns that are safe to play on. Topics covered included the benefits of soil testing, aeration, and re-seeding, as well as organic methods of dealing with weeds and fertilizing, along with recommended products. We are planning for another lawn care program in the fall, so stay tuned!

Tree Swallow Cruise and Wine Tasting Raises Fun and Funds!

Our 9th annual Tree Swallow Cruise and Wine Tasting on the CT River to benefit the Connecticut River Watch Program, held on August 27, 2013 was another great success!  A warm late summer evening, beautiful scenery, delicious food, plentiful fine wine, a sky full of swallows and many other bird sightings (bald eagles, cormorants, great blue herons...), and a boatful of fun people! What more could you want?!?

Thank you to our generous sponsors--CT River Expeditions, Priam Vineyards, Organic Vintages, Clinton Nurseries and R2 Graphics--and all of the cruise participants for supporting our efforts to engage our communities in working for cleaner rivers.

District Holds Workshop: Horse Keeping to Protect and Improve Water Quality

Did you know that one horse produces approximately 8 tons of manure each year? Add to that about 3 tons of bedding material, and the total amount of waste per horse per year is 11 tons!

The waste produced by horses, and other livestock for that matter, makes it essential that livestock operations are properly managed to prevent environmental impacts.  This spring, the Eastern Connecticut and Connecticut River Coastal Conservation Districts joined together with the Connecticut Horse Council to hold a workshop on best management practices for horse owners.  The program, held at Killingworth Equestrian Center, featured a tour to learn firsthand from practices in place at the facility.  The workshop was part of an effort funded by the Long Island Sound Futures Fund to improve nutrient management at horse operations, primarily in coastal areas.

Participants, some with large facilities and some with a few horses, learned how to make a contribution to protecting and improving water quality by using best management practices, and about technical and financial resources available to help with planning and implementation.

Presenters included Dr. Jenifer Nadeau, Associate Professor and Equine Extension Specialist, University of Connecticut; and Javier Cruz, District Conservationist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  Thank you to all who attended, to our presenters, and to our hosts at Killingworth Equestrian Center.

To learn more about technical assistance and cost-share funding available to horse owners, please contact our office.


65th Annual Meeting Features Tour of Wellstone Farm

Friends and partners of the Conservation District joined staff and board members at Wellstone Farm in Higganum, CT on Saturday, November 3, 2012, a beautiful fall day, for our 65th Annual Meeting.  The program featured a very informative tour of Wellstone Farm, a two acre biologically managed farm growing vegetables, flowers, berries and herbs, led by Ian and Melissa Gibson, the mother and son team who own and run the farm.  Participants learned about the CSA (community supported agriculture) operation, the farm's focus on organic principles and healthy soil, as well as the many environmental initiatives and sustainable practices implemented at the farm, including a composting facility, nutrient management practices, a micro-irrigation system, and energy conservation.  Following the tour, everyone gathered to hear about the Districts's 2012 conservation highlights (link to pdf of Year in Review), then for a ceremony honoring our Conservation Award Winners (link to pdf list of conservation awardees). 


District Holds Workshop on Managing Livestock to Protect and Improve Water Quality

Farmers and other interested community members attended the Conservation District's evening workshop on managing livestock waste, held on October 25, 2012 at the Durham Public Library.  The workshop was planned as part of ongoing efforts to improve water quality in the Coginchaug River watershed, with funding from USDA-NRCS.  While intended primarily for agricultural operations in the watershed's towns--Middletown, Middlefield, Durham and Guilford--others were also welcome.  Presentations were geared toward any size operation, ranging from a few backyard animals, to larger horse, cattle, dairy, pig , goat, sheep, etc. farms.  Presenters included Dr. Jenifer Nadeau, Equine Extension Specialist at UConn, who discussed recommended management practices to reduce pollution from livestock; Joe Wettemann, Senior Sanitary Engineer with CT DEEP, who provided an overview of manure, wastewater, and mortality management to minimize water quality impacts; and Javier Cruz, District Conservationist with NRCS, who reviewed technical and financial resources available to plan, design and install conservation practices.  In addition, Dino Esposito, owner of Stoneridge Farm in N. Guilford, spoke about his positive experience working with NRCS and the Conservation District to plan and install a number of water quality improvement practices at his farm.  Attendees also received a packet of resource information.  Based on feedback received from participants, everyone felt the workshop was informative and useful.  See the workshop flier for more information (link to PDF flier).



Coginchaug River Cleanup a Success

On September 29, 2012 the District and Middletown Regional Agricultural Science and Technology Center held a successful annual Coginchaug River cleanup at Veterans Park in Middletown.  The cleanup was held in conjunction with the Connecticut River Source to Sea Cleanup, an annual four-state community cleanup of the Connecticut River and tributaries coordinated by the Connecticut River Watershed Council.  Many thanks to teacher Courtney Johnson and her students, members of the community, and the City of Middletown for their efforts to help clean up the river.

Volunteers for the 2012 Coginchaug River cleanup haul the prize--
a shopping cart lugged up a steep and slippery slope--into the
dumptruck provided by the City of Middletown


2012 Tree Swallow Cruise and Wine Tasting Enjoyed by All

What better way to spend a lovely late summer evening, than tasting wine, eating gourmet food, and enjoying the beauty of the lower Connecticut River?  On Thursday, August 30, 2012, fifty-two supporters joined us aboard the RiverQuest for our 8th Annual Tree Swallow Cruise and Wine Tasting to benefit the Connecticut River Watch Program.  The event featured local wines from Priam Vineyards in Colchester, organic wines from all over the world provided by Organic Vintages, a delicious dinner from The Cooking Company in Haddam, all topped off by stunning scenery, bald eagle sitings, a beautiful sunset, an almost full moon, and a most amazing tree swallow show, one of the best ever seen by many of us!!!  Door prizes were also given out, including gift certificates for the Conservation District's annual native plant sale, and a cruise for two on the RiverQuest; a copy of The Organic Lawn Care Manual by Paul Tukey; bottles of Priam wine; and gemstones donated by local gemologist, Jim Sipperly.  A sincere thank you to all of our sponsors whose generous contributions made the cruise possible: Captain Mark and First Mate Mindy Yuknat of the RiverQuest; Gloria Priam and Gary Crump of Priam Vineyards; Organic Vintages; Clinton Nurseries; Jim Sipperly; and R2 Graphics.  Many thanks also to our enthusiastic cruise participants who helped make the event such a great success...and so much fun!


Demonstration Rain Garden Built in Old Saybrook as Part of Workshop

A beautiful and functional rain garden is now featured at the Acton Public Library in Old Saybrook as a result of our "Build a Rain Garden" workshop held in September 2011.  The workshop drew a great group, who came to learn about rain garden benefits and design, and then pulled up their sleeves to help construct the rain garden on-site.  We were excited to partner with the town of Old Saybrook, Connecticut Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) Program, and The Rockfall Foundation on this project to to build awareness about the "green" benefits of rain gardens and promote their use to reduce storm water runoff and protect water resources.  The rain garden, with accompanied educational signage completed and installed in 2012, will serve as a learning tool and inspiration for library patrons.  For more information about the project, see the cover article in our newsletter (link to PDF of newsletter).  To link to a PDF of the sign, click on the sign image below. 


Healthy Fall Lawns Program Features Scott Reil

As a follow-up to the spring screening of the documentary about the health and environmental risks of lawn care chemicals, A Chemical Reaction (see below), Project Green Lawn hosted a talk on making the switch to organic lawn care methods on September 12, 2011 at Russell Library in Middletown.  There are many things to do in the fall to prepare your lawn for the spring growing season,like seeding and spreading compost, and it is also an excellent time to begin the transition to organic methods, according to local organic land care professional, Scott Reil, who presented the program.  Scott provided many tips along with a schedule for when to do what to have beautiful organic lawns that aren't harmful to us, our pets or our environment.  Sponsored by Project Green Lawn (go to Community Outreach tab).


Second Annual Screening of A Chemical Reaction an Inspiring and Eye-Opening Event

Over fifty people came out on a rainy night in March to Middlesex Community College to watch our second annual screening of A Chemical Reaction, an inspirational documentary about the dangerous health effects of lawn chemicals and a community’s successful campaign to ban them in Canada.  The film followed Paul Tukey, a former lawn care practitioner and founder of SafeLawns, on his path across the county and into Canada to spread the word about the dangers of lawn chemicals and how to have beautiful, lush lawns organically.  Paul’s own health was affected from using lawn chemicals and at his doctor’s advice he made a transition to organic methods.  He now has extensive experience maintaining organic lawns.  Through the movie Paul tracked the progress of Dr. June Irwin’s efforts to ban lawn care chemicals from her town due to the medical problems she was seeing in her patients.  The ban passed, was upheld by the Canadian Supreme Court and eventually spread all across Canada. 

After the film Scott Reil, a Connecticut accredited nurseryman, organic lawn care professional, and representative of SafeLawns, led a discussion on organic lawn care. He answered many questions ranging from how to make the switch to organic methods, to how to deal with poison ivy, and whether crabgrass really is bad for your lawn. 

Community leaders attending the event included State Representative Matt Lesser, Middletown Common Councilmen David Bauer and Dan Drew and the Director of Middletown's Water & Sewer Department, Guy Russo. 

The evening ended with a drawing for a variety of fun door prizes.  Winners received low water use plants suitable for use in place of grass (donated by Scott Reil); The Organic Lawn Care Manual by Paul Tukey, and a plant sale gift certificate (donated by Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District); The Healthy Home Book by Dr. Myron Wentz and Dave Wentz (donated by Cindy Snow), a Middlesex Community College t-shirt (donated by the college); and a Green Cone food digester (donated by the Middletown Public Works Department).

Little yellow signs popping up all over at the time of the screening announced the beginning of lawn care season--the time to think about what we apply to our lawns.  The film makes a compelling case for chem-free, organic lawns, not only the safe choice, but the choice for sustainable, healthy and lush lawns.  When human health is at stake, “better safe than sorry” as one expert aptly told it.   

More information on the film can be found at   If you missed the screening but would like to see the film, contact Kim O'Rourke, Middletown's Recycling Coordinator at 860-344-3526 or  Other useful information about organic gardening can be found on Scott Reil’s website,, and on the SafeLawns website,

The film screening was held as part of the Project Green Lawn public awareness campaign to encourage residents and businesses to maintain healthy lawns free of chemicals that are harmful to people, pets and the environment.  For more information about the campaign go to the Education page on our website (Community Outreach tab).


Workshop Participants Learn About Creating Backyard Wildlife Habitat

Beginning in 2006 we were pleased to collaborate with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Project Green Lawn Partners to promote backyard conservation for wildlife at on-site seminars highlighting a Middletown resident's yard.  The last such program was held on Sunday, October 4, 2009, when 20 people gathered to learn from Eleanore Milardo's yard, transformed from a lawn dominated 3/4 acre suburban lot into a diverse array of plants and habitats, now featuring 120 native species planted to enhance wildlife value. DEP Wildlife Biologist Peter Picone gave an information-packed onsite presentation and walking tour, highlighting the relationship between the native plants and abundant insects, birds, and mammals that now share the garden. 

At the workshop, we were pleased to present Eleanore with an award from the District in recognition of her ongoing efforts to transform her suburban lot into a haven for wildlife using native plants, and to teach and inspire others with her yard. 

In June 2010, we were saddened to learn of Eleanore's passing.  As it was her wish to allow continued use of her property for workshops, we hope to continue the tradition.



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