Matt Ritter’s Batterson Park Redux

State Park Status Proposed To Bring Abandoned Recreation Area On Farmington-New Britain Line Back To Life

By John McNamara

Will Batterson Park, the abandoned recreation area and pond shared by New Britain and Farmington and owned by the City of Hartford, become Connecticut’s 91st state park?

Last week State House Speaker Matt Ritter of Hartford picked up the pieces on a stalled 2021 plan proposed and funded (Don Stacom, Hartford Courant) but never launched.

NB Politicus

Two years ago the General Assembly at Ritter’s behest approved $10 million to refurbish the park. That wasn’t enough, however, to bring the three communities together to jointly oversee the revival of an accessible recreational area that has mostly been a little used natural buffer between urban New Britain and affluent Farmington. On the New Britain side of the park are Batterson Drive waterfront homes. On the Farmington side is Batterson Park Road and Hartford’s Camp Courant, the 129-year-old day camp for Hartford youth established by the daily newspaper.

In a state of 169 cities and towns often doing things 169 different ways it was too much to ask. Sharing services and regional solutions are hard to achieve in the “two Connecticuts” where the socio-economic-racial divide is often enforced at the town level and cities like Hartford and New Britain govern in an unsustainable finance and tax system. That explains best why a tri-town plan to revitalize and then maintain the park was not going to work.

Credit Speaker Ritter for persistence. He’s starting over with the state park idea that means a sandy beach, concessions, boat launch and fresh air amenities may soon be accessible to all in central Connecticut. A state park will not be subject to any town-imposed restrictions on public use that shamefully are in force in some “Gold Coast” towns on the shoreline. According to Ritter no one will pay a fee to enter Batterson State Park. The state’s Passport for Park program ensures a free to all policy. Presumably the same $10 million appropriated in fiscal year 2022 is still available. With the passage of time, it may take more money that Governor Lamont and legislative leaders will have to work out as the state administration sits atop record surpluses. At his press conference on March 23rd Ritter said the addition of Batterson would be the first one of any significant size to the state park system in the last 15 years.

Closed Batterson Park bathhouse and facilities with overgrown weeds and shrubs on a once sandy beach. (J. McNamara)  

Last week Ritter spoke with the same passion for making the park a summer destination for Central Connecticut residents, including Hartford and New Britain residents, as he did two years ago when he proposed the original legislation:

“It is completely inappropriate. It is completely unacceptable that just a few miles from the city of Hartford or New Britain, where some of our poorest residents live, that we took an open space – dedicated in the 1920s to give families a chance, without driving to a beach an hour and a half a way, to come with their families and sit outside, to swim, to play basketball – that we let it get to this. I will use the power of my office in the time that I have in politics to right that wrong.”

Joining Ritter at his press conference were Farmington Town Council President J.R. Thomas, New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. Not surprisingly all are on board with turning the open space into a state park that would absolve their governments of any shared costs and responsibilities. “What became abundantly clear,” said Ritter. “This isn’t a municipal asset. This is a state treasure.”

Batterson, located 10 miles from Hartford and once part of the capital city’s watershed, has been looked at as a lucrative asset for Hartford’s cash-strapped city government from time to time. Of the more than 600 original acres parcels have been sold off for the highway (I-84) and private development through the years but the 165-acre pond and remaining space is owned by Hartford. Ir remains readily adaptable to recreation.

If Matt Ritter’s new plan to correct what he called an “environmental injustice” succeeds, Batterson Park will finally get a new life for its intended uses.

(NB Politicus posts also appear in

‘Taste of Ramadan’ Event At High School Calls Attention To Yemen’s Civil War

Ethnic food and culture shared before the month-long religious observance begins for Muslims

By John McNamara

Students and teachers filled the New Britain High cafeteria on March 15th for an after-school “Taste of Ramadan” event with ethnic food and observances of Muslim traditions and customs before the start of Ramadan on March 23rd when Muslims begin a month of fasting and praying.

New Britain is home to a growing Muslim population including many immigrants from Yemen, the war-torn nation in the southern Arabian peninsula. Students from more than 700 Arabic families are enrolled in the New Britain School District, according to Najal Jahaf, a public school communications assistant, who helped organize the event and works with families and students in their transition into school and community in a new country.

During a brief speaking program attendees heard advocates call for passage of a Yemen War Powers Resolution that is currently stalled in the U.S. Congress over final language. The bill, originally proposed by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) has had the backing of U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT). As originally introduced it would “end U.S. complicity and the war itself,” according to Layan Jahaf, a Farmington High School student who is Chair of Pathways for Yemen.

Layan Jahaf said her organization is trying to spread awareness about the nine-year-old civil war in Yemen which has involved heavy civilian casualties, including widespread starvation and the deaths of an estimated 11,000 children. Saudi Arabia, a recipient of U.S. military aid, has intervened in the conflict arming rebels on one side and prolonging violence.

Urging student and citizen action in support of the resolution and greater involvement to end the war were Democratic Town Committee Member Bill Shortell and Hassan El-Tayyab, Legislative Director for Middle East Policy at the Friends Committee for National Legislation (FCNL), a nonpartisan Quaker lobbying organization.

Also in attendance at “Taste of Ramadan” were Superintendent of Schools Tony Gasper and State Senator Rick Lopes (D-6). Lopes, who represents New Britain, Berlin and a portion of Farmington in the State Senate and previously was State Representative from the 24th District. Lopes said he has seen a steady growth in the Muslim community, particularly Yemeni immigrants. “Over the past few years I have seen the increase of Muslims living in New Britain, especially Yemeni immigrants,” said Lopes. “We want to make sure that every new group coming to New Britain feels welcome and safe in our city. I am looking forward to how they will contribute to the future of our great immigrant city.”

An indication of the growing population of Yemeni families in the city, once appropriately called “a city for all people” by Registrar of Voters and former Mayor Lucian Pawlak, came at last year’s high school graduation when Noora Nassir Sahoobah became the first Yemeni-American to be Valedictorian at New Britain High School. Ms. Sahoobah’s valedictory remarks to her fellow graduates addressed the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and affirmed once again that New Britain is “a city for all people.”

“I would like to mention that I am extremely happy I moved to New Britain my freshman year of high school. The diversity in this city is astounding. For elementary and middle school, I lived in a non-diverse town and it was hard to fit in. When I first walked into New Britain High, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many Muslim individuals as myself. For those of you who don’t know I am from Yemen and I take great pride in being from there. I am honored to say that I am the first Yemeni-American Valedictorian at NBHS and I am absolutely thrilled to be representing my community here today. The Yemeni community in New Britain is growing exponentially and that is unfortunately in part due to war and the biggest Humanitarian Crisis occurring in Yemen.”

Participating in “Taste of Ramadan” at NBHS were Candyce Scott, Bill Shortell, Layan Jahaf of Pathways for Yemen, Hassan El-Tayyab of the Friends Committee on National Legislation and Najal Jahaf, a communications assistant at the public schools (J. McNamara)

NB Politicus Related Post from 2016