Saturday, February 2, 2019

Hope Lake Jackhammer Party

It was a brisk morning in February, Groundhog Day to be exact, with the wind in the trees, the woodpeckers drumming, and the sound of jackhammer on concrete in the distance.  The Trails Committee was removing an old concrete bridge foundations out in Hope Lake.

In the old days farmers would wait for the cold of winter to move heavy objects over frozen ground.  After a lot of planning and logistics Mark Vallaro decided that today the ice would be strong enough to remove the old concrete bridge foundation out in Hope Lake.

Mike, Mark, and Jim are jackhammering the concrete foundation.  Mark, Joe, and Bill had gone over to Home Depot in Derby to rent an electric jackhammer and portable generator (more on that later), which were then skidded and rolled across the ice to the work area.

Portions of the removal were awkward, because the concrete was tilted at a funny angle.  It was a challenge to get the jackhammer positioned properly, and still have a place to stand.  And the electric jackhammer was heavy!  It didn't seem to bad at first, but it got heavier and heavier as the day went on.
We attacked the concrete from various angles trying to gradually break it into smaller pieces.  We though this would go quickly, but the concrete was very strong and didn't feel like giving up easily.

Mark did a lot of planning for this work party.  One of the things that worked out surprisingly well was a temporary walkway of OSB plywood screwed into the ice.  It gave great footing for moving wheelbarrows and buckets of concrete chunks back to shore.  A couple of us were wearing micro-spikes, but the rest wore regular boots and had good footing.

This is the typical setup with the portable generator and Hilti jackhammer.  A series of holes would be drilled in the top and sides of the foundation, and when necessary the concrete was encouraged to split with 12 lb. sledgehammers and rock bars.

Here's Jim with the jackhammer while Mark, Joe, and Mike are using bars to loosen the foundation chunks.  A number of people got a shot at the jackhammer, but Mark did the bulk of that work.  Everyone got covered in concrete dust or shot with flying chips.  We used safety glasses and ear muffs but it was dirty work.  It certainly makes one appreciate construction pros who work with jackhammers daily.

 The bigger pieces were carried by rebar (yes it had rebar too) or slid on the ice to shore.

   After about 5 hours we got the last of the concrete out.

 Finished!  Joe, Bill, Jim, Mike and Mark have the victory photo over the concrete.

There's still a bit of clean up for tomorrow, but the view up Hope Lake is improved by removing that old bridge abutment.  The other abutment will probably become a bench along the lake.

Some of the concrete debris hauled up to Oak Valley Road for removal next week.  This is about half of what was removed.

One of the biggest tasks was hauling the portable generator back up to the road.  There were 4 of us doing it and I think that we stopped 4 times just to catch our breath.  But everything and everybody got back OK.

Jim took the Gator and tools back.  Thanks to Joe for lending his truck to pick up the heavy jackhammer and generator.  Joe and Bill returned the jackhammer and generator back to Home Depot; who very graciously donated the rental time to the Shelton Trails Committee and Conservation Commission.  Thank You Nancy.    It's always great when a local business helps out trails volunteers. 

So we decided to do our part and patronize another local business; Bad Sons Brewery in Derby.   We completed a long-standing wish list project to restore a portion of Hope Lake.  We tried a new construction method and learned a lot.  We were dusty, dirty and tired.  There may be a lot of aches and pains tonight, but nobody lost any fingers or toes.  Today was a success.  Cheers from your friendly, neighborhood Shelton Trails Committee.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Pre-Storm Paugussett Perusal

On Saturday, a small band of hardy trail maintainers walked the Paugussett Trail from Meadow St to Eklund Garden to check of issues and plan future improvements.

We encountered a large pile of brush blocking part of the trail from a road construction project, not good, but maybe there project wasn't finished.

Shelton's Highways & Bridges Department just finished putting in drainage along Meadow Street to control icing, and cut back the brush for better sightlines when crossing the road, which is a good improvement.  Now we just got to get the brush pile cleared.  We pushed on thru the Wiacek Woods and noted wet areas where we need more stones and a possible re-route to avoid some wet meadow areas.

Beyond the powerlines we came across the first of some smaller blowdowns and large branches across the trail.  Wonder how many more blowdowns there are after the storm?

South of Wellington Court there was a small stream where we noted it would be good to add a small footbridge.

There are three other bridges built by Eagle Scouts that are holding up well. 

Sometimes you find unexpected things when you go to clean out a partially clogged culvert.  Like this wood frog hibernating inside the culvert under a rock.  At Polly's request we re-covered the frog for the colder weather soon to arrive.

But many other trail users were not hibernating this day.  Here's a warm puppy having a great time out walking his humans by Silent Waters before the storm.

Continuing south, we crossed Rt. 108, around the Dog Park, admired the new wood chips placed by the Parks and Recreation Department and came toward Hope Lake, where more people were out enjoying the trails.

These younger hikers were having a great time.  A little cold wasn't stopping them out enjoying Hope Lake and the Paugussett Trail.  Who knows, we may have a future trail manager somewhere in this photo.

Hope Lake - frozen.   In the coming days the ice will thicken and let us work on some planned improvements.  We ended at Oak Valley Road and looked at some recent repairs to the Eklund deer fence.

So even during the colder days of winter; people hike, dogs walk, frogs sleep, and trail work is planned for the coming year.  Keep checking the Trails Blog for upcoming events or shoot us an e-mail if you'd like to be notified.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Pearmain Planning Parade

Winter is a good time for trail planning, leaves are down so you can see in the woods.  So to take advantage of the new open space grant that Shelton won in December members of the Trails Committee were reviewing alternative routes for the Pearmain Path off Pearmain Road.

This is the northern end of the existing path at the Shelton Land Conservation's Nicholdale Farm property.  We were looking at better routes to take advantage of natural features and create a better loop hike for the neighborhood.

One good point about bitter cold is that people stop talking and start walking sooner.  Bill Dyer, Mike Flament, and Val Gosset started walking up the existing Pearmain Path across Guy Beardsley's property.  Gotta get that blood flowing.

We looked at woods roads, swamps, icy stream crossings, deer stands, evergreens, sightlines to nearby developments, lumpy ground, mushy spots (technical terms), and verified property lines along road Right of Ways.  Not all property lines fall right on the stone walls.

We finished up back at Pearmain Road where a second crew was getting ready to walk potential trail routes on part of the Jones Farm property with the owners.  It was a good day to have a warm hat.

The Trails Committee left to find warmer locations, while Terry, Jamie, and Jackson Jones along with Joe Welsh and Teresa Gallagher walk the "Little Knoll" property for the best trail routes.  The net result of all this planning and grants is that more open space will be preserved and made accessible in and around the farms in the White Hills.  Thanks to the Beardsley and Jones families for working with the Shelton Land Trust, City and State to make this possible.  Now if it could be just a little less windy...

Thursday, January 10, 2019

2018 Summary and 2019 Goals

Here's our summary of 2018 and some goals for 2019. 

Total Hours and Value: The Trails Committee recorded 1200 volunteer hours for 2018. This does not include meetings, events, trail monitors, or anonymous volunteers. The value of this volunteer labor is $36,288 (based on $30.24/hr value for Connecticut volunteers per Independent Sector.) There were 23 formal work parties held along with numerous smaller ad hoc work parties.

Events: There were six public guided hikes, including the National Trails Day hike held in June, a full moon hike, spring wildflower hike, and a marshmallow march.

2018 Accomplishments: 
  • Volunteers maintained 28 miles of trails during the 2nd wettest year in Bridgeport history.
  • Stockmal and Willis Trails were created
  • Cleared extensive tree damage from February storms (7 hrs/mile)
  • Implemented a Trails Monitoring programs
  • Kept vegetation at bay throughout a very wet summer
  • Cleared more fallen trees after a severe storm in May
  • Installed routered trail signs at Nicholdale Farm and Willis Woods
  • Repaired erosion damage after a 7" rainfall in September
  • Rerouted steep sections of the Paugussett Trail at Birchbank, Indian Well, and Thoreau Drive
  • Constructed steps for the Paugussett Trail at Princess Wenonah drive
  • Installed artwork along the Poet Path (Paugussett Trail) at Princess Wenonah Drive
  • Installed a trailside fence along the property line south of Thoreau Drive
  • Installed a Birchbank entry side at the border of Indian Well and "roadwalk ahead" signs at Birchbank and the Poet Path. 
  • Rerouted a section of Turkey Trot trail to bypass a wet section
Scout Projects
  • Josh Andes constructed benches along the Rec Path
2019 Trail Goals 
  • Create a new Pearmain Path loop, making use of the new Pearmain Preserve open space
  • Begin the "Big Loop" trail connecting Nicholdale to Indian Well. Also, rename the trail.
  • Address wet area on Paugussett Tr. north of Independence Drive and add a bridge. 
  • Fix up all traihead kiosks and landscape trailheads
  • Encourage the City to beautify the Rec Path entrance at Pine Lake (including gate house and filtration house)
  • Install additional signage at Rec Path trail junctions
  • Secure a contractor to provide more routine Rec Path mainenance during the growing season.
  • Promote a pedestrian bridge across Means Brook to connect Stockmal Trail to the Trombetta Woods open space (currently not accessible)
  • Create new trail map and brochure for Shelton Lakes
  • Support extension of the Paugussett Trail south of Buddington Road, which would require a significant redesign of the Shelter Ridge proposal. 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Fixing Flooding

We had a lot of local street flooding a week ago Friday, which caused some washouts on some of the trails.  Some of the worst were along the Recreation Path near the Dog Park at Nells Rock Road.  And then it rained all day this past Friday when one of the volunteers checked out runoff issues with a member of the Parks Department.  So yesterday some of the Trails Committee and volunteers fixed some of the worst washouts along the RecPath.

Bill & Jim dug out the drainage ditch on the uphill side of the RecPath just above the Nells Rock Rd. parking lot.  The water from the hillside jumped out of the ditches capacity and scoured out the side of the RecPath.

Meanwhile, Mark and Jose used the Gator to ferry loads of crushed stone to fill in the wash outs where runoff from the Dog Park parking lot washed thru the big flower bed and eroded the RecPath.

Terry & Bill shoveled up washed out material from elsewhere and filled in the worst holes so nobody would trip.  Some more permanent drainage solutions are in order, but the most serious issues were fixed by volunteers yesterday.  There were a lot of folks out walking and running the RecPath in the unseasonably warm weather.  We got a number of thank yous from people going by.  Everyone should be aware if changing trail conditions and storm damage as they are enjoying the open spaces. 

Have you ever wondered about what being a on town committee in Shelton entails?  How glamorous and exciting is it?  Well here's Bill Dyer, Chairman of the Shelton Trails Committee fixing erosion on the RecPath over the Christmas Vacation.  I don't know if other City committee members actually have to fix the infrastructure they oversee, but the Trails Committee does.  And we're always grateful for the volunteers that have helped out.  Thanks to Jose, Mark, Jim, Bill & Terry for today's repairs.  Have a Happy New Year on the trails.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Gristmill Trail is Clear

Gristmill Trail on Mill Street is a short level walk along the Far Mill River.  Even in winter it's very picturesque.

The Far Mill River flowing over the old mill dam is a great feature along the trail.  This park is one of the reasons that Mill Street is one of Shelton's Designated Scenic Roads.  If you're work or live near Bridgeport Avenue it makes for a surprisingly peaceful visit for a short walk or lunch outing.

The mostly level trail lies within the floodplain along the Far Mill River.  Open space and trails are good uses for a floodplain.  The land acts as a sponge to absorb some of the impact during floods, and no ones home or business gets damaged.  The property is nice and level, with good footing and some occasional trees that you had to step around.  But when we get a series of floods like we had during this year the river gets it into it's head to start wandering and rearranging things a bit.

One area that was a problem was a growing log jam across a portion of the trail that was causing the water to back up and erode a nice quality stone tread section that someone had built.  Water would swirl around the jam, overtop the bank and threatened to wash out the stones.

A little chainsaw work this past week cleared up most of that problem and re-opened the trail for the public.

Other blow downs and hanging trees were also cleared along the trail.

Over New Years we has some more flooding, but this time the water could pass around the side of the stone steps without as much erosion.

And here's a better view of the trail during a flood.  Normally the water isn't this high, but you have to plan for those things.  The stonework does a great job holding the trail tread in place.

There are other sections of the trail that still need work; clipping, raking, filling in holes, but it's much better now than it was.  So take advantage and go exploring the Far Mill River in 2019.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

New Paugussett Trail Manager

Photo of Polly stolen from CFPA's Facebook Page
We're delighted to welcome Polly Buckley, the new
 CFPA Trail Manager for the South section of the Paugussett Trail. Her section starts near at Indian Well State Park and extends south all the way through Shelton Lakes to Buddington Road. It's the section that was created by the Trails Committee a few years back. 

Polly has been active with CFPA since 1989 and brings a wealth of experience to Shelton. She's an experienced Trail Manager, having filled the role for the Quinnipiac Trail, the Naugatuck Trail, the Iron Trail, and the Hatchery Brook Loop Trail. 

Several stretches of the Paugussett Trail run through open wet areas that are quickly overgrown in early summer, so when CFPA accepted this new section of trail, it was with the understanding that the Trails Committee would continue to work on keeping these difficult areas clear. Stretches under the powerlines, for example, are routinely mowed and cut back by Trails Committee crews. And work parties held in the Shelton Lakes area lead to parts of the trail getting cleared out.. 

But the less-traveled sections of the Paugussett tended to be overlooked each summer while the Trails Committee prioritized busier trails like the Rec Path and Turkey Trot Trail during the growing season.  Eventually the trail would get cleared out, but for a time it could get really overgrown. Having a designated CFPA Trail Manager means that someone will be looking out for the entire trail. 

CFPA manages about 825 miles of CT Blue-Blazed Trails, so they have adopted a system of volunteer Trail Manager for each trail or section of trail.  The Paugussett Trail has three sections for maintenance purposes, each with a designated CFPA Trail Manager: 

Monroe section: Bob Blackwell
Shelton North (Monroe border to Indian Well and Tahmore Trail): Teresa & Terry Gallagher
Shelton South (Indian Well falls parking to Buddington Road): Polly Buckley