Saturday, January 30, 2010

Restoring Order

Terrance is either trying to saw off a
hung-up branch or poke a squirrel

Having abandoned that approach, the task is turned over to Bill,
Master chainsaw operator, to show us how it's done

"Well, that didn't work. Let's try it from this side"

"Put that chainsaw away before you hurt someone! Here, I'll show
how to do this the old-fashioned way.....with an ax!"

Chopping, sawing, and some elbow grease finally did the job.
The Three
Amigos then moved on to clearing vines
and invasives From an area
adjacent to the dam
to provide a clear view of the lake

Bill decided to test the waters. Fortunately for Terrance and Rich,
it was hard water and they didn't have to haul a frozen Bill
up the steep bank and possibly perform mouth-to-mouth

Bill finishes clearing vines and brambles from around the tree.
Unfortunately, the
photographer did not think to take
a "before" photo, so the reader has to

imagine what it looked like prior to our labor

Other than frostbite, no injuries were incurred this day,
in spite of the chainsaw juggling and ax tossing.
bring on the next project!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Storm Damage Repairs

Well the storm that blew through on Monday created some downed trees to be cleaned up. A scratch work party of crack volunteers will be going out Saturday if anyone wants to join in.

Here's that picture showing a broken tree that's hung up over the RecPath. We're going to meet at 9:00 Sat. 1/29/10 on Constitution Boulevard North at the Canoe Launch sign opposite the Intermediate School. Maybe the cold front blowing through tonight will do our work for us and drop the tree.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Really Big Pin Oaks

Well, we were out yesterday morning flagging & clearing the route for the Northwest Passage. It was a cold, but sunny morning that was really pleasant. We had a good turn out. In addition to our regular cast we had Janice and Dominick, along with Ryan. As Bill likes to say "Many hands makes light work".

While we were working out our plan of attack we had a number of cars slow down to look at us & one car stopped to ask what we were doing. I guess a bunch of people hanging out with loppers, machetes, saws, weed whackers, and pruners looks suspicious; it's either your friendly neighborhood trails work party, or a gang getting ready to repel a zombie attack.

The trail will follow the service road for the powerlines as it heads north.

We explored a possible route through the woods to the west of the road, but it was a sea of barberry. We would need an army of cutters to eradicate this thorny mess. Jim & I were able to wade thru with our Carhartts, but Ryan actually got a piece of his Red Sox shirt ripped off - through his hoodie. This is what happens to the forest when it is heavily browsed by deer; nothing but thorny invasive species, deer poop, and mature trees as far as the eye can see. There were not many shrubs, saplings, herbs, or native ground cover. This is not a healthy forest.
We came out onto the upper fields and followed the northern edge along the hedgerow before diving into the woods. This route should create some nice views for the finished trail.

The woods are wet and will need stepping stones to create firm footing. Luckily there are a number of suitable stones about. All we need now are some willing hands to help us move them to where they will do the most good. We picked the least wet route through the woods for the trail.

The trail is routed to pass through a grove of large Pin Oaks. These are trees typically found in floodplains and wetlands, and this group has some of the largest specimen trees that I've seen in this area. The grove is a meca for turkeys, deer & squirrels in the fall looking for acorns.

Pin Oaks are a red oak, but due to the knots left by the branches and it's tendency to check is used more for pallets and similar uses than for furniture. The branches are distinctive because the lower ones bend down, the middle branches stick out straight, and the upper branches go upward.

It was a good work party, & we got a lot done thanks to Janice, Dominick, Ryan & everybody else. There's still a lot to do however & if anybody wants to help out we've got lots of stepping stones to move, and brush to cut before this is a finished trail. See you at the next trails work party.

Make plans to come to the marshmallow roast and hike at Nicholdale on Feb. 6th. It should be a lot of fun for families and kids of all ages.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK

Yesterday the FBN Tree Clearing Service (a crack division of Shelton Trails) took down the remainder of an oak tree that was shading the Eklund Native Species Garden - (see the Garden Blog for more photos). The tree was leaning over the deer fence that we installed last spring, and taking it down was a little fussy to avoid crushing the fence. And to top it off our "cloudy" afternoon began to drizzle after we started; a nice 38 degree drizzle that left everbody soaked and cold at the end of the job.

Here's a photo of Rich putting tension on the 5/8" pull rope with his come-along as the tree is being notched. Rich looks official with all his safety gear, and he has positioned himself as far away from the tree as possible. Bill is even further away behind a 36" oak taking this picture.

Here are Rich & Bill setting up the pull line earlier. We used the pull line and wedges to steer the tree where we wanted it to go. It's good to work as smartly and safely as possible.

Helpful Trail Tip: Bill had a bright idea to bring his extendable pole saw along to set the rope high on the tree trunk. The higher on the tree you can set the rope the more leverage you get during felling.

Well the tree landed almost where we wanted it too. But, the garden was still frozen and shouldn't be too disturbed. The main point was that it didn't crush the fence. Terry and Rich are bucking up the tree while Bill hauled off everything to the brush pile.

This should make a nice fire next winter. An occasional load of firewood is one of the benefits of being a trails volunteer. All we need now is for the Parks and Rec guys to chip up the brushpile when they have time in their schedule.

After we were done at Eklund we went over to Silent Waters to look at clearing some of the vines and briars near the bridge. We want to set a bench on top of the dam so people can enjoy the view, and we wanted to see the best way to do the work. Maybe this is something that Parks & Rec could tackle over the winter as a filler job, otherwise we trails volunteers can handle it. We also looked at the condition of the old Curtis Brook Bridge. Some joggers still like using it even though there's a new solid bridge right next to it.

Bill wanted to just patch the hole, while Rich & I were for taking it out. They were able to jump up and down on it without falling into the Brook - this time. Maybe we'll leave it in place as a science experiment in how long something will last without maintenance. Something to discuss at the next trails meeting I guess. With that, we decided to head home to get warm and dry. Hopefully Bill didn't come down with Swine Flu.

Bill sent out an e-mail about our next trails work party - This Saturday at 9:00 at the end of Constitution Boulevard by Summerfield. More flagging and clearing for the Northwest Passage -see you there.

And if you want singing lumberjacks click here. We're far too serious for this silliness.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Do deer fences really work?

Saturday was busy. I stopped at the dump to drop some stuff off. The dumpkeepers didn't have any more rusty tools saved for us, but I asked them to put aside any rock bars, rakes, or shovels that come in that they think can be recycled. If anybody from Trails is going there soon see if they have anything for us. The picks that Pete picked up (no pun intended) work fine.

I later visited Eklund Native Species Garden & Dominick Trail yesterday on Oak Valley Road. I was there to scope out the best way to take down the remainder of a leaning oak tree that was shading the garden. The oak tree is leaning toward the deer fence & it's a little tricky to take down without hitting the fence.

You can see the tracks where they are milling around outside the fence after walking down the driveway & then walking around the perimeter of the garden on the outside of the fence. They were even using the lower bypass trail around the garden, as were most of the people and dog walkers. The gates were a little sticky with the snow, but folks were keeping them closed - which is good. A lot of trails volunteers put in some hard work installing the fence and preparing Eklund last Spring & they can see that the fence is working fine so far.

There were a number of animal tracks around on Dominick Trail in this area. Visit the Eklund Garden Blog for more photos & guesses as to which animal goes with which track. Winter is a great time to take kids outside to hunt for wildlife.

Animal Tracks of New England by Sheldon, et al is a handy reference. It's only about $7 and its a small book that fits nicely inside a coat pocket.

The Parks & Rec crew has continued creating their own weight in woodchips clearing for the Bark Park at the White House on Nells Rock Road this week. They have left the pear trees alone, but still have to take down the big dead tree by the parking area. Hopefully there's some screening left between the Recreation Path and the Bark Park fence. We still need to have a meeting with the Mayor, Aldermen & everybody involved so that this key parcel in the Shelton Lakes Greenway is managed properly, but if the Bark Park is done properly it should be a good addition.

Here's a view of the clearing toward our Red Barn & the White House. This would make a great location for a Nature Center, or a Shelton Lakes Greenway Center some day. This would be similar to what Trumbull is now experiencing on their Housatonic Rail Trail project. Trumbull is in the process of buying a historic house on Tait Road that were serve as a Greenway Center. The Shelton Lakes Recreation Path has gotten a lot more use this year due to the recent improvements & as peoples use increases so does the need for facilities like parking, phones, bathrooms, and water fountains. Which is why all the different things talked about for the greenway need to be planned and coordinated so they work out well with each other.

Some of us on the Trails Committee have joked about a nice brew pub as a tourist attraction. Perhaps take Fido to the Bark Park & have a Shelton Lakes Lager on the porch?

And while I was out getting a new rope to help take down that oak tree at Eklund I saw this little baby in the front yard of the Newtown Power Equipment. They carry a wider range of rope, tools, and tree equipment than some of the local dealers. Wouldn't this compact tractor make a nice addition to the Shelton Trails Committee Tool Arsenal? I could see Bill on this all day puttering around in the woods. Hmmm, maybe we could put it in our next grant application......

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snow Survey

A group of intrepid, if not loony, Shelton Trail Committee members embarked on an expedition rivaling the similar Lewis and Clark picnic of years gone by. Only this group included Ryan Gallagher, a student of committee psychology who switched majors shortly after witnessing the testing of group dynamics under stress. The purpose of this outing was to roughly lay out a route that will accommodate hikers, bikers, casual strollers and marathon runners and at the same time be handicap accessible.

After a light warm-up of cutting trees and sawing to lengths, we left
the log-pile behind and embarked on our journey of discovery

Terrance gave a field expedient lecture on the preparation and maintenance of snowballs

Spotting a wild Giant Icelandic Mini-Bowser, Lynn made a grab for the
dangerous beast before it could devour the rest of us

The Terror of the Trails

Parts of the Shelton Trails are truly a winter wonderland!

Terrance and Bill discuss trail placement

You buried the moose HERE???

Mission accomplished in spite of the frigid temperatures, the
group readily smiles, not yet realizing that their cars won't start
when they return to the parking area.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Years

It's officially January; the temperature is dropping, the wind is blowing, the snow is swirling - a good day for a hike. Nahh; it's a good day to load up the fireplace & enjoy a Sam Adams Winter Lager. It seems like it's been snowing non-stop all weekend. Not heavy, but constant - with wind. Or as somebody said yesterday - "It's like being back in Cleveland with the lake-effect snow".

Tomorrow is supposed to be better - like New Years Day when it was sunny and about 30. I took our dog on a nice long walk that day up the Recreation Path from Wesley Drive, out around Nells Loop Trail, over on Dominick Trail and back. We met a number of other folks out enjoying the day & walking their dogs too. It was a great to enjoy the Shelton Lakes Greenway in the new snow. It was much more civilized than our Frost Hike last Tuesday. If only we could predict the weather when we scheduled these events.

The Shelton Lakes Recreation Path along Wesley Drive was really pretty overlooking the gorge. The waterfall by Scotch Pine Road was running well. The brook was babbling. Once you got a little away from the houses it felt like you could've been up in New Hampshire.

There was another little artistic cairn along the Dominick Trail. The leprechauns have been busy.

If you haven't seen it yet the Iroquois Gas Company has put our Lane St. Boardwalk on the cover of their calendar this year. The Boardwalk was a joint project with the Shelton Land Conservation Trust & funded by Iroquois and New Alliance Bank. It's very gratifying when one of our projects turns out so well that people like to use it as part of their artwork. The Lane St. Boardwalk was a real cooperative community project & now that the Lane St. entry is done the Boardwalk and Land Trust Property are much easier to enjoy. Just take a short walk down Lane St. from the Huntington Center Fire House.

2009 was a good year for Shelton Trails; hopefully 2010 will continue that tradition. Our first Trails Committee meeting of the year is this Wednesday at 5:00 in City Hall if anybody wants to attend.