Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hiking the Bluff Walk

Click on photos to enlarge

The Shelton Trails Committee conducted another guided hike open to all, this month on the Bluff Walk, overlooking the Housatonic River. This trail extends along the length of Riverside Park and varies between rolling, wooded terrain broken by short open areas, and can be negotiated as a round-trip or, for the hardier hiker, a loop that follows the railroad tracks just above the river bank and the old canal. In spite of the questionable weather, around 15 folks, young and old, joined us to enjoy the trail and at the same time pick up any litter along the way. Litter bags were provided and the promise of bubble soap after the hike was an added incentive to the kids, and probably to some of the adults as well!

Lynn, our hike meister for this trip, briefs everyone on the nature of this trip, and hands out litter bags to all.

Folks were fastidious in picking up everything in sight, almost to a fault. Perhaps a chipmunk or two found themselves suddenly thrust into a bag along with the sandwich wrappers and soda cans!

The kids seemed especially eager to participate in the activities.

A brief rest at the Ousatonic Dam overlook gave Terrance, our tour guide, the opportunity to describe the operation of the dam, the canal and it's locks.

The Ousatonic Dam

Part of the trail runs behind the park's ballfields. Emma, not satisfied with climbing the slopes of the Bluff, climbs mini-Mt. Everest.

Litter bearers.

Cleaning up behind one of the ball fields.

Terrance points out the "Constitution Oak Tree", grown from a seedling from the original Charter Oak, Connecticut's most famous tree, in which the colony's charter was hidden from the British. This tree grows right near the Bluff Walk Trail.

At the end of the park and the upper reaches of the trail, a couple of brave souls opted to walk the loop rather than the easier route back to our starting point. Actually, they could be mistaken for a pair of young runaways seeking adventure by riding the rails! But they did get to experience a closer look at the river and the dam before climbing back up to rejoin the less ambitious group blowing bubbles at the starting point.

In all, it was a fun hike, and all who participated appeared to enjoy the walk as well as take pride in having helped clear out some of the litter and bring back some of the beauty of our environment. Join us next month for an Autumn hike on The Tahmore Loop trail, scheduled for 2:00 PM, October 17!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cadillac Tests the Boardwalk

Well another chapter in the book of bad ideas was written late last night when Mr. Micheal Durkin of Shelton and his friend decided to drive his Cadillac Catera down the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path on Lane St. to "look at the stars". They got to the Lane St. Boardwalk and decided to drive across it.

Unfortunately for Mr. Durkin the 6 foot wide boardwalk across the Means Brook Floodplain was designed for baby carriages & bicycles, not a 4000 lb. Cadillac. The Catera model was marketed as the "Caddy that Zigs" so it would appeal to a more adventurous driver.

Mr. Durkin and his friend spent the remainder of last night trying unsuccessfully to jack, wedge, and pry their car out of the swamp and back up onto the boardwalk. The Shelton Police Department called our house this morning looking for the combination to the Land Trust gate so they could get two wreckers in to "pull the car out of the ditch". I was trying to figure out which ditch they were talking about went I saw the car off the boardwalk.

The driver was cited for 2 counts. The officers were very professional and had the 2 guys clean up trash and debris. The police report will be ready later this week & he'll have to go to court. Damage to the boardwalk is being assessed. The driver did apologize and said he would be back there this afternoon fixing the broken deck boards and bullrail so nobody trips and gets hurt.

The substructure of the board walk needs to be checked. The car may have pushed the 4x4 boardwalk piers down into the swamp. At least the brook wasn't flooding at the time the car went in.

The RecPath had a removable post at Lane St. blocking unauthorized vehicles from entering, but somebody vandalized it so the car was able to drive in last night. Oddly enough, the drivers used the post to try to pry the car out of the swamp.

We've had a lot of problems with vandalism at this location this summer; broken kiosks, trash, damage to the Harriet Wilber Memorial Bench, fires, and now this. The boardwalk was built by hand over a couple of months by volunteers, some in their 70's. But it was a great project that was a lot of fun to build and has been of great use to the community. Hopefully the judge takes that into account when sentencing Mr. Durkin.

I'm still trying to figure out how the guys were able to make it around the bend in the boardwalk, and then drove off the straight end.

I don't know how much damage was done to the car. Hopefully Mr. Durkin feels some remorse about doing this dumb thing and the judge makes him fix all this stuff.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

No Sooner Said Than Done

Click on photo to enlarge

It was a perfect day for barn painting. Warm with a slight breeze, slightly cloudy, just enough to keep the sun from burning, and hot coffee and donuts from Terrance. We had all the props... paint, brushes, ladders, scrapers, and warm bodies seemingly willing to give up a Saturday morning to enhance an old barn.

Scrapers on one side, painters on another. Let's go!

The front of the barn is already showing a new face-lift as Bill and Jim paint while Shari scrapes.

Terrance works on scraping the high point at the back of the barn.

Lynn picks away at the old paint below.

Jim puts the finishing touches on the front as Shari and Lynn muscle their way through the toughest side of the barn where the scraping was the most difficult.

Now here's a "Three Stooges" episode in the making! Rich on the ladder, Bill below, and Jim approaching carrying a new bucket of paint. Think of the possibilities!

Serious painting shifts to the rear of the barn.

Looking good!

Putting on the last touches. A few hours later and we have a new barn! It was a terrific effort by those involved, and fun to boot! Anyone need experienced house painters? (Go look somewhere else!)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Paint the Barn Red

The Red Barn Before ....

This Saturday, we're repainting the Red Barn at Shelton Lakes. The Barn is located on the corner of Nells Rock Road and Rt. 108. We keep a few odd items; such as rusty shovels, fence rails, and pipes in the Barn for easy access during work parties. We fixed up the Barn last year, but now that the Dog Park will be moving in next door we thought the place needed a little sprucing up.

Chuck the Power Washer from Hydro Works Inc. in Shelton volunteered to help clean off some of the peeling paint. Their firm specializes in power washing, printing and restoration. Chuck was awesome and his efforts saved us a lot of preparation time. It's always great when a local business helps out with Trails and Open Space projects. If you need something powerwashed please call Chuck at (203) 929-3121 and he'll help make your project a success.

After Chuck got done with it .....

And here's all Chuck's gear.

So on Saturday morning, if you have a little time, put on your painting clothes and bring your brush. We're going to spiff up The Barn. We may need a little help because this doesn't involve moving rocks or cutting briars. You too can join the Trails Committee in action at our Paint Party....

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fixin' Stuff

Everybody always likes the fun jobs of building something new; a trail, a bridge, a kiosk. But the fact of the matter is that there are maintenance jobs that have to get done and somebody has to do them. I think most trail users assume that it's City staff, or maybe "the little people" who come out in the middle of the night to take care of this stuff, but in reality it's just volunteers.

Teresa Gallagher reblazed the Turkey Trot Trail recently. The old blazes were faded, and they get bigger as the trees grow. Terry scraped the bark, blacked out the old paint, and then came back and re-painted the white blazes on the trees. This has to be done every couple of years. This year she has reblazed Turkey Trot, Oak Valley, and Nells Loop Trails, along with most of the Blue Dot trail. That's a lot of work so people can find their way in the woods.

Rich Skudlarek recently replaced a couple of broken fence rails along the RecPath on top of the old dams at Silent Waters. We generally lose a couple of rails a year due to trees falling down in a storm. The fence is there so no one accidentally walks off the dam, and needs to be kept up, however it may take a little while for volunteers to fit it into their schedule sometimes. Nice job Rich.

In addition to mending fences, Rich also just finished fixing the Plexiglas in the Turkey Trot Kiosk. Apparently some joker though it would be fun to smash out the glass. We try to keep the trail entrances clear and in good shape. Unfortunately the time spent fixing this vandalism takes time away from other things.

We've had to fix a lot of vandalism this year; fire rings were recently removed on both Nells Loop Trail and the RecPath, the Lane St. Kiosk was repaired, the Harriett Wilber Memorial Bench was removed from the Land Trust Meadow on Lane St. due to vandalism, a lot of trash that was thoughlessly dumped was picked up, and major ATV damage at Birchbank Mtn. is being corrected.

People like to show up for a ribbon cutting, but getting folks out to fix erosion or vandalism is more of a challenge. Anything people can do to assist us with this stuff is greatly appreciated.
Consider coming to a work party this Fall. As Bill says "many hands makes light work."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Workin' on the Wires 9-11-10

People have been asking what's been going on along the Paugussett Trail on both sides of Independence Driver earlier this month? Connecticut Light & Power was doing a splice on their overhead powerline that runs along the trail, and they had to improve the access road (which in this section is our trail) in order to get their trucks up to the towers.

Rich Skudlarek got some action photos of the CL&P crew frying in the sun, 80 feet off the ground, in a little bucket surrounded by high voltage lines. Those guys have a tough job.

On the negative side our trail was closed for a couple of days, but on the positive side our trail was repaired and improved.

There were a lot of wash outs coming down the hill to Independence. The CL&P crew spread some processed stone about, seeded and mulched the haul road. Now all we need is a little rain to help the seed take.

Here's the finished trail coming down the hill. This will be a lot easier to mow without the gullies. Trails and utility corridors are very compatible because there are mutual interests in keeping the trail clear, and they can contain a lot of wildlife that is interesting.

Here's a Praying Mantis that my sharp-eyed daughter spotted along the trail. There are a lot of surprising things to see when you're out enjoying a walk. Thanks CL&P for fixing up the trail.

Monday, September 6, 2010

No ATV's on the Trails

It's funny how things get on the news. Jodi Mozdzer of the Valley Independent Sentinel had read some of the chatter on the Shelton Conservation Commission's Google Group about the problems that were being caused by ATV and dirt bike riders at Birchbank Mountain, and wrote a nice article on it. The Valley Independent cranks out a lot of quality journalism for a small staff. Well then last week Channel 8 saw the article, stopped at City Hall and interviewed some folks and presto, it was on the WTNH evening news. This begat a flurry of comments at the bottom of the story regarding the pros and cons of riding ATV's on public open space. Some of the comments were funny and some were just plain sad, but telling.

Long story short; the Shelton Aldermen banned all non-authorized motor vehicles (jeeps, ATV's, dirt bikes, etc.) from all City Parks and open spaces following a host of problems and complaints a number of years ago. Unregistered ATV's and dirt bikes are also banned from City Streets, Land Trust Property, the Housatonic Railroad, Water Co. property, the powerlines, Indian Well State Park, and most of the farms in Shelton. Tom Harbinson, the Chairman of the Shelton Conservation Commission has an extended discussion of the history of local ATV issues on his personal blog.

The Shelton Trails Committee are all volunteers who take care of the trails in the open space and we have had great success encouraging all people to get out and enjoy their open spaces. We don't have problems with hikers, mountain bikers, dog owners, fishermen, kayakers, horseback riders, picnickers, farmers, trail runners, or most homeowners; just the ATV and dirt bike riders.

We work on trails because it's fun and we like seeing people enjoy the parks, but our volunteer time is valuable and limited. Quite frankly we don't have time to fix all the damage caused by a bunch of self-centered yahoos who want to have fun ripping up the trails the day after it's rained 2" because that what they saw in a Suzuki add, or doing big doughnuts in the middle of East Village Park, or chasing cub scouts off the powerlines. We have had to fix more vandalism and clean more trash this year than we should. If any of the trail users see ATV's or dirt bikes on the trails, or see someone dumping trash, or committing vandalism, please help us out. Get a description, or a picture, and call the Shelton Police at (203) 924-1544.

Thanks, and enjoy your parks and open spaces.

9/11/10 Update: The Huntington Herald also did a nice article this week on the problems the City has been having up at the Birchbank Mountain open space on Indian Well Road.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Far Mill Trail Work Party 08-28-10

The Trails Committee responded to a report of trash being dumped on one of your trails along the Far Mill River, and cleaned up brush left by one of the utility companies doing work on their pole line. A number of Shelton's trails cross utility lines, and sometimes this happens.

Here's Rich's photo of Sheri & Jim in the midst of clearing out all the debris. They're some of the elves who take care of Shelton's trails, and we could use more elves - consider volunteering for trail work. Visit our booth at Shelton Day, call the Conservation Commission at (203) 924-1555x315, or e-mail the Shelton Trails website if you want to volunteer. You'll find hidden corners of Shelton that you didn't know existing, and it's fun.

The Far Mill Greenway has some really pretty trails that are good for walking, lunches, or fishing. See the Shelton Trails website for maps.

This trail along the Far Mill River is accessed behind Well Spring Estates Condominium. Drive on Old Stratford Road, and turn east onto Farmill Crossing (near HealthNet). Park by the bridge and walk down the driveway at the big open space sign. Walk past the yellow chain and keep walking to the east of the condos along the crushed stone utility road. The trail continues to the river until it hits private property. The entire area between the condos and the river is a really pretty public open space. Hopefully someday we can connect this trail into a larger system along the River.