Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Burning Barberry (Without getting the Fire Dept Angry)

It all started with wanting to mow some hay.

We had been really busy this Spring with construction of the RecPath, and fell behind in some of our maintenance tasks. At our June meeting we decided to mow the Paugussett Trail at the Wiacek open space between Constitution Blvd. North and Meadow Street. The trail runs along the edge of a hay field & the trail gets really obscured in late Spring.

Problem was, we couldn't get our DR Mower into the field because the Trail had been turned into a soupy mudhole at the powerlines. One of the volunteers for Shelton Clean Sweep had good in there with his pickup truck to pull out a big pile of garbage this Spring, and given all the rain that we had got stuck. So he backed out and tried again, and again, and again. Long Story Short - Mike got the garbage (nice work, single-handed) but our trail access was a mess for getting our mower into the meadow. So we were going to use some extra millings from a City road improvement project (we love recycling) to fill in the mudholes, but we though the millings wouldn't look quite right & had access to other materials.

The new Community Garden #2 at 279 Soundview Avenue had LOTS of rocks and dirt available. All looking very natural and good for filling in mudholes, the question was how to get from the Paugussett Trail over to Soundview? We knew there were old woods roads between the trail and the Community Garden and thought that we could just drive between the two with the Gator, get the rocks, fill the hole & problem solved.

So Rich Mudlarks walked the route with his trusty GPS. Unfortunately for him he walked had to walk thru a sea of Japanese Barberry while wearing his shorts. Needless to say he emerged bloody looking like a cross between someone trapped in a tight cage with a grumpy bobcat, or an early-bird shopper on the day after Thanksgiving.

The Japanese Barberry is an invasive non-native species that has thorns and spreads out everywhere when there are a lot of deer. They eat everything else but leave the barberry - which happens to form an ideal habitat for ticks. So, armed with the knowledge that we had to cut thorns we scheduled a quick work party & brought various tools of destruction.

Here's Jim & Rich clearing out a patch. We have a new Ryobi with a sickle bar attachment that works well for cutting this stuff. Trouble is it grows over rocks and stumps and you can't always see what your cutting until you hit it. The Stihl brushcutter with the plastic vanes works well here also - if you nip a rock you haven't dulled up a blade. Janice, Lynn, Bill, Terry, Jim & Rich all had a hand in cutting and hauling rocks. Once we cleared out a path thru the barberry the guys went up to the Garden, got a lot of rocks, and when back to fill in the mud holes.

In the meantime we tried out the new Trails Flamethrower to burn the barberry after we cut it. This is supposed to be the preferred way to permanently eradicate this invasive species. Here's Rich trying to see how long his has to aim the flames at his foot before his boot catches on fire. It had rained a lot that week so there was no danger (well, limited danger) of us setting the woods on fire. Come to find out that we were doing things correctly for a change & this is a good method for getting rid of barberry (and ticks) - see the article in The New London Day.

So meanwhile the guys were trying to fill in the mud holes with the rocks, however the rocks were going back to China and we still had lots of mud holes.

After a while the crew gave up and punched a hole through a dryer section of a hedge instead.

Several hundred pounds of rocks were moved, but no fingers, toes, or backs were lost in the process. We didn't do exactly what we originally planned, but we did finish with a dry passage for the Mower, we did not set the woods on fire, we did put a small dent in some invasive species, and we did the clearing the the Soundview Ave. Neighborhood Access Trail that was one of our 2011 Goals, so it was a productive if somewhat long & hot day.

One of our goals this year is to create a number of neighborhood access trails so more people can enjoy the trails network.

The next Paugussett Trail Work Party will be this Saturday 7/9. Meet at 8:30 at The Maples parking lot on Indian Well Road and we'll work uphill from the Park. Wonder what we'll find on that end.

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