Friday, February 23, 2018

Birth of Stockmal Trail

Stockmal Trail
Shelton gained a new hiking trail in February 2018, made possible by unusually mild weather. The trail has been in the works for a long time, and was required under a state grant awarded to the city several years ago to purchase a conservation easement over the 40-acre Stockmal property.  The Stockmal family had hosted a Scout camp and trail system on their property for many years and wished to see the land preserved from future housing developments while retaining ownership.  Bob Stockmal was a founding member of the Shelton Land Trust.

Unmarked trail at Willis Woods needed improving
Unlike most City of Shelton trails, Stockmal Trail does not cross land owned by the City. The trail was required to cross the rear of the Stockmal property and link up with a network of Scout trails on the neighboring Land Trust property called George Willis Woods. (As a reminder, the Shelton Land Trust is a private group, not the City of Shelton). Sadly, those trails were completely overgrown and had been abandoned, so with permission from the Land Trust, a new loop was flagged by City staff in 2015 and partly cleared in preparation for the future Stockmal Trail.
The Cedar Grave, flagged and partly cleared
This month, the Stockmal trail was finally flagged, cleared, and blazed. The first half of the trail, where it passes through Willis Woods, is tough terrain. It starts out along a bony hillside, passing through twisty mountain laurel, following the loop that was flagged out in 2015 and lightly hiked ever since. The new trail then leaves the loop, turning west. It drops down through a grove of dead and falling cedars, crosses the gas pipeline, and picks through wetlands to arrive at a stream. Finding a plausible route through this terrain took a long time.

A stream to cross

Beyond the stream, the trail route was forced in a dense grove of mountain laurel.  That's always tough for a new trail, but after a few years laurel trails can be pretty neat.

Sigh. Must go through the Mountain Laurel
At the Stockmal property line, the terrain suddenly becomes much more easy and open. Instead of rock and swamps, there is a sandy plateau under foot, and part of the trail follows an old woods road that lead to the former Scout camp. Easy!

The end goal: Means Brook overlook
The trail route comes to an end (for now) above Means Brook, about 0.6 mile from the trailhead on Rt. 110. It's a neat spot, and this area is where the Scout camp used to be. The land right along Means Brook is owned by the Aquarion Water Company, and then on the other side is the City's Trombetta Open Space.

Clearing through the mountain laurel
Once the route was nailed down and flagged, it was just a matter of clearing and blazing.  How often can you paint outside in February? In 2018, there were several days warm enough to do so.

First blaze
Within a few weeks, the trail was basically cleared, blazed, and ready to be hiked, although a bridge was still needed to cross the stream. Stepping stones worked in the short term, but were not easy.  Enjoy the "after" photos below:

Trailhead on Route 110 Leavenworth Rd

Land Trust marker

Willis Woods loop section is now more clear

Willis Woods loop section near Rt 110

The cedar grave section

Brook ready to be bridged

Sign that marks the Stockmal Woods property
After entering the Stockmal property, hikers need to respect the property owner and stay on the white-blazed trail. And there may be hunting in the fall, so wear bright colors.
Easy walking along the Stockmal property

Means Brook - can it be bridged?
Next Post:
See the Stockmal Bridge construction. 

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