Monday, April 16, 2018

April Community Service Opportunities

Now that the snow is gone, there's lots of work to do in April! And because there are hundreds of high school students in need of community service hours by May 1, we've put together a list of outdoor community service opportunities for April. But these work parties are for everyone, not just teenagers.

Download and print out a flyer (pdf) that lists all the events.
Print Flyer (pdf)

Saturday, April 14, 8:30 am, will be a regular Trail work party at Birchbank Mountain to clear extensive blowdowns from the winter nor'easters and prepare for the guided Wildflower Hike and Shelton Trails Day hike. Meet at the Birchbank Mtn trailhead on Indian Well Road one full mile past the beach entrance, where the road turns sharply right to cross railroad tracks.

Sunday, April 22, 1:00 pm, EARTH DAY, the Anti-Litter Committee is holding a work party at Shelton Lakes to clean up litter from the trails, reservoirs, and roadways. There will be bags and gloves and free iron-on custom Clean Sweep 2018 patches featuring the Hope Lake dam. Meet on Shelton Avenue (Rt 108) under the powerlines (hiker parking area). This location is between Nells Rock Road and Pine Street.

Saturday, April 28, 8:30 am, Trails Work Party (details to be announced)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Poetry on the Poet Path

Quote by Thoreau near Thoreau Drive
To get from Birchbank Mountain to Webb Mountain, the north-bound hiker on the Paugussett Trail comes to a Land Trust property sandwiched between two short road walks. This section of trail is nick-named the Poet Path because many of the nearby roads are named after poets. You're never far from the roads and houses in here.

A lot of work was done over the past week digging the trail into the side of the hill for easier walking (see previous posts). That work is 90% complete. We wanted to give the Poet Path a bit more character, though. So we decorated the trail with some simple lines from Thoreau, Frost, Dickinson, Bryant, and Longfellow. These are all the names of nearby streets.

Themed rock sets, this one is about stars
The project was inspired by painted slates and rocks set out by "The Kindness Rocks Project," in particular a painted slate set out along the Rec Path near the Dog Park.  There's a slate dedicated to each poet, with some painted rocks below that are related to the chosen line from that poet. For example, for the line, "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see," the rocks below the slate sign are of small things you might see when outdoors, easily missed if going too fast.

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see" - Thoreau
All the rock was painted by Emma Gallagher, and placed by Terry and Teresa Gallagher, the Paugussett Trail Managers for this section of trail.

Hanging the signs
Rocks turn out to be pretty heavy to carry down the trail. Multiple trips were required. But worth it.

This picture would be better with a sunset background
People who are into painting rocks are invited to add to the collection at any of the five stations. Please be sure to stick with the themes, though, so the quote about "sunset in a cup" would have rocks painted with that theme.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Birchbank Mountain Gets Cleared

Volunteers cleared winter storm damage from three miles of trails at Birchbank Mountain. We have a great turnout, with lots of high school students in need of community service hours. Unfortunately, we don't have any pictures of the kids working because all the photographers were busy using a chainsaw. The kids went up and down the trails picking up sticks and branches and cutting overgrowth.

Jim and Luis work on an ash
We also had three people with gas powered chainsaws and one with a battery-powered saw. The saws were going non-stop for hours at the park. Hope no one was trying to get a nice peaceful walk in.

 A few Dutchman's Breeches are starting to form buds
We have the annual wildflower hike coming up, but the wildflowers are just starting to emerge from the earth. They normally are going strong around opening fishing day, but not this year. It's been a cold spring. The Dutchman's Breeches are up, but other like Trillium haven't even emerged from the ground yet.

Mark tackled a huge oak. Wow.
There were trees down all over. Maybe twenty or so across the trail. Our volunteers are not professional sawyers, and they don't lug the biggest saws down the trail, so a big log can be a real project.

On the Blue-White Connector ("before")
One blow-down mess on the Blue/White Connector trail actually fell a few years ago, although a big new tree was added to the pile over the winter. The original blowdown included some so-called "widow makers" and the Trails Committee members decided they weren't paid enough to die clearing that booby trap. Hikers have had to simply make their way around it. Last year the booby trap collapsed and became safer to cut. It was still a challenge with some smaller trees and logs under tension, meaning they could spring when cut. But the guys got it done.

Terry and Bob got this one cleared. 
Teresa stuck a tiny battery-powered chainsaw in her backpack and wandered south along the rugged Paugussett Trail to the Indian Well border. Fortunately there was nothing needing the gas-powered saws because that's the most difficult section of trail in all of Shelton.  The battery-powered saw is a new addition to the trail clearing arsenal, and it's been working great for small diameter or rotting logs. It takes a lot longer to cut a log, but the saw much easier to carry down the trail.

Battery-powered saw cut through this log (slowly)
To reach the Indian Well border from Birchbank, you have to scramble over some large boulders using your hands, so the ability to put the chainsaw in a pack is important.

The tools about to get thrown in a pack to scramble over "The Boulders"
The weirdest find of the day may have been the site of a carnivore's meal at the top of a root ball next to a blowdown that was cut. It was up high and covered with feathers and some other stuff that used to be inside the bird.

Someone had dinner here.
But mostly the day was cutting logs like the one below. Over and over. That was a tough winter!

There was of a lot of this kind of thing

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Spring Break Work Parties Part 2: Paugussett Trail Improvements

Getting started on Princess Wenonah Drive
The work continued today benching part of the Paugussett Trail into the side of the hill. Very hard work! There was a threat of rain, which probably lowered the turnout, but in the end, the rain held off and the weather was perfect for working outside.

The digging continues
Many thanks to the volunteers: Mark Vallaro, Sean Beacham, Mark Gergely, Lucas Deoliveira, Eric Silva, Emily Hunter, Katie Hunter Veronica Hunter, and Bob Wood (Trails Committee Member).

The fight with this rock became personal, didn't it, Bob?
Although the trail tread needs more work, most of the treacherous side slope has been eliminated.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Spring Break Work Parties Part 1: Paugussett Trail Improvements

Ready to start
We fully expected the first 2018 Spring Break Work Party would be cancelled due to the terrible weather forecast that started with 3-5 inches of snow, then changed to rain, then showers, and finally cool and dry. In the end, it was ideal working weather: just cold enough to keep the ticks and bugs away. You just never know. The cold, gloomy morning probably kept some volunteers away, though. 

A tough job
The group met at #34 Princess Wenonah Drive in the so-called Poet Section of the White Hills, and headed straight up the steep hill to a section of the Paugussett that has been nicknamed the "Poet Path." It's probably the least walked section of the Paugussett Trail in Shelton, in part because of the footing. The goal this week is to improve the footing by digging the trail into the side of the hill so the tread is more level and doesn't twist your ankles.

The main group got started benching in the trail, also called side-hilling. This is exhausting, hard-core trail work. But it's very rewarding because the results will be seen for decades. The trail tread is dug into the hill so that a cross section is close to level. 

Monroe Town Line at Round Hill Brook

We had enough people to also take a small crew north up the trail to the Monroe town line to clear out winter storm damage. The trail there goes through various properties, including Land Trust property, private properties under a pedestrian easement, and city open space. The Shelton Trails Day hike in June will go this way. The girls then picked up quite a bit of litter along the trail. 


Getting there...

After several hours everyone was exhausted and we called it a day. But not before walking back along the trail to review the improvements. 500 feet of trail were benched in, winter storm damage cleared to the Monroe border, and a pile of litter was removed. Nice job! There's lots more to do, though. The second Spring Break Work Party is scheduled for Tuesday, April 10, from 2:00 pm to 5:30 (raindate Thursday, same time). 

Looks good

Many thanks to the following volunteers: Anthony Gambardella, Allan Schmidheini, Hunter Smith, Mark Vollaro, Sean Beacham, Gill Dkeffington, John & Katie Killian, Luke Roberts, Lily Norris, and Nan Muldoon. 


This litter was along the trail
Also a big thanks to CFPA for letting us borrow some of their trail tools for the week.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Reburfishing Trail Signs at Eklund

Know what happens when you're not paying attention? Your wooden signs get all faded and tattered. Especially if you made a poor choice in paint. The one day you suddenly realize the place is looking pretty tacky, and it's time to take all the signs down and refurbish them. 

Each sign had to be removed (some of the hardware is designed to reduce the risk of vandalism, so having the correct tools is critical), sanded down to bare wood, painted with leftover deck stain, and the lettering done over. And then everything needs to be reinstalled with appropriate hardware.

The sign out by the parking area wasn't very inviting, and the brown plastic Open Space rules sign above it was also ripping apart due to tree growth. Tacky.


Because this sign is at the garden entrance, some extra effort was made in more attractive lettering. Unless you have some special talent, lettering is harder than it looks. An art projector was used to project lettering printed out on a PC with a Papyrus font onto the board. Never tried that before, but it worked great.
Lettering projected onto the board
The lettering was traced over with a pencil, and then simply painted over with a brush and white trail paint (we use exterior Behr Premium Plus glossy with primer). The brown plastic 'Open Space Rules' sign was replaced with a small Open Space marker since we now have a nearby kiosk where the rules can be posted.

The big routered header sign was the most work. Just getting it down was a project. Sanding seemed to take forever, and repainting the letters took 1.5 hours. Installation holes had to be redrilled. But it's a big improvement.

Header sign freshly sanded and stained

Ready for installation

The signs at the back gate got less attention because it's less visible. These are rustic, quickly done signs that get the job done. 

The gates themselves were also fixed up this spring . The gate design was never a good one. It required everyone to carefully latch the gate behind them, and not everyone bothered. An improvised system of springs and wood door stops was added over time. This year, pull handles were added to the outside of the gate, the front gate got a new metal door stop, and both gates were realigned.


Ready for another hiking season!