Saturday, June 4, 2022

Shelton 2020 Trails Day, in 2022, Finally

The Shelton Trails Committee celebrated 2020 Trails Day finally on June 4, 2022.  The series of trail improvements and re-routes along the Paugussett Trail at Indian Well State Park along with the Tahmore Trail on the Shelton Land Trust Preserve were completed in 2020, but all the public hikes were cancelled due to Covid and the resulting shutdowns.

There have been a lot of hiking on the trails during Covid, but not a lot of organized public hikes in groups, for obvious reasons.

 So today, under perfect sunny skies, in 2022, a public hike finally took place to enjoy all the improvements as part of the National Trails Day celebrations.

Two dozen happy hikers and 3 more-so happy dogs came together at Indian Well State Park to enjoy a great Saturday morning outside.

Teresa Gallagher gave a run down of the hike route, along with the trail improvements that were done before and during Covid.

We made it up the stairs and worked our way toward the trail junction.  The woodlands were amazing well lit due to the leaf wilt blight hitting the beech trees along the hillside.  It may be a forerunner of another massive die-off of an native tree due to invasive pests.

The view of the Housatonic River from the overlook was fine, if a little hazy.  You could see all the way to downtown Shelton.

Folks enjoyed the view of the river.

We then hiked up to the high point on Tahmore Trail the Shelton Land Trust property.  The views are better here in the Fall when the leaves are down.

The Mountain Laurel were starting to bloom in places.

There were multiple groups depending on your hiking speed.  Some took the trip to the waterfalls, and others came back to the parking lot on the blue/red trail.

Everyone made it back successfully, and all had a good time.  Thanks to everyone one who helped out: Val, Ellen, Luis, Teresa, Bob, & Terry.  And thanks to everyone who came out to help us celebrate our 2020 hike, rebooted, so to speak.


Monday, May 23, 2022

Pulling Invasive Plants at Pine Lake; It Don't Come Easy.

We had gotten reports that the entry to the Recreation Path at Pine Lake was getting choked down with plant growth and poison ivy.  This is one of the spots that we mow every year, usually in June, but this year it's in May.  There were a lot of invasive plants among the weeds, including Garlic mustard, Japanese knotweed, Mugwort, and others.  Normally we cut these areas, but this year we tried pulling out some of the plants and bagging them for disposal elsewhere to see if that was a better method.

Ellen, Mike & Graham are bending over and pulling the whole Garlic mustard plant out by the roots and then bagging it prior to cutting.  That way the plant can't go to seed and create more Garlic mustard plants next year (we hope).  

For more on why Garlic mustard is so pernicious (a solid Scrabble word), and how to control it, visit the Univ. of Penn.'s Invasive Webpage here.  The plant sprouts a bazillion seeds earlier than everything else and takes over every square inch of disturbed bare soil.  Not a good plant.  But it's edible, so feel free to pick some, take it home, and cook it up.

Mike McGee is ripping up the Garlic Mustard.   He got the memo on wearing long sleeves near the poison ivy, but had shorts.  Hopefully he showered well later.  He was organizing a litter pick up later in the day.

Did I mention that the weather was freakishly pushing 90 degrees and high humidity while we were wearing long pants, long shirts, high boot, gloves and other containment gear while working in Poison Ivy?  It was wonderful.  It was hot and sweaty work.

Here's some of the Japanese knotweed that we pulled.  It rained Friday night so some of the plants actually were easy to pull up.  The trouble is that any root fragments left behind will re-sprout.  But if your don't try you never win.  So anything we pulled out now will be less junk to deal with later in the year.

Bill Dyer cut out the Wheeler Street Access Trail.  It comes out between the Senior Center and the Police Department, but it often looks like a jungle until we get around to it.  This year Bill got it early so it should be easier for people to find.

There was a bunch of Mugwort around the entrance to cut.  Hopefully this makes it more accessible to local residents accessing the trail off Wheeler Street.

While pulling out the weeds we had a lot of customers, walking, jogging, and biking past.  There seemed to be a lot of shaggy dogs taking their humans out for a walk before it got too hot.  Sometimes you were working quietly pulling weeds and when you look up you see some of the residents out using the trail.

Hello Deer.  

About 20 feet away this little buck in velvet was wondering what the heck I was up to on his trail.  

We had a nice little discussion about why doesn't he just eat the Garlic mustard, until he decided to amble off toward the Police Department.  You see a lot of interesting things when you're quiet along the trails.
So, we ripped up more invasives down toward Meadow Street.  We ran out of garbage bags to contain the junk and had to come back on Sunday.  The plants and seeds can't be just thrown off in the woods or they'll just re-sprout and you'll have an even worse problem.  So the roots and seeds have to go to a landfill or incinerator or some type of Black Hole to get rid of them.

A large number of bags were left at the trailhead on Saturday, with more on Sunday on Meadow St.  We contacted Shelton's Highway and Bridges Department to ask them to haul them away.

Once you get rid of the invasives you can start to see the native plants along our open spaces.  Here's a Jack in the Pulpit along the RecPath where it was covered by a carpet of Garlic Mustard.

Here's a Cinnamon fern under the pine trees that doesn't have to compete with knotweed any more.

And we even had birds nesting in the bird house a the trailhead kiosk.  It was a good, if hot and sweaty weekend.  Lot's of people using the RecPath with less invasives, a wider Path, and less poison ivy.

After.  It's not glamorous, but then maintenance never is.  Thanks to Graham, Bill, Mike, Ellen, Matt & Terry for coming out today.

Elsewhere, Teresa was working on Eklund Native Species Garden, and Mark and Bob were working on French's Hill.  People were busy all over the City this weekend fixing up trails in some hot and sticky weather.   Enjoy the week ahead.

Removing invasive species is a lot of tough work; It Don't Come Easy.   A song by a certain composer named Ringo (and his pal George) was going my head.  Or maybe it just trying to think of something  cooler.


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Old Shelton Trail to Roosevelt Forest

Trail to Arthurs Court on
Stratford's new Roosevelt Forest map

The trail entrance is obscure, but decades of travel have kept the trail open. It begins at the Arthurs Court cul-de-sac in Shelton and ends in Roosevelt Forest.  Travelers head west through State property to an old lane running north-south. South is Roosevelt Forest, north is Route 8. The old lane seems to be a closed section of Beaver Dam Road that once continued to Armstrong Road, near Staples.

AllTrails shows the trail off Arthurs Court

The Shelton Trails Committee didn't know the trail existed, and there was no formal maintenance or marking over the years that we know of. Then the Town of Stratford published a new Roosevelt Forest map that showed the trail network extending all they way up to Arthurs Court in Shelton. Turned out this trail is also depicted on the various online maps such as AllTrails, Gaia, and OpenStreetMap. These maps are generated by the public and can be (and often are) in error. Still, it was interesting to see this trail in Shelton that we had never heard about shown on so many maps. 

Where did the trail come from? We asked our friends on Facebook about it, and a few said they had biked and even rode horses on the trail for decades. Lidar maps show the tread well-sunken into the ground. The old lane is shown on a Shelton map from 1867. 

Which brought up the fact that the blue-blazed Paugussett Trail originally went all the way from Monroe to Roosevelt in Stratford. CFPA decommissioned the trail south of Indian Well in the 1960s, but locals kept using segments of it. Could this be related? 

A 1946 map of the Paugussett Trail shows the trail following the old lane all the way from Roosevelt Forest to Armstrong Road in Shelton (Route 8 did not exist).  That section of the Paugussett was abandoned decades ago, but the old road and the access trail to Arthurs Court lived on in local knowledge. The image below is the 1946 trail map lined up with a current GIS/satellite image. 

1946 Paugussett Map overlay on satellite view
Blue line is the old Paugussett Trail

A Facebook post on the Shelton Trails group asking for info resulted in several people with old time knowledge of the trail as well as conflicting information about whether the public could park there and access the trail. After conferring with the Shelton Police Department, it was determined that it was legal to park on the road and head through the woods onto the trail so long as hikers do not stray onto private property. The City of Shelton does own a public right-of-way heading into the woods off the end of the cul-de-sac, all the way to the State of Connecticut property. The City GIS map below shows the trail in relation to property line. 

Property line map showing trail in red

Saturday, April 23, 2022

They say it's called "Spring".

This past Saturday was weird.  We had a work party and the sun was shining, with no rain, impending thunderstorms, no sleet or ice, the wind wasn't howling, the birds were chirping, it got warmer as the morning went on, and the flowers were blooming.  Not at all like our last few events.  Weird.  Not sure what to make of this odd weather.  They say it's called "Spring".

Bill and Mark were organizing the troops.  We had a great turn-out of 24 volunteers to cut brush, plant trees, and remove thatch from the RecPath at Lane Street.

Mark went over our objectives and safety rules.  There was a discussion of what to cut (things with thorns, invasive plants), and things to save (wildflowers, native plants).

It was a Blue As Could Be morning with some of the trees flowering along the edge of the Means Brook floodplain.  This might be a shad bush tree in flower.

The volunteers stretched out into various groups cutting or digging out old grass on top of the crushed stone Recreation Path.  Another group went up to the end of the meadow to plant tree dogwood trees that Bill Dyer donated along the RecPath.

Mike brought his own weedwacker.  We had a lot of tools but it's usually fun when folks bring their own gear too.

A lot of folks were out enjoying the RecPath too.  Strolling, running, walking dogs, pushing baby strollers, etc.

Lots of friendly dog walkers going thru the work areas.  Volunteers stopped to pet the pups, when OK'd by the owners.

The hayfield always encroaches on the crushed stone surface later in the summer, so we were trying to remove a lot of the thatch so people will be able to enjoy an 8 foot wide RecPath in June, instead of a 2 foot wide path thru the hay.

A lot of high school students were working on removing brush as part of their community service efforts.  Their work was much appreciated.

Some large thickets of briars were removed along the RecPath, which should make things more enjoyable later in the summer.

Thanks to everyone who helped out: Samuel, Anne, James, Mike, Ilaina, Matt, Val, Ellen, Noah Ethan, Tamia, Derek, Serenity, Joseph, Steven, Danielle, Minnhi, Zach, Jahneil, Mattheiu, Julien, Terry, Mark, and Bill.

Maybe if we're lucky we'll get some more of this weird "Spring-like" weather to enjoy the trails on the weekends.

Monday, April 18, 2022

New Eversource Towers are Coming with Major Impacts


New Eversource towers, grading, and road at Black Rock S.P. 

Electricity is a good thing, so Eversource is planning to replace their old towers in Shelton, including the ones at Shelton Lakes and French's Hill where we have trails. We're accustomed to work along the powerlines, but the scale of this proposal is unlike anything we've seen before. It will have major impacts on our trails, both during and after construction. 

Similar Project at Black Rock State Park:
We were told that the work in Shelton would be very similar to the work done last year at Black Rock State Park, which I happened to hike during construction in 2021 as part of the DEEP's Sky's the Limit challenge, following CFPA's blue-blazed Mattatuck Trail and the park's Red Trail to follow the popular loop to a scenic overlook specified in DEEP's challenge. I had some difficulties there, losing the trail due to the construction, but I'll get to that later. More important is what the long term consequences will be to the trails, so I took a drive up this spring to see what that area looks like now that construction is complete. This is what Eversource plans for Shelton Lakes. 

Access Roads: Eversource plans to upgrade existing access roads and build new ones in some locations along our trails. The existing utility access roads at Shelton Lakes are mostly goat paths we have to mow. They feel like the natural ground surface even where they might not be.  The new roads would be 20-foot wide graded roads covered with crushed stone.

Existing access road and Paugussett Trail

At Black Rock State Park, crews were granted permission to use a portion of the 42-mile Mattatuck Trail that is outside of the easement area, and this is what the hiking trail looks like now:

20' wide access road built over Mattatuck Trail

Surface of upgraded access road, Mattatuck Trail

In 2021, some of the blazed trees marking the hiking trail had been removed for the new road, so I only knew I was on the Mattatuck Trail by stopping to check the Avenza Map app on my phone.  I then missed where the trail turned off of the access road because it was overgrown and not marked, and continued walking up the access road with trucks going by and kicking up dust.  Eventually the road curved away from where the trail was supposed to be, and I realized my mistake and hunted around with trucks going by until I found the overgrown trail junction. 

Revisiting the access road a year later, I found it unchanged. I was surprised that the Mattatuck Trail had not been relocated to get it off of the access road. 

Tower Pads:  The existing towers in Shelton do not have pads. They were plunked down on the existing grade for the most part, with four concrete footings providing stability.  The new system calls for large "pads" to be graded out. At Shelton Lakes, the pads will be as wide as the clearing. Where there is ledge and hills, those are to eliminated to make for the level pad. In places, the pad will be on two levels. This is what that looks like at Black Rock, which is also rocky and hilly like Shelton Lakes: 

Ledge was pulled down and the area graded flat for a pad

Access road curving around a two-level pad

Rock cut with pad on top, road and 2nd level pad on bottom

Two-level pad

Access Road/Mattatuck Trail coming in from left;
two-tier pad in center

Imagining Shelton Lakes after construction: Compare those new graded pads at Black Rock State Park to the more natural terrain around Shelton's existing towers. The old towers were molded to the existing grade with minimal disruption of the terrain. In the future, instead of molding the towers to the landscape, the landscape will be altered for the towers. Heavier installation equipment also requires better access roads than was needed in the past. 

Existing tower at Nells Rock Trail

Existing tower at Nells Rock Trail

The Iroquois Gas Pipeline is another complication. In the picture below, the existing access road travels along the pipeline, as does Nells Rock Trail. This is outside of the Eversource right-of-way. Any kind of construction near a major pipeline increases red tape. Therefore, Eversource plans to build a second parallel road between the two sets of towers in the photo. Some of this road will be in wetlands, so it will be on a temporary heavy timber matt that will be removed. The two ridge tops that anchor the existing towers (and Nells Rock Trail) will be leveled out for new pads. We don't have the details, yet, but have asked Eversource for a grading plan. 

Would it make sense to relocate Nells Rock Trail off of the powerlines? The trail route was a lazy one utilizing existing woods roads that connected to the powerline road. Maybe there is a better way. Stay tuned. 

In the meantime, the Shelton Trails Committee is hoping to minimize disruption to the landscape where we have trails that cannot be relocated. 

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Well, Nobody Got Hit by Lighting

An overcast Saturday morning with storms in the forecast.  Another great day for our second work party at French's Hill.  We had another great turn-out for the work party.

I have no idea what Bob is doing with his arms though.

One crew started clearing the remainder of the brush around the parking lot off East Village Road.  Others headed down into the woods to remove saplings in the trail and brush along the edges.

The Three-bladed knife on the brushcutter worked well on removing the barberry.

The Spicebush was just starting with it's yellow blossoms.  The spicebush is one of the native shrubs that is crowded out by invasive species like barberry.  That's one of the reasons for removing the barberry along the trails where we can.

One section of the cutting crew was heading back to the parking lot as the rain was hitting.  There was also a lightning alert, and since we were near the top of a big hill we decided not to chance it.

The storm came thru, got everybody wet, then the sun came out.  On the plus side nobody was struck by lightning.  And some volunteers saw a herd of 9 deer.

Thanks to everyone who helped out today; James, Thomas, John, Madeus, Jeff, Nat, Joe, Devin, Bob, Sam & Myishaylo, Ellen, Matt, Graham, Mike, Mark, & Terry.