Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gate Repairs Done While You Wait

Q: How many guys does it take to beat some concrete with sticks? A: One, plus 5 other guys to stand around and watch.

We repaired the gate at the Abby Wright parking lot on Nells Rock Road yesterday morning. It had been vandalized when some nitwit tried to drive through it. The Nells Loop Trails are open to non-motorized customers, and the gate is there to keep trucks and ATV's from tearing up the trails - particularly after a rainy night like the one we had Friday. We try to keep the gates locked to prevent vandalism, but permit access for maintenance or to fight wildfires. Rich is seen here doing his Bill Dyer imitation of poking the quickcrete with a stick while Jim is telling him where to poke. Pete is looking busy with the shovel & Lynn is admiring their handiwork after clearing weeds out by the road. Luis was clearing brush from the trailhead out of sight.

We had planned on doing a variety of tasks, but found out recently that some eagle scouts will be able to complete some improvements to trail entrance by this October, so we focused on the maintenance end. We cleared brush to make the trailheads more visible & filled in some of the wetter areas to improve the footing just beyond the parking area. The scout improvements are construction some drainage work at the trail entrance and building a sign kiosk. We always try to dovetail our efforts with others when they're willing to take on a project. A girl scout troop planted the slope along the parking lot with flowers this year, and another eagle scout built this fence a few years ago.

Here's another photo of our This Old Gate crew with Jim, Rich, Luis, Pete, and Lynn at the repaired gate. Now all we have to do is get Jim & Rich to smile when someone points a camera at them.

Most of the good work that has been done to open this park up for the public is the work of volunteers, bit by bit over the years. This saves the Shelton taxpayer a lot of money each year by having volunteers do this work rather than using paid staff, and it frees up town staff to do things that they are better equipped to tackle. The area along the road looks like it was recently mowed by the Parks & Rec Department, which is great. This roadside area would be ideal for flower & shrub plantings if some group wanted to adopt it. Unlike in the Harry Potter movies, good things don't occur by magic. If you want Shelton to be a good community to live and work in, then you need to volunteer to help make it that way. The Shelton Trails Committee is always looking for a few good volunteers to help make a difference. People of all ages can e-mail the Shelton Trails website if they want to help - Lynn Reid is our volunteer coordinator. It can be a lot of fun, and you can learn a lot about the area that you didn't know.

Abby Wright & the Nells Loop Trail seem to have become the de facto Big Dog Walk. While we were working four cars came in and everybody seemed to have a big dog that they were taking for a walk, or, in one case, a rather excited dog who was taking their human for a walk. We also get a lot of mountain bikers in there. The trails are level, wide & have dry surfaces which makes them good for users of all ages. Visit the Shelton Trails website at for maps and additional information.

The parking lot still needs additional millings brought in for drainage by the Shelton Bridges & Highways Department. That is beyond the stuff that we can do as volunteers; unless the city gives us a backhoe to play with, and a truckload of millings. The parking lot at Hope Lake down the street is also a mess with potholes & needs major repairs.

Another issue for the parking lots is entrance signage. The Shelton Conservation Commission should also get some nice, professionally-made wooden carved signs at all the major parking lot entrances similar to what other towns have to highlight their greenways. This is one area where spending a little money to show some community pride in our award winning trails and greenways is worthwhile.

Sunday Update 7/26/09 - somebody came & stole the gate that we just got done repairing yesterday!!! I guess because the posts were fixed they felt they had to mess with something else.

Monday Update 7/27/09 - Rich & Luis found the gates in the woods off the trail and reset them. Hopefully they stay put for a while. There are no magic city workers fixing this stuff - when it's vandalized, even if it was a prank - it eats up volunteer time to fix it. That time is a precious commodity that shouldn't be wasted fixing vandalism if we want Shelton to be a good place to live. If you see vandalism taking place call the Shelton Police at 924-1544.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sparks a-flyin

Emma took a picture of me cutting a number of the rebar pieces in half last night (into 20"-24" lengths). My neighbor; Rick Swanson, was kind enough to loan me his cut-off saw & it worked well with the rebar.

(Rick has helped the Trails Committee before. He is an auto body artisan and restorer of Model T's & classic cars. One of his Model A's won the First-in-Show prize at the History Center this Sunday. He also welded up our pile masher that we used on the Lane St. Boardwalk. If anybody needs quality work done on their car I would highly recommend him.)

It takes a little while to cut the rebar in half, but it should make it easier to drive pins into stony soil when building steps. We used some of the rebar to set the new stairs at Riverview, but it took a while to pound in the 4 foot pins. Kelly Walsh generously donated the scrap rebar for our use on the step repair.

HELPFUL SAFETY TIP: Did you know that rebar gets REALLY HOT when you cut it with an abrasive saw? I did something stupid & picked up the end of one of the pieces after I cut it. My goggles were fogged up & I was rushing to do something else, and I thought I was picking the cool end of the bar with my bare hand, but Noooooo. I dropped the rebar like a hot rock, & headed for the first aid cabinet. After a couple of hours of soaking my hand I now have a nice blister impression of rebar corrugations in my left palm. It's not quite as bad as the evil Nazi from Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it was another of life's little learning experiences that I will avoid repeating. See the photo below of ear muffs, goggles, GLOVES, and rebar laying on the ground until they have FULLY cooled. I've read that most accidents happen near the home - that's because that's where the knuckleheads live.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Early Morning on Silent Waters

A break in the weather brings out a kayaker to fish the tranquility of Silent Waters

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Enjoying Hope Lake

A man and a boy enjoying a quiet morning fishing on Hope Lake.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fox Hollow Trail at Birchbank

Last winter I just happened to spot this stone pillar, which reads "Fox Hollow Trail," and the steps behind it, on Little Fox Run just before entering the Fox Hollow subdivision near Okenuck Way. This was the access trail I had heard rumors of but had no idea where it was.
And here's the same location yesterday! See the stone pillar? After climbing the stairs, whatever trail once existed is gone. There is a narrow open space corridor between some houses that it must have traveled through, but we can see no evidence of it. Instead, we have a strip of woods with some piles of lawn debris from the neighbors, including a big pile of logs and branches and smaller piles of rotting, slimy grass clippings.
Once you get to the top of the grassy knoll it's quite pleasant. From there, it's not too hard to join an unofficial trail going down the fairly steep hill to reach Birchbank Trail, the chimney, and the Paugussett Trail.

Birchbank Airsoft Encampment

There are several problems with people playing "Airsoft" games on public property. (Airsoft is similar to Paintball, but guns have plastic BB's in them instead of paintballs). First are the barricades that are created. This encampment is located just off Birchbank Trail off of Okenuck Way and Little Fox Run. We don't know how they managed to get those spools in there.

Parents may think their kids are having good, clean fun, but we commonly find evidence of alcohol and drugs.
And then there are the thousands of non-biodegradable BB's that are left all over public property, too small to be picked up. These ones are white, but often they are neon yellow, orange and green. I don't understand why these BB's are not banned. Biodegradable BBs can be purchases for just a few dollars more.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Riverview Stairway Repair 7/11/09

We fixed up the stairs on Riverview Trail that were rotting last Saturday. The original steps were installed about 14 years ago & were not pressure treated wood, so some of them had seen better days. We replaced about 12 steps with 6x6's, some iron pins donated by Kelly Walsh, a few dainty taps from an 8 lb. sledgehammer, and some chainsaw work. The steps lead down a steep gravel bank from the Pootatuck Fort monument to the RR tracks. This is a historic link to downtown, and will be a link with the Riverwalk when it gets constructed up to the canal locks.

Cherri Dziubina, Luis Isaza, Bill Dyer, Jim Taradine, and Terry Gallagher were the busy elves this morning. Rich Skudlarek & Bill picked up all the timbers and dropped them off last night.

The crew braved poison ivy & other brush to clear out the bottom of the stairs and the old historic "Bluff Walk" that runs behind the baseball diamond. A new sign has been posted on the fence by the Centenial Oak tree showing the cut off to the Bluff Walk. This is the walk that shows up in Shelton postcards from the 1890's with gentlemen in straw hats, and ladies in hoop skirts watching the rowing races. It's really pretty back there and we hope more people get a chance to enjoy Riverview Trail.

We had a good time talking to Kathy Chacon from the Valley Independent Sentinel about working on the trail system & Riverview Trail in particular. Her article about our trail project can be found on their website here: Our next step here will be to remove oak leaves and improve signs along the trail. We also need to replace some more steps, but we fixed up the worst ones.

A visit to the park on Sunday showed that the steps held up well in last night's rain. We also saw a number of fish, ducks, and a muskrat in the Canal at the foot of the stairs. The public walk out to the Dam is an attractive & underused area in Shelton. The park was being enjoyed by a number of folks at the tot playground, the basketball courts, and picnicing at the Veteran's Memorial. The Trail is a really pretty walk that can be combined with a stroll on the paved drive within the park or on the sidewalk along River Road to make a pleasant loop around one of the Valley's oldest parks with good views of the Housatonic River. Visit for maps of the trail & other historical information. Have fun enjoying Riverview Trail & maybe we'll see you at our next work party.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Trailside Camping

Richard took this photo of some campers inside Eklund Garden early this morning. Camping is prohibited by ordinance except in designated areas (of which there are none). The deer fence gate was also left wide open. Fortunately there didn't seem to be any deer damage in the garden. By the time I got the message and dropped by to check it out at 9:00 am, they were gone. Amazing that someone would be so audacious as to camp right here on the trail. You would think they would at least find a spot off of the trail where people couldn't see them.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Birchbank Vandalism

It's the wild, wild west at Birchbank Mtn! I (Teresa) spent the entire afternoon repairing blazes that had been painted over and brightening up all the others. As I climbed up the river bank to the loop part of the trail (after passing a labyrinth of new ATV trails a foot deep) I noticed some guys having a war. Another Airsoft game, oh for joy, because I just love being surround on the trail with guys in camo holding big guns. And I especially love the thousands of neon-colored non-biodegradable BB's they leave all over the park.

I spoke to the kids, who were based out of the encampment marked by big wooden spools just off the trail, and took a video of them all. I'll be forwarding that to the Police.

It's not just the Airsoft Games, or the ATVs, or the partying, but the vandalism that comes with it all. Near the Airsoft encampment the official white trail blazes were covered over with gray spray paint, as was one of our open space signs. Clearly someone didn't want the general public to know this was open space or where the trail was.

The picture below shows a pair of offset blazes marking a very important turn ahead, all covered over with gray.

I crossed the stream and started back down the riverbank, and soon came to the blue spray paint. Some of it was over the official white blazes, and some was just random ugliness. The blue went all the way down past the chimney to the Paugussett Trail. One good thing about the blue was that it seems to be fading fast. Cheap paint.
An then we have the particularly obnoxious bubblegum pink blazes. Ewe! There are so many blazes, every ten feet or so. Some were painted over the official white blazes. Others were splats on rocks, tiny saplings, and big trees. I spray over the pink blazes that were on Birchbank trail, using most of a can of black spraypaint. But that turned out to be just a small part of a homemade trail loop that leads, I kid you not, directly to someone's treefort and backyard off of Little Fox Run.

Calling all volunteers! Head out to Birchbank with your camera's, and take photos and videos of these people defacing our trails. Take back our park!

Silent Waters Canoe Launch

Terry, Emma and Biscuit spent the afternoon working on the canoe launch at Silent Waters.

Emma didn't mind getting her feet wet to pull some lily pads out of the way.