Monday, August 31, 2009

I've been Benched

During our vacation to Cape Anne, Mass. last weekend we managed to go to a lot of pretty areas in between getting monsooned upon by Hurricane Danny, and despite the weather we had a great time.

We saw a number of attractive benches that might look good on Shelton's trails. Emma is sitting on a rustic bench at The Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Mass. The Garden is a private nature preserve with a variety of New England habitats that is really attractive (although I kept getting the urge to weedwack the brush back a bit). There are many rustic benches along their trail system. If you're up that way I recommend that you stop in to check it out.

Here's another version of the bench. This one was pretty comfy (most didn't have good back support). I bet Bob Wilkins or Jim Tate could whittle up 3 or 4 of these for us in no time.

And the benches were sturdy too. They could take a heavy weight (see above) without any trouble. This one was a few years old. Note how they put the legs on stones to minimize wetness & prevent rot.

And there was also an artistic stone bench that was built into a stone retaining wall along one of the walks overlooking a little pond. Terry & Emma had a good time on that one. You can do some attractive things with stonework.

This was on Rockport Point in Rockport Mass. They had 3 of these nice granite memorial benches overlooking the harbor and the ocean. We had looked at something like this from Swenson Granite in Newtown when we purchased the RecPath posts, but the Conservation Commission couldn't agree on a style they liked. Maybe it's time to reconsider. Rockport has a nice trail along the waterfront similar to The Cliff Walk at Bar Harbor in Maine. That trail & lookout was getting used heavily by residents and tourists & adds a lot to the character of the town.

Teresa liked this rough granite bench (also in Rockport) for Eklund Garden by the goldfish pond. All we need is a big flat rock to put on some old posts and a small derrick to place it. This whole area used a lot of granite everywhere in building due to all the glacial debris & local granite quarries. The granite looked really attactive & fit in with the local flavor of this area.

Downtown Rockport has it's own flavor. This statue of a child breaking in a wild frog in downtown wasn't allowed to go to waste by this little girl. Hopefully she got a permit from Mass. DEP to abuse that frog. A bench doesn't always have to look like a bench to be useful and fun. Maybe we could get someone to donate some attractive public art along the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path. Perhaps a bronze bench made out of Wiffle balls and bats.......?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Shelton Trails Award

Coming in September, new accolade for Shelton Trials - details to follow.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Signs, Signs, everywhere a sign ...

Above is a picture of the canoe launch sign under construction. The backer board is a 2x10 Douglas Fir, and the canoe was carved from a hunk of scrap pine the Jim & Rich cleaned out of The Red Barn (we like to be frugal on the TrailCom). The goal was to get a few more signs up along the trails this year to make it a little easier for non-hiker types to find their way.

The sign for the new canoe ramp at Silent Waters is complete. I'm going to try to install it later today so Bill can finally take it off his TrailCom agendas - that ought to speed the meetings along alot. If anybody wants to help put it in then give me a call.

The canoe launch is on Constitution Boulevard North across the street from the Shelton Intermediate School. The Trails Committee built the launch as part of the RecPath construction so fishermen and paddlers could access the pond easier. There is a short, level carry in from the road. The shallow pond is a great place for quiet fishing after work, or to show kids how to paddle a kayak. The pond is not stocked, but there are sunnies and bass.

The RecPath & canoe launch also offer some great educational opportunities for students from either the Intermediate or High Schools across the street. Visit the Shelton Trails website at for maps & info.

Please keep the area clean & pick up any trash or fishing gear that you find. Happy Paddling.
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Saturday, August 22, 2009

More Bluff Walk Photos

Here's a few more pictures of work the trail gang did this morning. This is behind the larger ballfield.
Until recently the trail actually followed a paved roadway through the back end of the ballfield, which meant that if there was a game in progress, you couldn't walk the path. Now it goes directly behind the fence for a short ways, then drops down to the remnants of the old bluff walk.
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Bluff Walk Work (say that three times!)

In spite of the heat, high humidity, and the threat of rain, our Saturday work party began the task of improving the existing, slightly overgrown trail behind one of the the baseball fields. Although there is still work to be done on this trail, Committee members and volunteers made great headway in improving access on the most difficult section.

Terrance Gallagher created and placed new signs pointing the way to the new, improved Bluff Walk, formerly the Riverview Trail. Despite the lack of dynamite, Terry was able to dig post holes in the unrelenting New England soil and firmly position 4x4 posts topped with his hand-crafted handsome signs.

Jim Taradine, Bill Dyer and Luis Isaza fill a hole in the trail that had been occupied by the remains of a large tree trunk. Grunting, sweating and lots of elbow grease were employed in moving that immovable object. Subsequently, weeds were removed and the trail and the hole were covered with a layer of wood chips.
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The Bluff Walk (Riverview Park)

Here are some old postcards from Riverview Park, where the Trails Committee is working today. The park was donated to the town in the late 1800's by the Shelton Canal Company, and offered spectacular views of their water works and the river.
The top picture is labeled "The Bluff Walk", and we think this is the old road behind the large baseball field, now lined with trees and Yucca and marked by Scrappy's gravesite. The view is lost except in winter. We've decided to rename our existing trail at Riverview Park "The Bluff Walk" to honor the historic portions of the trail, and because it seems many people confuse Riverview and River Walk.

Here's the view from the where the Boy with Fish statue is today, about the center of the park. There is still an amazing view there, with a picnic table. We hope to improve the existing trail so that average people will be able to easily follow it. Up to now it's been rather disjointed.

There the Boy with Fish statue (picture dated 1905), which was recently refurbished.

Riverview Park is in the upper left of the drawing above. You can see where the park roads used to go, including what I believe is the Bluff Walk, the loop above the train (click to enlarge the drawing).

Further north in the park, closer to where the playground is now, people used to watch the Yale rowing races from the river bank (which is now heavily wooded). This is where the crowd once witnessed a train hitting eight children on the tracks below, a tragic day.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Some political activist left this crude poster on one of the trees on the rec path, on the dam just south of the bridge. The trail is for the enjoyment of nature, not the expression of one's political beliefs.

In this case it was a demeaning caricature of President Obama, and underscored with the word "Socialism". Conservative or liberal, for or against the president or his policies, junk like this does not belong in our open space, and I made sure to remove it, as I will with any other trash left behind by irresponsible slobs.
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Monday, August 17, 2009

Signs for Riverview Park Trail

I'll have some signs made up for 4x4 posts for this Saturday's work party. The work party will meet on 8/22 at 8:30 at the basketball courts in Riverview Park to make the trail easier to follow. The signs will read "The Bluff Walk" in honor of the name change to match the old historic path. I also have the 4x4's, post hole digger, and digging bar.

We'll need about 6 bags of Quickcrete for 4 sign posts. I can also bring the brush cutter. It would be good to have some crushed stone if we could get a load dropped off by the tennis courts. We'll need people to bring shovels, rakes, mattocks, pruners, & mulch forks.

We also need some quick-drying white paint for the footprints across the parking lot. Anybody want to bring the boots to make the prints?
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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Housatonic RR Rail to Trail Ride 8-9-09

Ryan & I went biking on the Housatonic Railroad Rail Trail Sunday. We started at Maple Drive in Monroe (near Wolfe Park). We parked down the street from this informally signed trail entrance so we wouldn't be impacting the neighbors. Armed with two working bikes, a mega-Monster, and a diet coke we set off exploring.

We crossed a small wooden bridge over the Pequonnock River & left the historic railbed as we followed the crushed stone path south through an industrial park (needs direction signs). The crushed stone has some wash-outs so be careful going down the hill. The industrial park road is Victoria Drive & is home to Swiss Army Knives. The ride along the edge of the open field was different & nice (some of the brush along the insides of the curves needs to be cleared for better sightlines). The path surface changed to bituminous pavement as we left the industrial park.

We crossed Rt. 111 & went down the drive toward Old Mine Park. There were only 2 cars in the parking lot. Hopefully Trumbull now allows non-residents to park here without ticketing. It seems like a waste to not allow the public to use a safe and convenient parking lot. Particularly given all the state & federal money that have gone into buying and building this greenway. All the Shelton Trail System is open to the public; Sheltonite or not. It seems more neighborly that way. The entrance to the rail-to-trail path is straight ahead at the end of the drive.

This Trumbull section of the path winds along comfortable curves through the trees with gentle grades. We passed an older couple using walking sticks who, while not handicapped, obviously were able to take advantage of the gentle grades to enjoy the park. The side slopes that had to be cut in were landscaped with grass or woodchips and looked attractive.

We crossed a number of boardwalks and bridges along this portion of the route. The 12' wide path goes straight onto the 12' boardwalk with nice cleared shoulders that allowed for a safe ride.

The path passes under the Rt. 25 bridges & parallels the Pequonnock River on the east side of Rt. 25. There was some elaborate graffetti under the bridge abutments. I can't say that I thought it was attractive, but Ryan admired the most creative artwork. I just wish that some of that energy could get channeled into more constructive uses, like trail maintenance.

Further south into Trumbull the surface of the path changed to stone dust & the traffic got busier. There were a lot of families out with smaller children, bicycles, & dogs. It was nice seeing people enjoy the greenway & saying hi. When it's busy you need to stay to the right so people can pass safely. A few people had trouble with this concept like the family above with the dog on the retractable leash taking up the whole path walking abreast. Most people understood that they should travel on the right, however we were able to get by these folks. We always let people know that we were "on your left" as we passed them so we wouldn't startle walkers or joggers.

This was a typical trail section on the southern end; big rock cut on the west side, and wooded slope down to the River on the east side. This is somewhat similar to what portions of the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path will probably look like in places.

It was a nice ride, Ryan though this was a little monotonous, but OK. The northern section below Old Mine Park was more interesting.

This section was the most heavily used due to the best public parking. There were some well marked public spaces near the Tait Road entrance (near Daniels Farm Road & Rt. 127). There were a lot of strollers, joggers, bikers, families, and dog walkers enjoying the Path, as were we. It was a nice Sunday afternoon & we managed to get our ride in before the thunderstorms hit. This was a pleasant trip that I would recommend to others.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Trail Planning

Members of the Trails Committee met with Jim Swift Saturday morning to review plans for construction of the Phase 3 portion of the Recreation Path and to identify existing and potential obstacles, hazards and wetland intrusions.
Jim Swift, Lynn, Sheri, Jim, Terry and Bill discuss possible approaches to the trail behind Huntington Woods

Scout-built bridges may require some reinforcement

It ain't easy making all these decisions!
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Friday, August 7, 2009

Raspberries along the RecPath

Wednesday, we went bike riding along the RecPath from Pine Lake to Silent Waters. There is a bumper crop of plump, delicious raspberries just below the dam at Silent Waters (along Constitution Boulevard across the street from the Intermediate School). You may want to wear long pants and bring some hand clippers to work your way into the raspberries. The blackberries are thornier, but there aren't too many of them.

This is a view on top of one of the historic dams at Silent Waters. There was some storm damage from last weekend that has to be cleaned up, but the RecPath is mostly clear.

This is the crossing from the school campus to the Turkey Trot Trailhead at Constitution Boulevard.

If you want the raspberries then go quickly before they are gone. This is a good trip for families with kids on bikes. You can also combine it with fishing at the lakes. Take advantage of the nice weather for a bike trip.