Monday, November 30, 2009

Tahmore Loop Hike

We had a great hike on the Tahmore Loop Trail yesterday afternoon on the Shelton Land Conservation Trust's property overlooking the Housatonic River. I was really surprised about the turnout when we came to the end of Tahmore Place. About 30 people with 8 or so dogs were mulling around the cul-de-sac and parked part way down both sides of the road. (And there weren't any problems - nobody's driveway was blocked, no neighboring children were harmed, and some of the neighbors and their families came out and enjoyed the walk with us)

Here we are starting off with the Land Trust folks; the Liddel family, with Joe Welsh and his kids. The Liddels are the monitors of the Tahmore property and live next to the Trail. Joe is the president of the Land Trust.

Here's Bill Dyer from the Trails Committee leading the first leg of the hike. The trail is a nice figure 8 so you can do the whole loop, or cut it short on the red trail if you only want to do half. The Trail is marked with a blue blaze with a yellow dot.

After a short while we joined with the Paugussett Trail (blazed solid blue) and walked south to the overlook of the Housatonic River. We could see down to downtown Shelton, Indian Well State Park, Osborndale State Park, Derby, and The Maples.

Everybody enjoyed the views of the Housatonic River. It would improve the view at the overlook if a few trees were removed, but we could see OK now that the leaves have fallen.

We worked our way backon the Paugussett Trail from the overlook to the Red Trail so we could complete the figure 8.

We looped back to the Tahmore Loop & went back toward the trailhead in case anyone had to leave, but pretty much everybody was having a good time & kept going.

We crossed a small ravine over a nice bridge built by the scouts. We crossed into some old field habitat and looped back along some cow pastures. The kids had fun calling out to the cows.

Young or old everybody had a great day. Joe's son had a particularly good time riding dad near the end. The total hike was about 1 1/4 miles, and took about 1 - 1.5 hours. Thanks to the Shelton Land Conservation Trust for maintaining the property & helping sponsor this hike. They are a very nice local charity, and if people want to support a good cause they should consider becoming a member - just click on the link above to access their website.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bridge Replacement on the Turkey Trot

Well, we lucked out with the weather Saturday. What was predicted to be a raw, rainy morning turned out to be pretty nice for our work party. We replaced a footbridge on the Turkey Trot Trail along the powerlines north of Rt. 108. The former bridge was an old machine pallet that was well beyond it's life. Here's a picture of the rickety old bridge in it's tunnel of briars.

We had a good turn out so we were able to tackle different tasks; While we removed the old bridge Sheri & Luis started clearing briars at the stream, Lynn and Carol cleared out the trail down to the bridge, Nick & I started playing in the mud building the foundations, and Bill, Rich & Jim brought in the bridge materials with the Gator & started building the bridge.

Here's the start. The pictures don't do justice to the nasty, nasty briars that had to come out. I think Luis needs to get a new pair of gloves after this one.

The briars were trapping debris in the stream, which caused the water to build up and wash out the old bridge in storms. So we built the new bridge to be above the high flows and be more stable.
And here's Carol, Luis & Sheri with the "after" picture and the new abutments.

And here's Nick when he wasn't using one of our new used pickaxes to clear out the area for the bridge abutments. Nick is going to be replacing the "J-pond" bridge on the Dominick Trail latter this year as part of an upcoming Eagle Scout project.

The Gator not only is useful to haul in material, but it also makes a pretty fair workbench. We used pressure treated lumber for the new bridge so it should have a long life. Just have to remember to buy more driver bits - Jim & Rich are tough on equipment.

Bill & Jim walked the bridge down into position. The new bridge is 8 ft. x 2 ft.

As part of the Shelton Trails Committee Quality Control program we make the guy who built the bridge be the first to cross it. The public will be happy to know that Jim pronounced it fit & sturdy. He did go and get our new bridge all muddy though.

Almost right on cue we had our first customers. The passage was a success & we didn't even charge them a toll. Lynn reported that a number of other hikers and bikers were using it later that afternoon.

Here's the finished bridge with stone ramps built up on either end for mountain bikers. Our work force was all hikers so we tried to make the ramps nice and solid, but if anybody feels more stone is needed please feel free to do some additional work. Or work on the trails - the briars are tough to control in this area.

Happy Thanksgiving from your friendly neighborhood Shelton Trails Volunteers. Rich, Nick, Sheri, Bill, Lynn, Carol, Luis & Jim are shown here testing out the completed bridge. You'll be happy to know that it's sturdy. Happy hiking & dry feet.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Huntington Center RecPath Gateway is Done

Barry Mucci of Mucci Excavation completed the Huntington Center gateway for the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path today - just in time for Thanksgiving. Thank you Barry. Here's a photo of him pushing the last load of crushed stone into place at the Lane St. Boardwalk. Barry volunteered a lot of his time to build this section of the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path from Lane St. to the Land Trust Boardwalk, and everybody involved appreciates his efforts.

The finish of the project was held up for a few days waiting for materials, but Barry went out of his way to deliver some of the processed aggregate & the Shelton Parks & Rec Department came through with some final stone deliveries. See a picture of Paul dropping off stone below. Thank you to Ron Herrick & Dean Cawthra for your scheduling help. The Shelton Conservation Commission purchased the materials for construction, and the Board of Aldermen authorized the project.

Barry spent the remainder of the day smoothing out all the the areas that had be rutted up with the delivery trucks coming in from Lane St.

There is still some clean-up to be done, but the RecPath is open and had a lot of footprints, bike tracks, and hoof prints on it tonight. Bill Dyer from the Trails Committee will work with the Shelton Bridges & Highways to compact the trail bed next week. There is brush to be chipped, gravel and rocks to be placed, and the shoulders need to be spruced up with woodchips and leaf mulch, but the RecPath is open. The meadow may look a little beaten up right now, but after some of the disturbed areas are seeded we should see a good hay crop next summer. Trails volunteers helped with removal of the invasive species earlier this year so the RecPath could be built, while improving the wildlife habitat and protecting farmland.

Here's a panorama of the RecPath rolling along the edge of the meadow.

The RecPath offers attractive views of woodlands, floodplains, open fields, scenic roads, wetlands, historic cemetaries, and the Bronson Country Club, all within a few minutes walk from the Huntington Community Center. There is plenty of parking, water fountains, rest rooms, and other ammenities available at the Community Center, and there are plenty of restaurants in Huntington Center for all the RecPath users.

The Shelton Land Conservation Trust has a beautiful meadow with a memorial bench just beyond the boardwalk. The boardwalk and RecPath on the Land Trust property were developed with assistance from Iroquois Gas Co. in 2006-2007. The Land Trust recently received a certification from the National Wildlife Federation for their Lane St. property as a wildlife habitat.

Some Eagle Scouts are busy building a sign kiosk for the entrance off Lane St. They have also been busy working on the portion of the RecPath through the Huntington Woods subdivision while this construction has been on-going.

And thanks to Bob Grant for providing a photo of the elusive Means Brook Pheasant on the Shelton Conservation page on Facebook. You get a great bang for your hiking or biking buck on this stretch of the RecPath. Rarely will you see some many different types of wildlife habitats in a short distance with such little effort.

And everybody who enjoys this area should thank Barry Mucci for volunteering to build this section of the RecPath. His actions are a good example of how one civic-minded person can make a difference in their community. The Trails Committee is always looking for more volunteers - feel free to call (203) 926-9572, (203) 924-1555 x315, or email. Look for more news about the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path in the future.

Ultimately, the 4.5 mile long RecPath will be handicapped accessible and allow people of all ages and abilities to enjoy hundreds of acres of public open space along the Shelton Lakes Greenway. The RecPath ties into other trails, open spaces, ballfields, ponds, rivers, canoe launches, schools, neighborhoods, the Senior Center, and other community facilities.

Enjoy the RecPath.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Self-Propelled Stihl Chainsaw

This may look like it's our latest labor saving device; the self-propelled Stihl chainsaw, but it's just another of life's learning experiences. On Saturday, Bill Dyer, Rich Skudlarek & I went down to the RecPath entrance on Lane St. to clear some brush and small trees along the edge of the construction area. The contractor is about 3/4 finished with placing the gravel & should be done early next week. We windrowed some brush along the trail so the Parks & Rec guys can come in with their portable woodchipper & chop this stuff up. We started cutting some small trees along the edge of the path to improve sightlines, and bucking up one of the larger maples that was out in the meadow. We were going along nicely until I managed to get our Stihl chainsaw pinched. I said Oh well, I'll clean up this brush until the guys are done & we'll get this unstuck.

Bill came over to lend a hand and rendered his expert opinion; "Yup, it's stuck alright. Why don't you try to jiggle it."

Nope that didn't work. It's time for teamwork. "Ok, when I nod my head, you hit it."

Damn, that didn't work either. This is why you bring two chainsaws. Eventually Rich stopped laughing and taking funny pictures of us and did something constructive; he fired up his saw and chopped off part of the branch that was pinching the bar. The saw came free and seemed to be none the worse for our efforts.

Helpful Trail Tip: Partially cut the compression side of the branch FIRST, then finish the cut on the tension side below so the saw doesn't get pinched. And bring a second chainsaw just in case.

We spent the rest of the morning looking at all the other work that will need to be done to shape the shoulders and tidy up the brush along the edge after Barry is done with placing the base.

We also saw the elusive Means Brook Pheasant, not once, but twice over by the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. Unfortunately Rich ran out of batteries in his camera & couldn't get a picture of the bird. If anybody goes walking down there bring your camera and get a good shot of it for the Shelton Conservation page on Facebook. We want more fan photos of Shelton wildlife and scenes.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Brand New Used Pickaxes

Most trails volunteers use their own tools on work parties, but some people don't have any. One of our goals this year was to expand our collection of hand tools and we are gradually getting there. Here are 2 rusty old pickaxes that Pete Conway picked up from the dump. We cleaned them up, ground the points, bought a couple of handles & whoa-lah - 2 new used pickaxes. Sometimes we can buy new tools, but this is a more typical method of staffing our workforce (have you heard that Shelton has the lowest mil rate in the Valley?). Our thanks to the guys at the dump for their help.

Some of the other hand tools that we could use are:
  • metal leaf rakes
  • sledge hammers or mauls
  • pinch point crow bars (we could use these for rock work)
  • digging bar
  • peaveys
  • hand pruners
  • pole saw
  • stone working tools (hammers, wedges & feathers, drills, etc.)
  • logging chains & hooks
  • slings
  • mulch forks
If anybody has any tools that they would like to donate, or if they're going to sell them at a tag sale, please feel free to contact us. We'll put them to good use - see the picture below of Richard and Peter getting ready to hit the trail with their pickaxes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

RecPath Work Resumed Today

Barry Mucci resumed construction of the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path off Lane St. today. The Shelton Parks & Recreation Dept. had to stop hauling stone for the base last week in order to pick up leaves (it's a small department & they get pulled around a lot). But the weather was good & Mr. Mucci was able to extend the RecPath about 100-150 feet.

The Parks & Rec Dept. is using one of their smaller dump trucks to deliver the stone because of the narrow corridor off Lane St.. Access is tight due to the curve and having to avoid sliding into the swamp. Now that they are out in the meadow they won't have to back in all the way and things will go faster.

Drainage is being installed at the low points in the meadow to prevent erosion and keep the base of the path dry. The yard drain outlets to the wetlands using perforated HDPE pipe and 3/4" crushed stone with filter fabric. Having good drainage is one of the construction items that most people don't see but that helps to minimize future maintenance costs. This area will get cleaned up after the base is installed.

And here's a view of the rough grading out to the boardwalk. There were a couple of people who came walking thru with their dogs during construction. Barry said that there were a number of folks (and 2 deer) walking through the RecPath work zone today without problems. People should be careful when walking through the work area, and be aware that they may not be seen or heard right away by the operator due to the machine noise. Mr. Mucci said that he will not be working tomorrow (Wednesday), but will resume on Thursday & hopefully finish this week. The main limiting factor now is how quickly the rest of the stone can be delivered by Parks and Rec.

On the other side of the boardwalk a number of people had left a lot of trash strewn around Harriet Wilber's Memorial Bench. The contractor said that a number of boys were over there today, maybe it wasn't them, but some knuckleheads dumped this garbage apparently neither knowing nor caring what they did. Some nice folks from the Land Trust built this bench as a memorial to Harriet Wilber; long-time co-chair of the Conservation Commission who passed away a few years ago. It's partially because of her that the City and the Land Trust were able to team up to save the meadow where Mr. Mucci is working know as open space. Unfortunately the memorial plaque was never attached to the bench. I'll go back tomorrow with a bag and clean this trash up. The Lane St. meadow is a really pretty area & I hope people find the time to sit on Harriet's bench and enjoy the meadow when the RecPath gateway is completed.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tahmore Work Party

Volunteers with the Shelton Trails Committee and Shelton Land Trust risked the oncoming Nor'Easter and cleared out Tahmore Trail in preparation for a guided hike on the 29th. These pictures were taken by Joe Welsh, President of the Land Trust.

Tahmore Trail, located at the end of Tahmore Drive in the White Hills, is located on Land Trust property. The hardest thing about the trail is a couple of short steep sections covered with slippery Oak leaves, so removing the leaves was a priority.

The rain held off until just after the work party ended, so everyone stayed dry. But check for those ticks, the adult deer ticks are very active right now!

Job well done!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Wood Relocation Party

Wood left lying around haphazardly in the Open Space wilderness can be a potential danger to innocent hikers, a feast for ravenous termites and carpenter ants, and a temptation for greedy but careless firewood seekers. As such, Terrance, Jim, Luis, Rich, and Peter felt it was our duty as good citizens of Shelton to relocate said wood to suitable locations out of harms way.
(No trees were harmed in the making of this saga.)

Preparation for retrieving the wood included the re-engineering of the existing bridge that would provide access to the more remote locations, recycling bridge sections that had been replaced at the Lane Street meadow.

Terrance demonstrated his pink belt
karate skills by cleaving a log in half,
using only a wedge and an ax!

Terrance Peter and Luis laughed while Jim and Rich
alone wrestled heavy log from the swamps below...

...but bad Karma saw to it that Terrance's
camera was short on electricity.

Prayers were rendered before proceeding down
Cliff " on the way to the main road and safety.

The Gator performed magnificently, as expected, and was enhanced by the addition of our wagon/trailer, making the combined vehicle a 10-wheeler.

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(P.S. - He didn't say what it sounds like he said!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blazing Trails

On a beautiful Fall morning our team of Bill Dyer, Lynn Reid, Sheri Dutkanicz and I set out to find a smoother transition on the Oak Valley Trail from the bluffs to the valley. In one short but challenging section the current trail is steep and not easily negotiated by bikers and some strollers. Was there an alternate route through this rugged terrain?

The moon sits up there so inviting this time of year!

Bill looks for a practical solution.

Unfortunately, at least on this day, no alternate route was discovered that did not entail a climb or a swamp.

We did stumble across a strange structure near the Open Space boundary, possibly on the property of the house in the background.

Not a deer stand, possibly some sort of monitoring device or a feeding station (but for what???). My guess is it's a homing beacon left by visitors from Pluto, who plan to return some day to take over the Earth because we humiliated them by downgrading their home to a mini-planet! If you know what it is, please leave a comment.
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