Friday, December 31, 2010

Enjoy the Snow

Don't turn back just because it's winter. Get out and enjoy the snow.

The contractors finished up building the base for the RecPath right before Christmas & then it snowed. Today it was 40 degrees and sunny so I ventured out to enjoy the walk.

Parks & Rec had plowed out the parking lot for the Dog Park on Nells Rock Road & a number of people and their dogs were enjoying the DP. The parking lots at Abby Wright, Hope Lake, and the Dam Parking Lot were also cleared. Nice work P&R.

Winter is a great time to explore the woods - especially with house-bound kids. There were lots of animal tracks criss-crossing the RecPath. The snow had melted down some so walking wasn't a problem, but you'll get a workout for your legs. The RecPath is great for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing too.

After I came out to Oak Valley Road I looped back east along Oak Valley Trail (white blazes), and north along the Blue Dot trail on the backside of Hope Lake. The lake was really pretty in the pines.

This nice woman (sorry that I didn't write here name down) and her dog "Shelton" were out enjoying the RecPath near the Dog Park while her husband and other pooch were inside the DP. Shelton definitely has the right coat for this trip.

So don't let the snow keep you indoors. Get out and enjoy the new improvements on Shelton's trail system & say hi to "Shelton" if you see him.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Click on images to enlarge

At the eleventh hour, on a cold, blustery Christmas Eve, three of Santa's elves shuffled out to the meadow off Lane Street to decorate the lonesome pine that stands alongside the Rec Path. Every Christmas season for the past few years Lynn has made it her duty to see that that tree brightened up the spirits of the hikers and bikers that pass by. This year was no exception, and in spite of a broken foot and a bout of pneumonia, she was able to shanghai a couple of her fellow Trails Committee members to help deck the halls, etc.

Having a truck bed to stand on made it much easier to get up near the top. Wow, this tree has shot up in just a few years!

Bill and Lynn admire their handiwork. It wasn't easy working in that wind!

A touch of Christmas to add to the serenity of the meadow.
Thank you, Lynn, for making it happen!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Families Enjoying the RecPath

Well, the glowing eyes notwithstanding, this Shelton family and their Beagle pup were having a fun time out enjoying the RecPath Sunday. A lot of people and families were enjoying the not-yet-finished Dog Park and the under-construction Shelton Lakes Recreation Path this weekend. There were even people at the Dog Park after I got out of the woods tonight. Maybe Fido & Rover will get headlamps for Christmas.

The contractors are making good progress and doing nice work. They are getting the base in now, and then coming back and installing drainage pipes. Ultimately the surface will be a fine crushed stone to blend in with the landscape, but it will also be bikable, and handicapped-accessible. The alternative route avoids some of the steeper grades next to the Dog Park & gives some nice views of the stream and dam.

People using the Dog Park during the work week just please be aware that this is a work zone and make sure the equipment operators can see you. We want to see everyone enjoy the Shelton Lakes Greenway, but please stay out of their way so they can work safely.

It looks like the big snowstorm blew out to sea, so it will be interesting to see what progress is made next week. The base for this section may be done for Christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rec Path Construction at Hope Lake

After talking and talking and talking about building the Rec Path for the last fifteen years, it's a little surreal to see it actually get built so fast. The photo above is along Nells Rock Road, near the Dog Park and Shelton Avenue, looking towards Hope Lake.

It's a very short walk to the Hope Lake Dam along the new Path. Note: Like the Dog Park, the Rec Path is not officially open. During the week, there is a lot of construction equipment using the Path as a haul road and it is not safe to hike. Weekends might be OK to explore the new construction, but use caution. This particular section under construction is only 3/4 mile long (see map), but eventually the Rec Path will stretch from Pine Lake (on Shelton Ave) all the way to Huntington Center.

Nice view! This is the back side of Hope Lake. Nells Rock Road is on the opposite side. The Rec Path does not follow the shoreline due to grading issues and because we didn't walk to spoil the character of the lake with a busy path right along the shore. After the overlook, the Path heads away from the reservoir, into thick stand of spruce trees, then continues on towards the powerlines.

The contractors (Pruzinsky & Sons with Fairview Farm) have quite the operation. Out in front is the backhoe doing some basic grading. The Path cannot be steeper than 8% because we want it to be handicapped-accessible. That's a real challenge!

Back at the Dog Park, there are a couple of small trucks getting filled with a stony material that is being used for the sub-base of the Path. It gets a little congested there at the Dog Park driveway, but it seems to be working out OK. People just need to be careful and not sneak up behind a tractor or truck.

The trucks haul the stone up the Rec Path. They go pretty fast, so don't try walking on the trail while the guys are working!

The stone is delivered to this little bulldozer, who spreads the sub base. After all the grading is done and the sub-base spread, a surface of fine crush stone & dust will be applied, so it should look just like the part that was completed two years ago over by the Middle School.

A few days ago, shortly after heavy rains, the dam overflow looked and sounded like Niagara Falls. It was beautiful! By the time I took the above photo, the flow had diminished substantially, but people are still going to see and hear water falling for much of the year.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

RecPath Construction - Week Deux

The contractors pulled of the job for a couple of days this week, but did some work then shifted their base of operations from Oak Valley Road to the White House on Nells Rock Road.

They added drainage at one of the wet spots on Oak Valley Road. More drainage has to be added, but this corrects a problem area that needed improvements.

They cleaned up a stockpile area for road millings at the powerlines. They did a very neat job restoring the area and placing woodchips along CL&P's access drive. The RecPath entrance is actually a little to the west behind a locked City gate.

Clearing was done along the alternative route going up toward Hope Lake. Sharp chainsaws make quick and neat work. The temperature started to drop this week, but clearing can be done in all weather.

Here's the head of construction winding up the slope. The silt fence on the downhill side of the route protects the stream from mud and erosion during construction. The RecPath base of asphalt millings is being placed right after rough grading to create a stable, non-erosive surface.

Their equipment has been relocated at the White House by the new Dog Park. The contractors are doing a good job leaving the RecPath neat, passable and safe on the weekends. People should remember to stay out of the contractor's way during working hours. Hopefully we see some good production next week.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fun Paugussett Trail Work Party 12/11/10

Well, it started chilly, but warmed up as the morning got on. We had a good time clearing the Paugussett Trail south of Indian Well State Park Saturday morning.

Thanks to a good turn out of volunteers, including John, Luis, Kelly, Jim, Rich, Sheri, Terry, & Bill we got a lot done.

Kelly and Sheri lead the lower crew clearing out the trail treadway from fall leaves and storm damage. Access to the trail is at The Maples parking lot for Indian Well State Park on Indian Well Road off Rt. 110. Just follow the blue blazes south through the meadow.

We cleared out briars that had grown into the trail along with other brush & debris.

The new trail passes below historic stone walls built in the 1930's by the CCC. The area was pretty following a dusting of snow last night.

Sheri was clearing out branches hung up in the trees over the trail.
Helpful Trail Safety Tip:
Don't stand under the branch when pulling it down out of the tree.

No trail volunteers were injured in the the making of this movie.

We crossed Rt. 110 and climbed the hill working as we went. Eventually we met up with Rich, "GrandPaw" Bill & Jim working their way down from Sinsebaugh Heights on Meadow Street. Rich said the leaf blowing went better after the sticks and frozen leaves were moved out first.

These guys showed up at the parking lot near the end - a little two late to help with the work party - but good to have around.

We got a really lot done & it was helpful having 8 people so we could split up into 2 groups. Thanks John, Luis, Kelly & everybody else for coming out to help. Enjoy the trail and explore the old CCC stone work at Indian Well Road - you'll see things from the trail that you'll never see from driving on the road.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Scouts open Eklund Bypass Trail

A big THANK YOU to scouts Kenny Giangregorio & Nick Shigo and their fellow scouts and families for all the hard work. They spent many weekends replacing the J-Pond Bridge, cutting in the bypass trail for mountain bikes along the Eklund Cliff, fixing the footing through the boulderfield, removing garbage, and restoring habitats. We should get some more of those photos on the blog. This will help make hiking and biking easier along the Blue Dot Trail.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Urban Rail Trail Gateways & Road Crossings

I was in New Haven today & took some photos of the Farmington Canal Rail-Trail crossings. They're spending a little more money on their greenway than Shelton is - it's nice to have Yale for a neighbor.

Here's a typical road crossing. The rail trail is bounded by fence and pillars to keep cars out.

The pipe bollards are removable and have locks. This keeps vehicles out but allows for maintenance access by the City. When the bollards are removed the plates spring back flush with grade to cover the sleeves. These look nice and sturdy.

There's a variety of traffic warnings to prevent trail users from getting hurt in traffic, along with traffic signs on the street alerting motorists. The path is paved with crushed stone along the side for joggers. This system didn't seem to be used as much in Shelton so we went with an all gravel surface for a more rural RecPath.

Here's a closer view of a typical road crossing in New Haven. The stone pillars look like Cleopatra should be carried past them on a litter, but they sort of go on an urban trail like New Haven's. I guess they are supposed to look like the walls around the Grove St. Cemetery.

This is the Canal Trail passing the new Science Park development near their parking garage. Pedestrian and bicyclist users were integrated into the overall car, bus and truck transportation improvements.

This entry uses another type of Trafficguard bollard that is locked at the top and folds down flat. Maintenance vehicles drive over the top of the bollards.

Here's a close-up of the fold down type of bollard.

The trail right of way contain underground fiber optic utilities, as well as portions of the Yale University emergency blue phones. Rail-Trail projects can also double as utility corridors.

It was pretty darn chilly this morning with the wind, and there were still people biking and walking on the Canal Trail. I bet that it gets a lot of traffic on a nice spring day. It's community assets like this that make New Haven one of Connecticut's most attractive citys.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

RecPath Production - Week #1

End of Week #1

The Contractors have installed the RecPath base at Rt. 108 at The White House, and staked the route from there to Oak Valley Road.

The Rt. 108 entry at Nells Rock Road looks good. The 8 foot wide Recreation Path is designed to be walkable, bikable, and handicapped accessible. The road millings are the base and will be topped with a finer crushed stone surface. A small parking lot will also be added at the White House that will serve the RecPath, and the new Dog Park that is nearby.

The Contractor has amassed a small fleet of construction equipment over by Oak Valley Road and are constructing the path from there toward the White House while the staked-out route is being fine tuned. A lot of the machinery is smaller to work around trees and boulders and minimize disturbance.

The RecPath will wind thru the woods with a maximum 8% grade (rising or falling 8 feet per 100 feet of run) to provide handicapped access. This design standard creates some grading challenges, but it's important, because it allows everybody to explore the Shelton Lakes Greenway, regardless of their age or physical situation. It'll also make for a nice path for baby carriages and kids on bikes.

You may also see some stakes on the other end of the RecPath from the Land Trust Meadow out through the Huntington Woods Subdivision past Crabapple Drive. Portions of that route may change a bit, but that will be the next section to construct after the stretch from Rt. 108 to Oak Valley Road is done.

But, if anybody is fretting about the loss of "real" hiking trails in Shelton, join us next Saturday at the Indian Well parking lot near The Maples for our trail work party on the new extension of the Paugussett Trail. We'll introduce you to some fun climbing.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Rec Path Construction Phase 2a

The Shelton Lakes Recreation Path Phase 2a will be under construction this month as we upgrade the existing hiking trail to an 8-foot-wide crushed stone path. Please use caution and observe all safety markings. This new section begins at the corner of Nells Rock Road and Shelton Avenue where it runs along Nells Rock Road in front of the Dog Park, heads to an overlook behind the Hope Lake dam, then heads off towards Oak Valley Road. Here's a map showing the route:

View Rec Path Construction December 2010 in a larger map

People will be able to walk from the existing sections of the Rec Path that runs from Pine Lakes, between the schools, and along Silent Waters, to the new section, by using the walk signal at the traffic light. That existing section is 1.25 miles. The new section will bring the total close to 2.0 miles. But we are also working on the opposite end of the Rec Path, near Huntington Center. There, 0.5 mile is already complete, with plans to add more either this fall or next spring, depending on the weather.

The work is being done by S. P. Pruzinsky & Sons, Inc. and is being funded, in part, by a grant from the Connecticut DEP Recreational Trails Grant Program.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Birchbank Marshmallow Roast

We had a great afternoon for the hike at Birchbank Mountain. It was a bit cool, but sunny & people warmed up as we hiked up the hill. We had about 2 dozen walkers plus a number of dogs who enjoyed a number of highlights; the views of the Housatonic Valley from the Overlook, the re-routed trail along White Hills Brook, and the marshmallow roast at the old chimney.

We started on Indian Well Road (one of the straighter and flatter roads in Shelton) at the railroad crossing. We then walked in along the old colonial road that was level for about a quarter of a mile, and passed a number of trees that had been cut by Aquarion Water Company to try the make the area less attractive to ATVs. The ATVs tearing up the trails and causing a lot of erosion damage. Some of the trail re-routes were done to avoid the damaged areas and try to stabilize the gullys.

We started to warm up as we began the gradual climb up the wooded slope. We crossed the junction with the Paugussett Trail, then headed right through the mountain laurel on the re-routed Birchbank Trail and got to enjoy the babbling White Hills Brook below us. After a bit we came to the junction with the blue and white access trail to the short and easy walk to the Overlook.

We passed the remnants of an old charcoal pile along the blue & white trail. It's hard to believe looking at the woods today that much of these hillsides were once cleared to provide fuel for the mills in the Valley.

The Overlook has one of the most open views of the lower Housatonic Valley from this outcrop & everybody enjoyed it. We were showing people how the Birchbank Trail hooks up with the Paugussett Trail and connects with various neighborhoods.

We then retraced our steps back to the White Trail, crossed the brook and proceeded downhill to the Chimney, where Rich had a nice fire going.

The chimney and foundation are the remains of the old Monroe Rod & Gun Club. The chimney has seen better days but it was fun to take a break next to the fire, crack out some hot coffee, enjoy the sound of the little waterfalls along the brook and toast some marshmallows.

After the break we headed down the hill along the re-routed trail with nice views of White Hills Brook in the ravine below us. (Thank you Rich for staying behind to put out the fire). In some places we were retracing the route the Indians and colonial farmers used in going from the Upper White Hills down to the Housatonic River, and the remains of older retaining walls along the colonial roads were visible at the bottom of the hill. It's fun to hike on trails, but it's more interesting when some of our trails follow historic routes.
There's a longer description of the new and improved Birchbank Trails on the Shelton Trails website. The round 2.3 mile trip took about 2 hours with a nice long stop at the Chimney.

We hope that all our neighbors and friends from the Birchbank and the White Hills neighborhoods explore the new trails. Future access from Little Fox Run is also planned to give neighbors better access to the park. Birchbank Mountain contains some of Shelton's most interesting habitats, so you never know what you'll find. Enjoy Shelton's open spaces, & see you on the trails.