Monday, March 29, 2010

Dylan's Kiosk

As part of his goal of achieving Eagle Scout status, Dylan Spagnuolo of Troop 19 has taken on a project that encompasses the planning, preparation and construction of a kiosk at the Huntington entrance to the Shelton Rec Path on Lane Street. Prior to this, he had planned and coordinated maintenance and improvements of the Huntington Woods section of the Rec Path, removing rocks, cutting back overgrown brush and stabilizing muddy areas. Dylan had assistance from members of his troop along with adult supervision where required. Much of the construction of the kiosk itself was completed off-site, the components trucked to Lane Street, and the final assembly and erection was done Sunday just before the torrential rains started.

The base assembly had to be positioned in place, leveled and plumbed, and the concrete mix had to set before the roof could be positioned.

Due to the weight of the pressure-treated lumber used in the roof assembly, a crane on a wrecker was necessary to lift and position the roof for fastening.

This clever kiosk design incorporates panels on both the front and back for posting materials.

Positioning this roof would have been dangerous, if not impossible, without the use of the wrecker. Good planning on Dylan's part.

The final product, a well-built and eye-pleasing addition to the Rec Path, and a project well executed by Dylan and his crew. We wish him well on his road to Eagle Scout!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cold Spring Workout

A good way to start a cold Saturday coffee brought by Terrance Gallagher and donuts provided by Tom Harbinson. Plans called for clearing a trail from the parking area just outside the Maples on Indian Well Road up to the convergence with Route 110. We were to follow what was once the original road, now overgrown, clear dead-falls and invasive brush, and provide footholds at the steep incline at the end of that section of the trail. Terrance Gallagher, Bill Dyer, Jim Taradine, and Rich Skudlarek were later joined by Kelly Walsh.

Rich and Jim yank at stubborn invasive vines hung up in the branches of a pine tree. Rich tried to land a limb on Jim's noggin, but the cold hindered his aim.

A number of fallen trees had to be cut up and removed from the trail.

Bill and Jim set stone steps into the steep incline
to provide better footing on that short climb

Terrance clears some of the matted leaves along the
1930s WPA-built stone wall overlooking the park.

Terrance applies some finishing touches along the newly cleared path.

There's no mistaking where the trail is now!

Kelly picked up a truckload of trash, bottles and cans, the latter of which will be recycled. Why the slobs can't dispose of their rubbish the proper way is any body's guess! Our goal is to make the hiking experience pleasant, and hopefully litter-free.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Silent Waters Cruise

Click on photos to enlarge

FINALLY! The ice has disappeared, the temperature is in the habitable range at least for a few days, the mice have been evicted from my kayak, and the serenity of the Silent Waters pond calls out to me. It's time to launch! I might even be the first one in this year!

Sign created and erected by Terrance Gallagher

A great place to start is the little-used former reservoir between the Shelton and Huntington centers, just off Route 108 on Constitution Blvd. North. An easy to see sign across from the Shelton Middle School sits at the top of an easy path to a canoe/kayak ramp built by your friendly Shelton Trails Committee volunteers.

The ramp makes the pond accessible throughout most of the three warmer seasons, and improvements are in the works to keep a channel clear even in the driest periods.

Although Silent Waters is not in the league of Lake Zoar, size-wise, anyway, it is a very pleasant, serene place to paddle, fish, or just explore. Weave through the jungle of shrubs long-dead trees at the western edge and you might spot a Great Blue Heron, a muskrat, or maybe even an otter. Or, just veg out, read a book, or listen to your iPod. And there's little chance you will be interrupted by a jet skier!

You'll be the envy of the hikers and dog-walkers crossing the bridge on the Shelton Rec Path.

A Nessie-eyed view of the pedestrian bridge.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Trail Volunteer Works Miracles

Last Saturday it rained 4-5" in Shelton and caused a lot of flooding on the trails. The good part was that we didn't lose as many trees as other towns in Fairfield County, but there was some damage. One of our intrepid Trail Committee Members; Rich Skudlarek, went out after the storm with his trusted retriever Molly to inspect the damage using his "special" abilities.

Here is Rich walking across the waters of the Means Brook Floodplain along the RecPath. We all knew he had hidden talents, but he's good.

The RecPath at the North end of the Land Trust Meadow had a major washout. We should fix this soon before someone breaks an ankle. It anybody wants to work on it this weekend let me know.

Large portions of Gristmill Trail on Mill St. also went under water from the flooding on the Far Mill River. The sound of the water was impressive - see the Shelton Trails page for video. This will need some repairs later this Spring, but this shows a good reason to keep floodplains as greenways. If a trail gets washed out it is a nuisance that can be fixed easily. If someone's home or business gets washed away it's a much greater personal loss.

We also had some pretty soggy areas on the Northwest Passage. Glad that we put off Saturday's work party. This week is shaping up to be beautiful after the wet weekend. If anybody wants to put a little time in on the trails sprucing up the damage please feel free to do so.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rain Out

Having come off a fun week of debating the merits of having a Community Garden in Shelton, it was good to have a nice, uncontroversial trail work party scheduled for this morning placing stepping stones in a swamp. Unfortunately, when we scheduled this work party 2 weeks ago we didn't know that a big storm dumping several inches of rain was coming.

So, under soggy conditions, we decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and called a rain out this morning. We'll work on this stretch of the Northwest Passage in a couple of weeks.

Bill, Rich & I then headed over to Orange to Knight's Power Equipment to look at a used trail mower that they had. We have been trying to get this mower for a couple of years to help our volunteers. The briars along the powerlines are always tough to keep up with in summer, and with the addition of more miles of Northwest Passage & the RecPath the maintenance needs go up.

Knight's certainly has a lot of mowers. Some were real antiques. It looks like we'll be able to use the proceeds from one of our grants to get the trail mower, once a few details are cleaned up - hopefully next week. Here's a picture of Bill testing the mower with helpful guidance from Rich:

We also got our Gator back from Martinka's this week after it's annual maintenance, and getting a few odds and ends fixed. Hopefully we've had the last of our snow and we can get going with our work this Spring.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


When first engineered a few weeks ago, a route through the generally swampy section of the Paugussett Trail connector, between Independence Dr. and Wellington Dr., was an attempt to bypass the wettest spots. However, the recent snow and rain highlighted areas that were just too wet and unpredictable for casual hiking. We set about to re-route the trail through a more dry foot friendly section.

A temporary bridge across this stream was washed away, a harbinger of what will probably happen again come the Spring rains and run-off.

This soggy section is too extensive to bridge efficiently.

A drier location was found a short distance to the east, where a bridge was placed to cross the stream. The location was higher than the other area, less prone to wash away. The bridge can be seen from higher on the approach.

Hopefully, this bridge will remain out of reach of any high water.
The trail beyond the bridge is clear of any soggy ground.
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Reblazing the Trails

Teresa here is in the process of refreshing the blazes at Shelton Lakes and taking the opportunity to change the old orange blazes of Dominick Trail to blue. This trail will eventually extend north to Indian Well, where it will merge with the Paugussett "Blue Dot" Trail. Rather than refresh with more orange, we might as well just switch over to blue. I color-matched it to the blue blazes at Indian Well State Park.

Sure is nice to see the blue blazes! There are about 825 miles of blue-blaze trail in Connecticut, maintained by CFPA. The Paugussett Trail, built in the 1930s, used to extend all the way through Shelton, so it is very gratifying to see parts of it restored.

The Eklund Garden bypass trail, built so that mountain bikers would not have to stop and open gates, is marked with a two-color blaze.

Recently Terrance attended a CFPA seminar on trail work, which included a discussion about how they blaze their trails. (They've had a TON of practice since the 1930s). One thing he learned that I had not been aware of, but which now seems obvious: The blazes 'grow' over the years because the tree is growing. You can see this in the old blaze in the photo above. The tree furrows are growing and making the blaze wider. Since our blazes on the orange trail are 15 years old, they've gotten bigger than they should be. At some point this is going to require some cover-up paint.

Here's a picture of the tools CFPA uses. I don't have a template and just eye-ball the blazes. I do have a scraper for smoothing out the bark. The condiment bottles with paintbrushes coming out the tops are intriguing. I just use old glass jars.

The paint is an exterior water-based Behr paint from Home Depot. We used to use special tree-marking paint from Ben Meadows, but CFPA apparently uses the stuff from Home Depot. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us.