Thursday, April 29, 2010

Parking Lot Swallowtails

I (Teresa) was getting ready to reblaze Nells Rock Trail today when these Eastern Tiger Swallowtails set down next to the car. Not sure if it was just nice and warm, or if there was something in that gravel they liked. But they didn't want to leave and were still there when I got back.

This Spicebush Swallowtail, who was all alone, is a great example of why we need to preserve our native plants. The caterpillar of this species (which looks amazing -- see here) eats only Spicebush and Sassafrass, two native species that are sometimes killed off by invasive plants such as Burning Bush, Japanese Knotweed, or Japanese Barberry (as they are on my own property -- I'm working on that).

At any rate, the first half of Nells Rock Trail has been reblazed and the signs tidied up. I tried my CFPA-inspired template for the first time so that the blazes would be more uniform in size. It didn't work very well for me -- too slow and messy, paint dripping all over the template -- but I carried it around and used it to eyeball my blaze sizes, which should be 2" x 6" if you're following CFPA standards.


Click on photos to enlarge

Over the years strangling vines have shimmied up many of the trees in the area, in some cases choking and pulling them down. Severing them at the base kills the vines, but some are so entangled above that body weight alone can't bring them down, and an unsightly mess results.   

This tree in particular has several groups of vines entwined near the top, partly blocking a view of  Silent Waters from where a bench is to be positioned. Attempts to pull down the vines by hand were futile.

Bill and Rich made use of our workhorse, or work Gator, as it turns out, to do the heavy stuff. A long rope was tied to the bottom of the vines, then to the Gator. 

 Those vines were tough! After several tries and churned up trail, we were getting nowhere. It was decided to separate some of the tangled vines and try again with a smaller group. This did the trick, but it took several hefty start-and-stop pulls before the vines worked loose!

However, one stubborn vine refused to cooperate. Bill suggested that we try pulling in the other direction.

 As usual, Bill's instincts were correct, and the last vine came down after considerable resistance.

Bill Does some last minute cosmetic trimming of the vines encroaching a nearby tree.

Once this tree leafs out, it should enhance the foreground without obstructing a panoramic view of the lake.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mulch ado about nothing

We had great weather for Saturday's work party on the RecPath at Lane Street. The guys at Parks & Rec had dropped off a couple of loads of woodchip mulch which were spread by trails volunteers at the entrance and along the RecPath to dress the edges and prevent erosion. The stumps and brush will have to be hauled away later by City employees for chipping at the City's grinder.

Tom Harbinson from the Conservation Commission was kind enough to volunteer the use of his time and trailer to bring over our Gator, garden cart, and the new DR Field Mower so we were able to make some progress with a small crew. Tom's trailer worked out great for bringing the equipment in.

There's our Gator and mower. Unfortunately, nobody brought a camera during the work party (see what happens when you're not here Rich). But Jim, Luis, Darleen, Bill, & Terry got a number of tasks done. (Thank you Darleen for all your help). We were able to mow, haul rocks, and place woodchips with the Gator.

Here's the new DR Mower all dusty. It can take out briars, sapplings & brush along some of our trails & the edges of the RecPath. This should simplify some of our maintenance tasks along the powerlines. Jim & I used this to get a head start on the briars that have started encroaching into the RecPath, and this works WAY better then hand-held cutters. And nobody lost any hands, feet or other valuable parts.

The end of the boardwalk was stabilized & the edges trimmed with mulch by Harriet's Bench.

Joe Welch's apple tree, and the dogwood trees were in bloom on the Land Trust property. We didn't see the pheasant though, but one guy's dog went into "point" mode when he got to that spot so I wouldn't be surprised to see something in there. The wildlife really likes that edge of the RecPath between Means Brook and the open fields.

We installed this waterbar at the end of the improved portion of the RecPath to control runoff & prevent further erosion damage. We were able to fix some of the washout, but there is more to do. Anybody with a wheel barrow and a shovel is welcome to pitch in. This portion of the RecPath still needs a lot of cleanup work along the edges and we appreciate it if anyone wants to tackle a piece of it some night after work.

And here are some of our customers enjoying the RecPath. We had a number of folks out strolling, walking their dogs, or biking and enjoying the Greenway today. Take advantage of one of Shelton's hidden gems and enjoy the RecPath off Lane St. in Huntington Center.

Thanks to our trail volunteers for coming out, and thanks to all the scouts, residents, and Land Trust folks who were out picking up trash in the area as part of Clean Sweep Shelton Week this weekend.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

This Saturday's Work Party at Lane St.

Everybody is welcome at our next work party this Saturday 4/24/10 at 8:30 on Lane St. (opposite the Fire House in Huntington Center). We are going to be fixing up the edges of the RecPath that were built last Fall & doing needed maintenance. This is a work party that is suitable for all ages, including kids. Come & explore one of the prettiest sections of Shelton's open spaces along the Far Mill River & see the Land Trust's Hawley Meadow.

Bring water, gloves, and snacks. Also bring rakes, shovels, mulch forks, pruners, wheelbarrows. We are going to be moving topsoil & rocks, placing woodchips, hauling brush, fixing erosion, installing a waterbar, and possibly moving a couple of water heaters (free for the asking). The Shelton Parks & Rec. Dept. is dropping off some mulch & crushed stone for us to use, & we should have our Gator available to move materials.

The entrance to the RecPath is now marked by this great new kiosk built by Dylan Spagnuolo & his troop of scouts. Come explore the Shelton Lakes RecPath this Saturday, do something productive, and have some fun.

Friday, April 16, 2010



Although the bridge was just placed in March, the rains that followed proved to raise the stream that flows across the
Paugussett Trail connector higher than anticipated, resulting in in involuntary migration of the bridge 10 yards downstream. Fortunately, it was almost immediately snagged at a bend in the stream and was easily recovered. Our mission was to re-set the bridge in place and secure it in the event another 100 year (give or take a millennium) rain event occurs.

Bill (Cinderella Boy) Dyer plans the layout of his skunk cabbage patch. More likely, he is clearing a trail for the hikers and bikers. This is low, moist ground, ideal growing conditions for skunk cabbage. As it is right in the path of the trail, it has to be bypassed with a minimum of disruption.

The bridge is returned to it's original position, held in place with rebar stakes. This is looking north, toward the higher and drier side of the stream. Less problems with skunk cabbage on that side.

Bill has been elected to test the stability and strength of the bridge by the other members of the work party. It is acts of courage like this that probably led to his position as chairman of the Trails Committee.

Terrance has a difficult time in getting his ball out of the rough after refusing to take a penalty. Actually, he is grunting away at trying to pry loose flat stones to help stabilize the bridge.

It was decided to make the path through the skunk cabbage easier and drier to navigate by placing extra sections of our old boardwalk on the ground. This also makes less of an impact on the soil and growth, and keeps the bikers from sinking into the muck, forcing hikers to detour around their decaying remains.

Repairs to the old sections were unplanned and thus hastily made, resulting in a patchwork quilt appearance to the path. Whatever it takes!


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Primitive Escalator


The last work party at this location cleared an overgrown trail
from the Maples area of Indian Well park up to Route 110. A short stretch at the end involved a steep incline, which we temporarily attacked by cutting small footholds into the side of the slope. We returned today to improve the climb by adding more permanent steps, thanks in part to the work of Kelly Walsh, who lugged a bunch of (heavy) discarded columns of perfect size for stairs, as well as a load of nice flat rocks, to the work site. Word to the wise...don't arm wrestle Kelly!

This is what the slope looked like prior to a complete cosmetic overhaul.

Terrance Gallagher, our designated mason, shores up the edges of our staircase, working tirelessly in spite of being hampered by a Spring cold.

Luis Isaza and Jim Taradine set another step in place. Not pictured is Dominic Fabozzi, stairmaster extraordinaire, who we can blame if the steps are not to spec.

Ryan Gallagher clears last Fall's leaves from the stone wall at the top of the trail. The wall, built in the 30's by the WPA, sits atop a ledge that affords a nice view of the woods below. Ryan seems to be recreating a windy Autumn day.

The finished product, hopefully providing an easier, and safer, passage on the Paugussett extension.

Rebar pins were finally added to hold the stairs in place. Pretty neat, huh?