Friday, December 23, 2011

Silent Waters Goes Up and Down

We had always read that after the Silent Waters dam burst in 1903, it was never repaired.  In most places the water doesn't get anywhere near the dam. Yet here is an aerial from 1934 (courtesy of the State of Connecticut) showing a completely full reservoir. It's bigger than Hope Lake!  

Here's a close-up with the current school and dog park locations shown for orientation purposes.  You can see the water lapped right up to the dam wall, which is now a part of the Rec Path with a split rail fence to keep people from falling off. The dam is actually two dams with a break in the middle at high ground, but the total length from end to end is close to 1/3 mile. Where the spillway is shown we currently have a large pedestrian bridge serving as a scenic overlook. 

What happened to the reservoir?? From the 1965 aerial above you can see that the reservoir was nearly completely drained and was mostly marshland with some open water in the center (there is white snow and ice in the photo on the water surface).  We don't know exactly when this happened, but we can assume it was done because the water was no longer needed and the dam posed a safety hazard (in 1903 it burst and flooded out businesses downtown).

Here's another aerial, this one from 2006 (we can tell because work on the bridge abutments at the spillway can be seen in preparation for the Rec Path bridge installation in late 2006).  In this picture you can see a lot of trees in the water because when the school was built, a new weir was installed at the spillway to increase the stormwater storage capacity of Silent Waters.  That rose the level of Silent Waters a few feet and flooded a lot of trees.   Great wildlife habitat.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nells Rock in 1868

Here's an overlay of a map from 1868 on Google Earth in the Nells Rock area.   The overlay is not exact because of the scale of the old map, but it's pretty close. Hope Lake had not yet been created, and it looks like the old Nells Rock Road (previously spelled "Knells") may now be under water.  Shelton Ave was later straightened out.  Here's a test for our trail enthusiasts:  See if you can identify two old roads that have been recycled as hiking trails. First one to get it right gets one of our famous free hiking passes. (Click to enlarge). 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Take a Trot

It's beautiful weather for this late in the Fall - so get outside.

This family was one of many out enjoying the Nells Loop Trail this morning. It's a little muddy in spots but most of the blow downs have been cleared.

The Trails Committee was out yesterday blowing off the Turkey Trot Trail & clearing some remaining blow downs in preparation for this afternoon's guided hike. Join us at 1:00 on Constitution Boulevard North near the High School Driveway.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reverse "TIMBERRRR!!!"

This time of the year, it's not unusual to see members of the Shelton Trails Committee and volunteers doing the much beloved leaf-blowing and raking along the various Shelton trails and the Rec Path. This year we had the additional task of clearing blow-downs from the tropical storm and the early snowfall. Mostly it's been a matter of pushing aside fallen branches and chainsawing the larger limbs that had obstructed the path. The Boehm Pond Trail, accessed from Far Mill Street, was in need of some work.
Click on photos to enlarge

We started the day clearing leaves and brush, occasionally having to do some heavy-duty cutting and moving of the larger blow-downs.

Whoa! A monster tree had been uprooted right across our trail, and there was no easy way to bypass it!

Bill ponders the situation. Should we cut down, or up? There was a chance the the chainsaw could get pinched and irretrievable (temporarily, at least) if we cut the wrong way. Bill correctly concluded that we should cut downward.

Rich is about to cut through the last inch when, BOING!, the trunk, now topless, snaps back to a position of attention!

The weight of the root ball was enough to bring the trunk, now minus the weight of the rest of the tree, back to its original position.

Job well done, everybody go home!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Frugal Yankees Build a Rec Path

So far, the Rec Path has cost just $169,000 per mile to build, with most of that money coming from outside sources like grants. Compare that to some other similar projects in the region, such as the Ansonia River Walk, which is reported to have been built for about $1,000,000, and it's only 2/3 of a mile long. That works out to about $1.5 million per mile, nearly ten times the cost of our Rec Path!

We're cheap. Go ahead and say it. But when your project doesn't qualify for the huge multimillion dollar grants like the regional riverwalks, you have to be. Regional planning allows each town to priorize one path for the big federal bucks, and the Shelton River Walk got the top priority, leaving the Conservation Commission to scrounge around for alternative ways to build the Rec Path. 

How did Shelton build the Path at such a low cost?

First of all, it's not paved. The original plans called for a paved Rec Path, and the first section built was paved (by the schools), but it's a lot more expensive to pave a path, and we received repeated feedback from people who didn't want it paved, so why bother? Asphalt is good for rollerblades, but hard on walkers and joggers, and it has a more urban feel that people didn't want at Shelton Lakes.

Second, volunteers did a huge amount of the work. The route layout, planning, permitting, project management, cutting down trees, bridge building, sign kiosks, edge dressing and more were done by volunteers. If it could be done by a volunteer, it was.

Third, Parks &  Rec staff did some of the machine work, grading, cutting trees, spreading asphalt millings for a base, and dropped off woodchips for the side dressing. This was typically done during their slow time in late fall to early spring.

Fourth, we used asphalt millings as a base for much of the trail. Saved money on construction supplies.

Fifth, some of the work that was contracted out was at an extremely low price by local residents willing to give us a great deal to help out the community. Barry Mucci essentially worked 'at cost' to construct the Lane Street section. Fairview Tree Farm and Pruzinsky & Son bid the work at half the cost of other contractors. Our logo was designed at a cut rate by Pete Stockmal.

Here's a run down of our funding (click to enlarge):

Click to enlarge

3.5 miles done, 0.5 miles to go! I must leave you now to go work on a grant application.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tahmore Trek

Although the day started out overcast, the sun broke through in time for our guided hike on the Tahmore Trail. As in past years, the weather was almost perfect for one of our favorite Fall hikes. The Tahmore Trail is a figure eight configuration that bumps up against the Paugusset Trail (Blue Trail to some), where there is a nearby overlook of the Housatonic River, and is owned by the Shelton Land Trust.

Click on photos to enlargeThe previous day, Shelton Trail Committee members and volunteers prepared for the hike by leaf blowing and raking the trail. Lynn and Jim were among those working on one loop, while others worked on the other loop.

Some of the early arrivals await their marching orders.

Some repeaters, some new faces.

The Tahmore loop runs through a splendid wooded area, with some roller-coaster sections. Deer were seen fleeing the hikers and their dogs. Turkeys were spotted the previous day by the work party. And in the pasture beyond the Land Trust property, cows could be seen grazing peacefully.

Joe Welsh, President of the Shelton Land Conservation Trust, with his son. He usually joins us on this hike every year, possibly to make sure no one is left behind!

Participants take a break after scurrying up a challenging hill.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the hike. In fact, a few hearty souls repeated at least one loop of the hike. The views, the serenity made it worthwhile!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dreams Really Do Come True

Back in 1994, the Rec Path was a pipe dream. Here's an article from the Huntington Herald covering Conservation's efforts to build support from Planning and Zoning for the Rec Path. At that time, the City did not own any land along the 4-mile route, and we assumed the properties would be subdivided. I was on the Conservation Commission at that time, and I remember the basic thinking was to simply preserve the route from development so that future generations would always have the possibility of building the Rec Path.

From 1994 Rec Path Article

Only after the City bought several hundred acres of water company land along the route in 1998, as well as some other properties in the Nells Rock area, did efforts begin to actually construct the Rec Path via series of small grants and volunteer efforts. - Teresa

Monday, October 17, 2011

Harriet's Bench Restored

Click on photos to enlarge

Harriet's Bench, named after the late Harriet Wilbur, a longtime member of the Conservation Commission and a respected Shelton citizen, has finally been returned after a prolonged absence to it's rightful place overlooking the pastoral setting of the Shelton Land Trust's meadow off Lane Street. Originally hand-built with loving care by her friends several years ago as a memorial to Harriet, the bench had to be removed due to extensive vandalism and graffiti. Over the summer it has been restored close to it's original condition in the hope that those that use it to rest and enjoy the serenity of the meadow also respect the sanctity of this memorial. Enjoy the shade and the view!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Far Mill Work Party Saturday

Join us Saturday 10/15/11 for a work party to clear up storm damage on the Far Mill Trail. Meet at the big retaining wall behind ASF Sports on River Road (Rt. 110), across from the Transfer Station.

There are a lot of blowdowns and erosion from the hurricane. Bring saws, gloves, rakes, lopers, shovels, garbage bags, and wheelbarrows. The more hands that we have the easier it will be. Come see one of the prettiest spots in So. Conn. along the Far Mill River.

And if you need some free mulch for your yard visit Shelton's newest attraction; Mt. Irene at the Transfer Station. Take home some mulch after the work party - FREE.

Nells Loop Trail Blowdowns

The Nells Loop Trail off the Abby Wright parking lot (on Nells Rock Road by L'Hermitage) took a big hit from Hurricane Irene. A couple of weeks ago Jim & Rich spent the better part of the day clearing blowdowns so the trail is now passable.

Some trees were so badly broken that they had to take the whole tree down just to clear the widowmakers that were hung up.

This big oak was across the trail near John Dominick Drive. It took a while but the guys were able to clear a path thru the end of this.

There is still some work to do but the trails are passable. Thanks for all the hard work guys.

We'll be working on the Far Mill Trail behind ASF Sports on River Road 10/15 at 8:30. There are a lot of blowdowns and washouts in there, so the more the merrier. Come out and help maintain your trails.

Sucessful Shelton Day 2011

It was a beautiful Sunday.

We had probably our best Shelton Day booth ever on October 2nd. The weather was nice, there was a great turnout, and we said hi to a lot of old and new friends. We handed out several hundred new maps, talked to a lot of people and had a lot of folks sign up for trail work parties.

My favorite was the mom who signed up her son so he could earn community service hours, and then signed up her husband when we suggested it would be a great father-son hobby. Hope they turn up at our work party on Sat 10/15 behind ASF Sports on River Road.

Once again, we had a great booth location between Danny O's and Dunkin Doughnuts thanks to Sheri. A lot of our key volunteers came out to man the booth throughout the day.

Thanks to everybody who bought a tee shirt (and special thanks to the gentleman who made a donation). The trails seem to be pretty popular & it's good to see all the people enjoying Shelton's open spaces. Hope to see you at the upcoming trail parties.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rec Path Celebration Unmarred by Satellite Impact

Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, a cut-off Low Pressure System, and a falling NASA satellite (maybe somebody's trying to tell us something?) failed to stop the Rec Path Celebration from being a success on Saturday.

The start up at Pine Lake drew a good crowd of participants despite the gloomy weather. Over 4" of rain had been forecast for the night before & Saturday morning, but we did not have to use the rain date.

Mayor Mark Lauretti was there to say a few words about the recent improvements to the Recreation Path and citizen efforts. Approximately 2 miles of Rec Path were built & the final key 13 acres of Great Ledge open space purchased this year.

A number of local people were there, including the Dikovsky Family & Terry Jones (second from left). Terry, along with Harriett Wilber, came up with the concept of the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path when they were chairmen of the Conservation Commission over 10 years ago. Our Rec Path is modeled, in part, after the Stowe Vermont RecPath. It's taken a looong while to get this built, but we're getting close to completion.

The Mayor presented an award to Bob Van Egghan of PerkinElmer in recognition of all the volunteer efforts of their staff to help complete finish grading and landscaping along the Rec Path. PerkinElmer sponsored 3 days of work parties for dozens of employees as part of their For the Better campaign.

The Mayor also presented an award to local poultry farmer Basil Dikovsky, who generously donated some of his land to help build the Recreation Path near Wesley Drive. The City also formally renamed the stream that runs along that portion of the RecPath "Basil Brook" in honor of Mr. Dikovsky earlier this year. The Brook is one of the scenic highlights of the Rec Path.

Teresa Gallagher explains how to find the hand-carved stamps for the Rec Path Passports that were handed out. Sassafras Restaurant in Huntington Center was giving participants ice cream cones when they presented their passports at the end.

Tom Harbinson, Conservation Commission Chairman did his auctioneer imitation as part of a charity raffle before the hike began. A number of local businesses and individuals donated prizes for the event & it made for a fun hike - especially for the kids - even the "older kids". Some of the people and businesses that donated things included Beechwood Market, Center Deli, Connecticut Forest & Parks Association, Bill Dyer, Gallagher Family, Gifts on the Green, Tom Harbinson, & Royal Bakery. Sassafras partnered with the Shelton Conservation Commission for the ice cream at the end.

The crowd took off and broke up into groups of runners, bikers, strollers, and dog walkers. The Rec Path was in good shape following last night's storm and there were a lot of people out enjoying it even if they didn't start at Pine Lake. Here are Sandy & Rich overlooking Silent Waters from the top of the dam.

We did pass the debris field from NASA's satellite (at least we think it's theirs). Or it could be part of of '53 Buick.

The debris was clearly marked with an official NASA sign to deter souvenir seekers.

We also want to thank the guys from Pruzinsky & Sons, and Fairview Tree Farm who attended. They did a great job with the recent construction on the Recreation Path; on-time, under budget, & really nice craftsmanship working the Rec Path into the landscape. We got a lot of positive comments about their work. My personal favorite is the section west of the the Iroquois Gas Pipeline.

Basil's son & his dog Flocka were really rubbing it in our face for most of the bike ride. He had run past us while we were biking (we did stop to stamp in and catch some breath), and they had made it to Huntington Center and were running BACK when we showed up at the Lane St. Boardwalk. They were the winners of the Fastest to Huntington Center division.

But the Bike Brigade did make it to Huntington Center and earned the first ice cream cones. And we needed them; the air was pretty thick & we were hot by the time we got there. Thank you Sassafras. Maybe we should have seen the chiropractor too while we were there.

Then after some refreshment we started the ride back to Pine Lake. We passed various groups of walkers on their way to Huntington Center.

A couple of hikers were stamping their passports to earn their ice cream cones.

This is a copy of what the inside of the Passport looked like. Teresa Gallagher carved all the stamps for this event showing scenes along the Rec Path.

The Shelton Police Dept. loaned us some cones and signs along Huntington Street to help with traffic protection; thank you Sergeant Zakowicz. We really need a good concrete sidewalk built here to connect from 90 Huntington St. to Beechwood Market.

Teresa, Biscuit, and Laurie Gianotti from the DEP Greenways Office were the official sweepers making sure everyone made it out alive.

Sandy & Terry posing at the End of the Trail back at Pine Lake starting point. We had a fun 10 mile round trip.

Here's the real End of the Trail Party at the Huntington Street Cafe. It was a good time for everybody. Thanks to all the businesses and individuals who helped make this a fun Shelton Lakes Recreation Path Celebration. Wait until we get the center section completed & can have a real grand opening ceremony next year.