Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rollin' on the River

Late Saturday morning the sky was clear, the tide was still coming in, and a group of eager paddlers, organized by the Shelton Trails Committee, set out to explore the Shelton section of the Housatonic River, starting at the ramp behind Sunnyside School, with the intention of paddling upstream to downtown Shelton and the old riverside factories below the Ousatonic Dam. The heat of the day was tempered by a challenging breeze.

Hearty seafarers Emma, Richard, Sheri, Terry, Ken and John
make preparations for getting under way.

Leader of the pack Terry attempts to catch up with the eager voyagers.

Once away from the launch area, the river provided a surprising
departure from the cityscape, into a serene, almost rural atmosphere.

A lone gull, perched on the remains of a long-abandoned dock,
observes the passing seafarers.

O'Sullivan's Island (shown on some maps as Hog Island) appears ahead, with the Naugatuck River and railroad bridge just to the right. The fleet, however, chose to stay on the left and stick with the Housatonic.

One of the problems facing waterways all over the country is the proliferation of this invasive plant, Purple Loosestrife.

Rich and Emma take in the sights along the way. We saw a lot of waterfowl; ducks, egrets, cormorants, and even a crane.

No, it's not a Sandhill crane! But it is interesting how most of the industrial and municipal yards along the river manage to keep out of sight for the most part.

A view of the Route 8, "Commodore Hull" bridge that only fish and boaters get to see.

Trees growing out of retaining wall built many years ago.

Several tunnels were built under the factories to provide water for power

The last lock of the old canal the carried boats from above the Ousatonic Dam to the river below.

The orange line is the GPS trace of the paddle route, starting at the bottom from the Sunnyside ramp, up to the canal locks, and return to Sunnyside. (Click on map to enlarge)

The threat of oppressive heat undoubtedly discouraged more folks from joining us, but those that did agreed that it was a fun and entertaining paddle. Check our blog and the local news for future activities, as well as planned work parties.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Can't Stop Those Blue Dudes

Just when people walking their dogs on the RecPath thought it was safe to go back in the woods for a nice quiet stroll, another pack of Perkin Elmer-ites were at it again this past Tuesday.

The Parks & Rec Department dropped off more mulch & the PE team provided the muscle to move it all into place along the RecPath.

They moved a lot of mulch to protect the middle section of the RecPath. This would've cost a lot of money if the City had to hire workers to do it and it was great to see the volunteers pitch in.

Bill Dyer used the Trails Committee's Gator to shuttle mulch around to the various work groups.

This was the third and final group of PerkinElmer folks to work on the RecPath this month. Surprisingly, this was the biggest group who also picked the best weather of the three days to work in. They must have had a good scheduler. Here they are with their instruments of destruction, including one woman who brought a big snow shovel? Was she hoping for colder weather?

Even on the "cool" day it was obvious that these guys put in quite a bit of work.

We think that everybody on the Trails Committee is very grateful to all the good folks at Perkin Elmer for all their hard work. They are an example to every business in Shelton that it pays to invest in the community; one way or another. Everybody go out at lunch, or before or after work and enjoy their handiwork.

And if you feel like volunteering for a trail work party just show up. You don't have to dress in blue or bring dozens of friends, but by all means, the more the merrier. Thanks again to the dudes in blue.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

RecPath Construction Resumes at Crabapple Drive

People are starting to explore the new sections of the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path over by Huntington Center. Here's a nice family having some fun near Lizard Head Rock.

Last week Pruzinky & Sons resumed work and placed a fine gravel topcoat on the Lane St. fire access road. The road was built to provide the Shelton Fire Department a second means of access into the neighborhood, but it also makes a great multi-use path.

The lower crossing at Wesley Drive now clearly links both sides of the road.

The RecPath now turns off the fire access road and connects with the sections that were built earlier.
Which brings you down along the edge of the Land Trust Meadow and out to Lane St. & Huntington Center by the Fire House.

Meanwhile, on the portion north of Crabapple Drive the guys from Fairview Tree Farm have started clearing out toward the powerlines.

Construction is gradually proceeding with the base. Hopefully we will have most of this new construction done in August. Have fun exploring, but mind the excavators when they are working please.

Monday, July 25, 2011

PerkinElmer Gang Strikes Again

Last Tuesday, a perfectly good summer day with temperatures and humidity levels well above 90, the peace and quiet of the day was shattered by the racket of a gang of blue interlopers in the woods.

That's right, another group of PerkinElmer workers, armed with field instruments, had escaped their air conditioned cubicles to volunteer to work along the Recpath. Their location, just above the Shelton Dog Park, was in clear sight of a major road, but no supervisor drove by and made them return to work. Clearly management was slacking off.

Their plan, was to place more mulch along the RecPath than the first crew from PerkinElmer placed last week. It could have been to claim bragging rights, or to earn a cold beverage. We're not sure yet.

And just to make the competition fair, they selected an equally sauna-like day to work on as the first crew. They did a very professional job fixing up the edges of the newly constructed path so the edges wont erode. If their supervisors see this they may put them to work maintaining the grounds at their office building.

Here is a group photo of these scary looking people from a local company out volunteering on a handicapped-accessible RecPath along the Shelton Lakes Greenway. Be careful if you're out walking on the RecPath tomorrow above the Dog Park - there may be more PerkinElmer folks moving more mulch, and trying to out-outdo their coworkers. They may be aided and abetted by a guy in a green cap who looks like an escapee from a golf course. If you see them be careful or they might put you to work. Offer them a cold drink and say thank you, and they may let you pass.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


There was a lot of activity this week from various groups in Shelton that are trying to improve things in the City.

On Saturday, the Shelton Trails Committee spend a hot morning clearing briars and barberry from the Paugussett Trail between Indian Well State Park and Sinsabaugh Heights. Some people had so much fun whacking weeds they went back and cut some more with the mower later in the week, hopefully when it was cooler.

And one volunteer from CFPA drove in from Danbury to help us! Now all we need is all those local students who wanted community service hours to show up.

And a big thanks to CFPA for leading the charge on Municipal Liability Reform for Open Space. The Governor signed the bill into law today, & it only took months of arguing and arm-twisting. But on to more tangible endeavors.

Tuesday a crew from PerkinElmer worked in 90+ degree heat to spread woodchips along the RecPath off Oak Valley Road. Two other PE crews should be working on the RecPath during the next two Tuesdays by the Dog Park and at Wesley Drive to help complete the RecPath prior to our September 9th Celebration.

Thanks to the Shelton Parks & Recreation Department for loading & hauling all the wood chip mulch that was placed.

And then on Thursday a group of Sikorsky Aircraft volunteers cleaned up dozens of bags of trash along the Far Mill River & Trail behind ASF Sports on Rt. 110. The area needed it & it's good to see corporations helping their staff take on these challenges. That portion of the Far Mill Greenway has some really scenic spots along the river.

Volunteers also put new signs at the Eklund Native Species Garden at 10 Oak Valley Road so people could find and enjoy the mid-summer blossoms.

While it's not a trail item the Shelton Lakes Community Garden #2 on Soundview Avenue is also up and running thanks to volunteers. And a big thanks to the Huntington Co Volunteer Fire Department for keeping the water tanks filled at the garden. Those tanks are probably going to get a workout this coming week.

Thank you again to Dean at Parks & Rec for hooking up the piping from the tanks to the garden.

And the Dog Park folks spent some time sprucing up their park on the Shelton Lakes Greenway along Nells Rock Road today. It's nice to see the landscaping and maintenance going on.

It's weeks like this that renew your faith that Americans can solve problems and get things done. Sometimes the world's troubles seem so large and unsolvable that we just throw up our hands. And maybe we can't fix world peace or the economy; but we can all cut some briars, move some mulch, pick up some trash, or grow some food. Every little thing that we chose to do, or not do, counts. Now if only the Republicans and Democrats in Washington and Hartford could just get The Memo. Thanks to everybody who chose to be a somebody in Shelton this week.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Corporate Gift

Click on photos to enlarge

"Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun". Noel Coward could have added PerkinElmer employees to that group! This Tuesday, as hot and muggy as it was, these folks lived up to their commitment to display corporate citizenship by spending the better part of the day making improvements to one of the newer sections of the Shelton Rec Path.

The first team hit the ground running, rakes, shovels and hay forks blurred as they spread wood chips pre-placed by the Parks and Recreation Department.

The wood chips were used to help stabilize the edges of the rec path and impede erosion

Fortunately, most of the day's work was done in the shadier section, making the task at hand a bit more bearable

"Let's go home!" The PerkinElmer gang gathers their tools heads back to civilization, having put in a good day's work and personalizing their company's slogan, "for the better". The corporation will be providing more work parties in the weeks ahead. Thank you, PerkinElmer and your community-minded employees!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Paugussett Trail Party

Well, after getting complaints that the Paugussett Trail Restoration was "brushy & hard to follow" we did a little well-needed trail maintenance. We worked south from Indian Well State Park, past Rt. 110 and up to Sinsabaugh Heights on Meadow Street.

We parked at the trailhead lot near The Maples on Indian Well Road and hiked in. The DEP had mowed the aisle through the overflow meadow. I don't remember seeing a black bear with us, but Rich is much more observant than me when he takes the team photos. Pity he didn't say "Run, there's a bear behind you."

Here's Sheri, Jim, and Steph Olsen from Connecticut Forest & Parks Association. Steph was a big help (and she drove in from Danbury to work with us). What happened to all the Shelton High students who were looking for community service hours & said they were coming? Alarm clocks work in the summer guys.

Wherever the trail was open we had a lot of brush. We need to go back with some power equipment for those areas, but they're all passable now. Inside the woods the trail was pretty passable, but we took out a lot of barberry.

Climbing the trail above Rt. 110 was pretty tropical following last night's storms. We crossed a number of streams going up the hill.

Bill couldn't be there this morning, so Rich had to do the Carl Spackler imitation with the weedwhacker near where the trail crosses the sewer easement.

And this is what it looked like up by Sinsabaugh Heights. Amazing what a few weeks of torrential rain, sun, and no mowing can do to a trail. This looked like a job for someone who was committed, or who should be committed, so we sent in Jim.

Who had a great time cutting briars, thorns, and other things that wanted to take the hide off trail volunteers. Rich eventually came thru with his weedwhacker; about 10 lbs lighter from all the sweating. The trail is now open from the parking lot at the bottom of Sinsabaugh Heights to Indian Well State Park. The crossing at Meadow Street is a little tough to follow, so we need to add some signs. The adventurous explorers can now find their way from the Shelton Lakes Greenway to Indian Well State Park.

Thanks to everybody who came out. And thanks to Steph from CFPA for coming out and having all the great stories of the petting moose and filming bobcats. It made for a fun and productive, if somewhat hot, morning. There were a number of folks enjoying the hike up to The Well when we left, and hopefully someday will enjoy the restored Paugussett Trail.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Burning Barberry (Without getting the Fire Dept Angry)

It all started with wanting to mow some hay.

We had been really busy this Spring with construction of the RecPath, and fell behind in some of our maintenance tasks. At our June meeting we decided to mow the Paugussett Trail at the Wiacek open space between Constitution Blvd. North and Meadow Street. The trail runs along the edge of a hay field & the trail gets really obscured in late Spring.

Problem was, we couldn't get our DR Mower into the field because the Trail had been turned into a soupy mudhole at the powerlines. One of the volunteers for Shelton Clean Sweep had good in there with his pickup truck to pull out a big pile of garbage this Spring, and given all the rain that we had got stuck. So he backed out and tried again, and again, and again. Long Story Short - Mike got the garbage (nice work, single-handed) but our trail access was a mess for getting our mower into the meadow. So we were going to use some extra millings from a City road improvement project (we love recycling) to fill in the mudholes, but we though the millings wouldn't look quite right & had access to other materials.

The new Community Garden #2 at 279 Soundview Avenue had LOTS of rocks and dirt available. All looking very natural and good for filling in mudholes, the question was how to get from the Paugussett Trail over to Soundview? We knew there were old woods roads between the trail and the Community Garden and thought that we could just drive between the two with the Gator, get the rocks, fill the hole & problem solved.

So Rich Mudlarks walked the route with his trusty GPS. Unfortunately for him he walked had to walk thru a sea of Japanese Barberry while wearing his shorts. Needless to say he emerged bloody looking like a cross between someone trapped in a tight cage with a grumpy bobcat, or an early-bird shopper on the day after Thanksgiving.

The Japanese Barberry is an invasive non-native species that has thorns and spreads out everywhere when there are a lot of deer. They eat everything else but leave the barberry - which happens to form an ideal habitat for ticks. So, armed with the knowledge that we had to cut thorns we scheduled a quick work party & brought various tools of destruction.

Here's Jim & Rich clearing out a patch. We have a new Ryobi with a sickle bar attachment that works well for cutting this stuff. Trouble is it grows over rocks and stumps and you can't always see what your cutting until you hit it. The Stihl brushcutter with the plastic vanes works well here also - if you nip a rock you haven't dulled up a blade. Janice, Lynn, Bill, Terry, Jim & Rich all had a hand in cutting and hauling rocks. Once we cleared out a path thru the barberry the guys went up to the Garden, got a lot of rocks, and when back to fill in the mud holes.

In the meantime we tried out the new Trails Flamethrower to burn the barberry after we cut it. This is supposed to be the preferred way to permanently eradicate this invasive species. Here's Rich trying to see how long his has to aim the flames at his foot before his boot catches on fire. It had rained a lot that week so there was no danger (well, limited danger) of us setting the woods on fire. Come to find out that we were doing things correctly for a change & this is a good method for getting rid of barberry (and ticks) - see the article in The New London Day.

So meanwhile the guys were trying to fill in the mud holes with the rocks, however the rocks were going back to China and we still had lots of mud holes.

After a while the crew gave up and punched a hole through a dryer section of a hedge instead.

Several hundred pounds of rocks were moved, but no fingers, toes, or backs were lost in the process. We didn't do exactly what we originally planned, but we did finish with a dry passage for the Mower, we did not set the woods on fire, we did put a small dent in some invasive species, and we did the clearing the the Soundview Ave. Neighborhood Access Trail that was one of our 2011 Goals, so it was a productive if somewhat long & hot day.

One of our goals this year is to create a number of neighborhood access trails so more people can enjoy the trails network.

The next Paugussett Trail Work Party will be this Saturday 7/9. Meet at 8:30 at The Maples parking lot on Indian Well Road and we'll work uphill from the Park. Wonder what we'll find on that end.