Friday, June 29, 2012

French's Hill Damaged by ATVs

There are no official trails at the French's Hill open space.  This property is located in the White Hills across the street from East Village Park. The potential has always been there, though, because the property is over 110 acres, plenty of space for a trail. Parking was an obstacle until a few years ago when an adjacent property was acquired that included a large existing parking lot directly off of East Village Road. 

The front part of French's Hill, along East Village Road, consists of a geologic drumlin that is currently farmed under license to the City, but the majority of the property is heavily wood and was free from any kind of trails. Until now. 

Illegal ATV trails in red.  Magenta line is potential future trail. 
After receiving an anonymous tip, Conservation Agent Teresa (that's me) mapped out 1.25 miles of illegal ATV trails that averaged six feet in width.  Multiply the width times length and that's a total of 0.9 acres of trail tread.  The aerial above shows the illegal trails in red. A smaller magenta line is a potential route from the existing parking area to these trails. Why?  Because if we can stop the ATVs so that the trails can begin to heal, some of the tracks might be converted to hiking trails some day. It would take several years, but it's a possibility.

Over 100 trees are painted like this
Sadly, the damage to the conservation lands doesn't stop at the creation of trails. Well over one hundred trees have been spray painted.  Tree after tree after tree. 

There is no point even trying to cover all the spray paint. It's everywhere. At this point, it is best just to let it fade. Fortunately, most spray paint doesn't last long. 

This old stone wall was was dismantled to build the ATV track
The French's Hill open space was purchased for conservation purposes in 2003 for $3.3 million with the help of a State open space grant of over half a million dollars. The conditions of the State grant clearly stated that the land could be used for passive recreation only and that motorized vehicles shall not be allowed. 

An illegal camp in the center of the open space, posted as private property
There are also a couple of camps on the property complete with fire rings, "private property" signs, tarps, and a table. A campfire during a real dry spell poses a danger to nearby homes.

One of two camps

One of many mud holes through wetlands
The photo above shows one reason why the ATV trails would not make good hiking trails at this point in time. Only if we can keep ALL the ATVs off of the trails for a few years might these ATV track be converted to hiking trails. Besides, the spray paint is very sad to look at.

More mud. And spray paint. 

These trails were not something kids built. There was clearly a lot of chain saw work in involved. Many smaller trees were cut down, and some larger trees that had fallen were also cut for ATV passage. 

An interesting feature of this open space is the registered "Big Tree."  It's the states 4th largest registered Tulip Tree. See this blog entry from 2007 for more info. 

At this point we are asking for help in stopping the ATVs.  Parents: PLEASE  PLEASE  PLEASE do not buy your kid an ATV and let them go ride "in the woods out back."  BE A PARENT.  This is not Maine. Unless you own those woods, that is completely illegal.  It doesn't matter if there are signs prohibiting ATVs or not (kids rip the signs down immediately and then use the lack of signs as a defense); ATV riders are required by state law to carry written permission from the property owner with them.    Neighbors:  Be our eyes and ears.  If you see or hear ATVs head down the street into the open space, call the Police, but also let us know. If you know where the ATVers live, let us know.  If you are on the trails and can take a picture of ATVs that would be fantastic. You can leave a message with the Conservation Department (anonymous messages are OK if you are afraid of retaliation). Call 203 924-1555 x315 or email   Thank you. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

National Trails Day - 2012

Weather and events affected this year's Trails Day hike, formerly known as the "Bridge to Bridge" hike. Originally scheduled for Saturday, rain forced a postponement, and our hike had to compete with other events in town. Nevertheless, we had a decent turnout for what turned out to be a gorgeous morning for an end-to-end walk on the Shelton Rec Path.

 We will gather at the river...I mean Pine Lake

Terrance briefs the hikers and points the way. Fortunately, most participants followed!
Some hikers had it easier than others

The start of the journey...crossing Pine Lake

Happy hikers!

No question, the Shelton Rec Path traverses some scenic and tranquil environments

The Trails Committee had cached cold drinks half way through the hike. It was much appreciated!

Even the pooches got to drink.

Another satisfied traveler

Teresa led a side-trip to the hidden waterfall

Most of the participants (no comments from the canine contingent) enjoyed the scenery, exercise, socializing, and spot lectures common to all of our hikes, and the Trails Committee looks forward to our future guided events.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Paugussett Trail Map

Here's a map showing the entire Paugussett Trail, including the newer five miles south of Indian Well State Park. The map is very slow to load, which is why I'm typing a bunch of words up here for you to read before you look at it. The green hiker icons represent places where other trails connect with the Paugussett at Webb Mtn, Birchbank, Indian Well, and Shelton Lakes. At a glance you can see how the Paugussett connects these four parks together.

This is a Google map that allows you to zoom, pan, and view the 2012(!) aerial layer as well as a terrain layer. For best results, click the "view larger map" link on the bottom left and wait for it to reload. For the techies out there, you can save as a .kml file (GoogleEarth file type) and use software to convert that to a gpx file for your gps receiver. However, note that although the route shown is pretty close, it is not exact, especially the older section (darkest blue). To hike the older sections, we recommend purchasing a copy of the CT Walk Book, available at book stores and at (this also supports CFPA, the nonprofit organization that maintains the Blue Blazed Trail system).  The parking areas shown are pretty accurate. Click on one to get driving directions. You can save the map or a specific map point to your Google account and view later on your smart phone if you're into that (Ms. Droidetta will give you directions as you drive).

View Paugussett Trail in a larger map