Monday, December 16, 2013

Mike Yevich's Project - the Upper Birchbank Bridge

A look back at another fine scout project at Birchbank Mountain.  Mike Yevich of Troop 27 and his team built a very sturdy bridge over Upper White Hills Brook in 2012.

These scouts not only stand behind their work, they stand on it.

This was an area where there was some ATV damage and the bridge allowed hikers to cross the brook during high water.
Concept picture of bridge crossing the brook
Mike and his team had to do a number of steps prior to actually building bridge.  Some of the tasks were to:
  • Decide what project to do and prepare a preliminary design,
  • Get approvals from the Trails Committee and Conservation Commission,
  • Get approval from the Scout Council,
  • Also get approval from the Shelton Inland Wetlands Commission (bridge over a stream),
  • Raise funds for purchasing materials (they held a car wash),
  • Buy the materials and haul the stuff to the jobsite,
  • Build the bridge.
These can be typical steps for many Eagle Scout projects.  There is a lot of behind the scene action in addition to actually building the project.

Fabricating the beams for the bridge
 Access to the site was limited so they fabricated some of the larger pieces on site rather than trying to carry them in.
Braces installed

All told, Mike's team had over 95 volunteer hours invested in the project and raised over $400 to buy materials. The cost of materials was lowered substantially when Lowes discounted a lot of the materials (THANK YOU Lowes).

Decking installation
There was a very nice article in the Shelton Herald on Mike's Eagle Scout Ceremony this Spring with additional pictures and information.

Completed project!
Thank you Mike for all the hard work by you and your team.  Another fine project at Birchbank Mountain  by the scouts.

Engraved decking

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Let It Snow on the Paugussett Trail

This morning's work party on Oak Valley Trail was canceled due to weather; snow.  And not the light flurries topped with a some freezing rain that we usually get, but some real snow.

But the snow made for a very pretty backdrop for the new Paugussett Trail sign that was installed by the Connecticut Department of Transportation on Rt. 108 this week, just down the hill from Oak Valley Trail.  We've worked on miles of new trail construction and re-routes this year but somehow it looks much more official when we get a blue oval sign along the State Road.

Thanks to Clare Cain at CFPA for ordering the sign and Ernie Lagoja at ConnDOT District 3 & the sign crew for making sure it got in the right place.

The Paugussett Trail crossing is located about 500 feet west of the Constitution Boulevard/Nells Rock Road intersection.

The snow made for a picturesque Christmas card scene at The Red Barn just around the corner.  The Red Barn is located at the Nells Rock RecPath entrance and the Shelton Dog Park.  If the lot is plowed out it makes a good access point to explore the trails.  Maybe we'll have one of those impromptu snowshoe hikes in the near future.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Birchbank Kiosk by Matt Vittori

Birchbank Mountain Open Space has a sturdy new kiosk thanks to Matt Vittori's efforts to become an Eagle Scout.  This picture was taken from Birchbank Road, which might also be called Indian Well Road in that spot. This location has always been difficult to describe to hikers, and many confuse it with Indian Well State Park (the white trail at Indian Well is a full mile to the south).  We've been asking for a kiosk in this location for a few years now. 

The team had a crane.  A crane!

The kiosk is strategically located in front of a large boulder. Hopefully this will discourage people from vandalism-by-truck. And it looks nice. 

The kiosk looks nice and sturdy.

The Birchbank Mountain Open Space now has two Eagle Scout bridges, a kiosk, and another Eagle Scout project is in the works to address the extreme erosion issues along parts of the trails. All the efforts have made the park more accessible to hikers looking for a more of a workout while they hike (the elevation gain for Birchbank Trail is about 300 feet), or those who just want to enjoy the waterfalls and famous spring wildflower display.  Great job! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Upcoming Work Party - Oak Valley Trail

A work party is scheduled for this Saturday at 9:00 on Oak Valley Trail.  We'll see if the weather cooperates or not.  Winter work parties are always fickle.

We'll meet at the powerlines on the south side of Rt. 108.  See the Events page for more information.

The trail needs brush cut back, particularly on the insides of the curves where it's growing into the treadway.  There's a lot of opportunity for loper and bow saw work.

Depending on the weather and the turn out we'll work on Oak Valley trail (white), the blue-white connector to the Paugussett Trail, and Dog Paw Path.

The Dog Paw Path is a short connector that people like to loop from the Dog Park up to the RecPath and back.  It seemed to be getting a lot of use this past weekend.

The Dog Paw Path has slightly different markings from our other trail blazes, but you don't need to have a puppy to enjoy it.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Swanson Salvages Scavenged Shovels

The Trails Committee has a some tools for volunteers; some purchased, some donated, and some collected from the Dump (aka The Transfer Station) on Rt. 110.  One of the great innovations at the Dump this year is the Swap Tent.  Residents deposit stuff in the tent that they think is junk, but junk that is too good to just throw away.  Other residents, after unloading their vehicles of their junk can then go in and see what good free stuff was left in the Swap Tent.  Sounds like a George Carlin routine.  Some people leave with more stuff than they came with.

You can also pick up free woodchips at the Dump for mulch.

On a recent Saturday excursion there were several old shovels leaning up in the Swap Tent.  Three looked OK but covered in concrete and two had cracks in the blades.  Luckily, my neighbor Rick does welding in between restoring antique cars, and has been very helpful to us in the past.  I left the two cracked shovels with him and he welded them up.  A little cleaning and elbow grease and all three shovels are back in business for use on trail work parties.

It may seems silly to scavenge old tools from the dump, but $50 or $60 bucks saved adds up over time. Think about it if you have excess tools that you might want to donate; they can get used on trails, or the community gardens.

Thanks to Rick Swanson for helping us out once again.  If anyone has a classic car that they need restored he's a automotive artisan, when he's not welding up the neighbor's shovels.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

PILGRIMS' PROGRESS (a hike on the Turkey Trot Trail, post-Thanksgiving)

Whew! Work off those drumsticks and pumpkin pie! Several were up to the challenge and joined us on an easy Sunday walk before settling in to watch the ritual football games. It was a pleasant afternoon, welcome after days of cold, wind and rain. Our trek started At the trailhead on Constitution Blvd., where we herded our dog and kids, and headed into the wilderness known as the Turkey Trot Trail.

Click on photos to enlarge

 Future hikers gather to await guidance from trail leaders.

Furry companions are anxious to move out.

Some furry companions get the royal treatment from interested third parties.
It was a great day for using the trails, as we encountered bikers and other pet walkers.
Pack leader Terrance, with sidekick Biscuit, tries to impress hikers with tales of Sasquatch and others of his friends.

Peter and entourage were latecomers, but caught up with us.

Another of our monthly treks completed. Stay tuned for information of future hikes, as well as volunteer opportunities for our lots-o-fun work parties.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Riverview Rehab

Another clear, cool Autumn Saturday, and the Shelton Trails Committee conducts one of its seasonal leaf raking work parties, this time at our trail behind Riverview Park. This trail always suffers from an abundance of oak leaves, usually wet by the time we get to them, and thick where they've blown down from the park above.

Click on photos to enlarge

We had a nice turnout of volunteers, including two families with kids that were working to fulfill church or school community service goals.

David and one of his sons take on a section of the trail with leaf blower and rake.

 John and daughter Emily fine tune a path behind Committee Chairman Bill Dyer.

 Paulette takes a break with her sons Joseph and Josh. The family that works together gets good camera time together.

Spotting the camera, Richard and Jim of the Trails Committee attempt to keep up with the newest volunteers.

Thanks to Luis, John, David and Paulette and sons Joseph and Josh, and John and daughter Emily,  for taking time out of their Saturday to help make one of our trails more easily accessible. Trails Committee members Bill, Terrance, Lynn, Richard and Jim proudly observed their new recruits go through the paces. Join us next time for a few hours of fun, excitement, and callouses!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Go Blow It Out Your .....

..... Trail.

That's what Bill Dyer says.

Come out to Riverview Park on Rt. 110 and help us clear the Bluff Walk this Saturday.  Bring gloves, rakes, leaveblowers, pruners, and some warm weather.  Hopefully it doesn't snow or rain or sleet or hail.

We'll meet by the basketball courts in the center of the park and fan out from there.  If you've never been to Riverview this is a great way to explore one of Shelton's oldest parks overlooking the Housatonic River.


Maybe you can learn the story of the boy and the fish overlooking the dam.  So come out Saturday, it's a late start at 9:00, dress warmly, and explore the park and trails.

Royce York's Scout Project at the Abby Wright Open Space

Looking at Logan Clare's scout project at Nells Rock made me think back to what the trailhead used to look like.  Once Upon A Time the Abby Wright Open Space was the City's bulky waste dump.

And this was the good stuff; old pipe, broken catch basins, demolition debris, stumps.  The City at one point planned on creating a landfill for sewage sludge in the the wetland at the center of the property.  Before 1998 this was Shelton's second largest open space and a number of people said what can be done to improve it.

A very attractive Chordas Pond and L'Hermitage Condominium were across the street and it seemed like a no-brainer to clean up the park.  A number of attempts were made to beautify the property and open it up to the public, but it was always against a certain amount of social inertia that the property was good for nothing except a dump and that there was no reason to spend resources to fix it up.

Royce worked with his scout troop (and his dad also named Royce), to clear out a parking area off Nells Rock Road, cut brush, install a split rail fence to limit vehicle access and prevent illegal dumping.  Here's Bill Dyer offering positive encouragement on Royce & Royce's fence building efforts in April 2005.

This helped get people in and enjoy the trails on the property.  Eventually the Bridges and Highways, and Parks and Recreation departments hauled away the old pipes and debris for a proper disposal.  Road millings were brought in to create a parking surface, and over the years numerous work parties and scout projects have improved things bit by bit.

The trailhead has been improved, kiosks installed, trails extended to other parks and open space parcels, various improvements by City Departments and on-going work by volunteers.  Abby Wright and the Nells Loop Trail went from being a potential landfill to one of the City's most popular open spaces.  And this was all because someone rolled up their sleeves and said we can do something to clean up this mess.  Thanks Royce for showing that scouts can create positive changes in their communities.                                  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Winterberrys and Posts

Saturday was a beautiful Fall day, warm, clear, with a lot of people out enjoying the parks.

The big beech tree near the Red Barn is finally turning.  This one had held on to summer later than all the rest, but the frosts were finally getting to it.  Winter is coming.

The wildlife is getting ready for Fall yesterday too.  Here's a flock of turkeys in their natural habitat; the 12th green at Tashua Knolls.  They need to move out of the way quicker, Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away.

Sunday was a different day, it started out a somber grey, but it looked dry enough so we started to install the last of the trail marker posts on the Paugussett Trail.  It was misting when I started, but not too bad.

But then it rained once I got out at the Wiacek Open Space on Constitution Boulevard North.  Since everything was wet we kept on going.  The trail marker posts go along the edge of the meadow and the blazes are high enough to be seen when the hay is high.

The Winterberrys are in rare form this year.  This one is at the junction to the Soundview Garden Cut-Off Path.  They like full sun and wet feet.  They really stand out in this portion of the Paugussett Trail now that the leaves are down.

The Asiatic Bittersweet was also doing well along the powerlines.  A non-native invasive species that's not good to have but it's tough to control and spreads along corridors like the powerlines.

South of Wellington Court the trail was re-routed off the powerlines into the woods.  If you look closely, you can see the holes drilled by a sapsucker into this small tree right above the blaze to turn right.

A post was added to replace a small stone cairn on the powerlines South of Wellington Court.  Chuck Sack from CFPA had walked the route and the additional marker should clear up any confusion on which way to go when traveling north.  Somebody topped a bunch of pines under the powerlines and left all the tops right along the trail - probably the power company - hopefully it keeps down some of the briars.

The rain had turned to a dense fog by the time I finished at Wellington Court.  Another post was added to show the turn going South - see it's clear as a bell.

One reason that we try to make the blazes clear is to help hikers and residents find their way during bad weather.  Today was a good test.

Helpful Trail Tip:  Remember to put a flashlight in your pocket when going out on late afternoon walks this time of the year, particularly if the weather is iffy.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sign Boards on the New England Trail

While hiking around the state, I'm always looking at how other organizations set up and maintain their trail. Here are some recently placed sign boards for the New England National Scenic Trail in Middletown. The sign boards are set well in off the road near the first trail junction you come to. There's a laminated trail map and a QR code below it you can scan if you have a smart phone to get a map on your phone. We do have a few laminated maps like this on the trails in the Nells Rock area where people tend to get lost, but they are just stapled onto trees. Having a sign board like this to attach the maps to would look pretty sharp. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

All Fall Down!

Leaves, Autumn, crisp, cool air! There's no getting around leaf raking and blowing. Some of our trails need work, too! This Saturday we had a nice group of volunteers helping to clean up our Boehm Pond Trial, one of our lesser known, but delightful, neighborhood paths right on Far Mill Street.

Click on photos to enlarge
This trail, actually multiple trails, passes through serene woods, one leg terminating at Boehm Pond.
Armed with leaf-blowers and rakes, young volunteers breezed through the several trail legs at Boehm (no pun intended).
These guys were born to do this!
The trail is now visible and free of obstructions.
Meanwhile, work progresses on creating a walkway over a perpetually soggy area that was difficult to bypass.
Stakes were created on the spot.
You're supposed to hit the stake!

Thanks to volunteers Josh and Jerry, Ryon, Alex, Wesley, Samantha, Jared, and another volunteer that did not leave his name. The Trails Committee was loosely represented by Bill, Terry, Lynn, Jim, and Richard.