Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Winter Walking and Hot Coffee on the RecPath

I was checking out the progress of the resurfacing project of the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path at Lane Street this morning.  It was a bright clear day with temperature in the 20's; weather to freeze your nose with every breath.  And here comes two walkers back over the Lane Street boardwalk.

This couple was clutching their coffees for all their warmth, while enjoying their morning walk.  They come here frequently and enjoy the RecPath and the Land Trust property off Lane Street.  It was nice to see the nearby residents using the open space in the winter.

The City is in the process of adding fine processed aggregate to the sections of the RecPath where the coarse rocks were showing through.   With a combination of clear weather, fortuitious bid prices, open work schedules, and Bill Dyer's persistence, the City has engaged contractors to top coat selected sections of the RecPath before we recieve heavy snow.  It will be interesting to see how much they get done.  The first sections at Lane St. look great.


Monday, January 18, 2016

The Snowless Snowshoe Hike

We tried to plan ahead for a change and scheduled a series of winter hikes in advance.  The first hike of the new year was to be our snowshoe hike on January 17, 2016.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature was a bit fickle in the snow department this year (careful, don't curse us), and the woods were pretty dry.  But 17 intrepid adventurers (+ Teddy) came out to enjoy the nice winter weather.

We met at the Shelton Dog Park on Rt. 108 & headed out along the trails at Shelton Lakes.  Here's the before picture so we knew how many hikers we should finish up with.

Rich lead us off on the Dog Paw Path to a section of the Paugussett Trail and then west along Oak Valley Trail.

We crossed the powerlines and followed Oak Valley Trail between Rt. 108 & the red maple swamp.

Bill Dyer and Bob Wood circulating up and down the line as everyone followed the trail. 

Luis and I were sweepers for much of the hike.  And we didn't lose anybody this time.

We worked our way up to the old Cam homestead and discussed the history of the property and the people who lived there in the 1800's.  Much of the wooded area that we see today was cleared for farms and pastures at that time.  Next time you're driving by on Rt 108 just try to picture what the houses and woods of today looked like in the 1790's with freed black slaves farming their fields with herds of cattle along "Popple Hollow".

We continued down historic Oak Valley Road.  Bill showed the hikers how to hop over some of the wet spots near the gas pipeline, as we moved onto the RecPath, then over to the Flower Trail, and entered into Eklund Garden.

We assured the younger hikers that there were no alligators in the pond below; just wood frogs and spring peepers come Springtime.

Now here's some future gardeners and trail volunteers.  Maybe they can come back when the garden is in bloom later this year and take a similar picture.

We had a great time going over to the Paugussett Trail along Hope Lake, and back to the Dog Park.  Rich did a great job leading and we didn't lose anybody.  It was fun to go exploring with old friends, familiar faces, and some new hikers.  Our next hike is scheduled for February 14th.  Maybe we'll have some snow by then.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

IT WORKS!! DeWalt Reciprocating Saw

Meet my new friend Walt - the DeWalt Reciprocating Saw.  Yesterday I was whining to my husband Terry that the stupid bow saw couldn't cut a 2" or 3" branch without binding no matter what I did. The wood was too old and wet. And I said, "With all the great new battery technology, isn't there something cordless that would work?" And he says, "Sure, I have a thing I got for free with the cordless drill kit I bought last year. You could try that." So I went back to a blowdown on the Paugussett I had been working on the other day. And it works! It's not as fast as a chainsaw, and it vibrates like a jack hammer, but it works! And I can stick it in my backpack as I go down the trail. Nice.



Friday, January 15, 2016

Paugussett Trail North - Let's Get Started!

Last November, Terry & Teresa (writing this) accepted the role of CFPA Trail Managers for the Paugussett Trail from Indian Well State Park to the Monroe border. Lynn Reid is the TM for the Paugussett south of Indian Well, and I sadly do not know who is currently the TM for the Monroe section. 

Not too bad...but this section will need a brush cutter soon.
We are making the most of the freakishly warm fall and winter so far, and getting things done. After reblazing and clearing the side-loop called Tahmore Trail, we are working on the main trail, starting at Indian Well and working our way north. 

The blazes are in good shape, but there are some blowdowns to attend to, like this one making the trail nearly impassible.  I did my best without the benefit of a chainsaw, using only loppers and a handsaw, which should have been sufficient but the handsaw kept binding terribly. 


It's not pretty, but you can get around it now. We'll tidy that up later. For right now, we just want to make sure hikers can get down the trail.  Today's goal was to make it to boundary line of Indian Well with Birchbank and post a Shelton Open Space marker, which I did. The DEEP conveniently marked the border with yellow paint.  

That entire stretch of the trail needs touching up. I give it a grade of "C". Passable and well-blazed, but there are stretches with thorny raspberries and barberry filling in that will need to be cut back. The woods is littered with blowdowns that had to be sawed up over the years. A section that crosses a stream is somewhat confusing and needs work as well.

Indian Well & Birchbank boundary line.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Shade Garden Bench Job - Part 2

Creating a bench for the shade garden presented some interesting challenges. The proposed site was at the edge of a depression, a possible hazard for someone leaning back too far, and it was not in an ideal location for enjoying the garden itself. So the Trails Committee set out to find suitable bench materials from nature's warehouse and come up with practical designs. Not far up the trail was a graveyard of fallen evergreens and cut logs.

Click on photos to enlarge

Jim and Bill measure a nice, straight log for cutting

Terrance and Jim use the Gator to haul tools to the work site, saving a lot of lugging

Jim cuts the big log
Meanwhile, Terrance practices splitting a log in half, just like the pioneers, except that they didn't have plastic wedges  

"I did it! And I only needed 8 wedges!"  
Bill supervises, while Jim, Bob, Joe and Richard attempt to roll the log. Apparently they don't see that a tree is in the way

The log is too big and too heavy to load on Rich's little truck, so Jim cuts it in half
Rich, Joe, Terrance, Bob, and Bill watch Jim cut away

Practice makes perfect. Terrance gets a clean split on a hardwood log

 Sandie, our Staff photographer, records the loading of the logs into Rich's truck

The logs will be brought to a log saw, where they will be sliced in halves to make the tops of 4 rustic benches, a nice addition to the new shade garden in the Spring

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Thanks to Shelton Parks & Rec Dept

Thanks to the Shelton Parks and Rec guys for replacing the rotting fence rails along the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path at Silent Waters.

The RecPath runs on top of two historic dams, which is good because it allows the City to provide a level, handicapped-accessible Path for the public to enjoy, but bad because of the drop off on the face of the the dams.  There is a split rail fence installed along the vertical face of the dams (there are 2) for Path user safety.  Unfortunately, in 2006 when the fence was installed we allowed the use of non-pressure treated timber rails in order to stretch the limited City funds (Shelton paid for most of this out of local taxes).  Live and Learn; sometimes the cheapest price isn't always the best.  The non-pressure treated pine rails started to rot after 6 years and the volunteers on the Trails Committee have been replacing them in segments where we can in small batches.  There were probably 50-70 rails (pressure-treated this time) replaced previously by volunteers.

This year the need to fix the fences outstripped our ability to replace the fence rails on the RecPath, and still do all the maintenance work required on the other trails in our system.  In November we were able to have the Conservation Commission buy a large number of rails (also pressure treated) and due to the mild winter the Shelton Parks and Recreation Department was able to replace a lot of rails at one shot with the Mayor's support.

Over 100 new rails were replaced this past December by Parks and Rec crews along the Shelton Lakes RecPath.  Thanks a lot guys, this is a huge and well-needed improvement.  There are still some more rails that need to be replaced, but the most critical spots have been fixed, and the public is continuing to enjoy one of the prettiest spots along the Shelton Lakes RecPath.

Helpful Trail Tip: Use pressure treated rails for your fencing.

Maintenance is never glamorous, or pretty, or makes the newspapers, but it is necessary.  Thanks to Ron, Dean, and the Parks guys for fixing the fence railings. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

What's in Your Go Bucket

We run a lot of trail work parties but had the annoying habit of forgetting to bring something important out into the field that we need (like gas for chain saws).  We also get volunteers, including some High School students getting in their community service hours who don't bring gloves or other gear, so we keep some spares.  In an attempt at organizational efficiency we decided to throw a bunch of stuff into a bucket and bring it with us just in case we needed something in the field.

Here's our Go-Bucket which we cleverly named for just "grab the bucket and go".  We have 2 of them for multiple work sites, and sometimes we even remember to bring them with us in the field.  Here's whats in Bucket #1 currently:

1            5 Gallon Bucket and Lid (Home Depot)
1            Bucket Boss liner sleeve with pockets
1            First Aid Kit
1            Permethrin 12 oz. spray bottle (put on clothes to kill ticks)
2 pks      Off towelettes
2 pks      Hot Hands
1 pr        Ear Muffs
2 bags    Foam Ear Plugs
2 pr        Safety Glasses
2 pr        Work Gloves (plus one extra right hand glove)
-             Garbage bags - large
-             Garbage bags - small
2.5 rolls Flagging
1            Notebook (Rite-in-the-Rain)
2            Sharpies
1            Lumber crayon
4-5         pencils
10          TrailCom Business Cards (mix of Rich's cards to hand out)
1            Topsaw chainsaw multi-tool
1            hammer
2 pr        pliers
1            knife
1 box     matches
1 bottle  2 cycle oil
50 ft      1/8" parachute cord
1 can     WD-40
1            bottle opener
1            volunteer RecPath hat

Here's all the junk laid out.  The 5 gallon pail and lid with the bucket sleeve is a handy way to carry this stuff.  Some things that we may want to add are benedryl (for bee stings), neosporin (minor cuts), laminated emergency contact phone number list, duct tape, small tape measure, clipboard and sign-in sheets, small flash light, tissues, and a couple of granola bars.  We can't get too much stuff or we'll need a Shetland Pony to pack it all in to the work sites.  We don't need to keep everything in the bucket because we have separate tool boxes in Gator, or with some of the power tools.  And generally we're not that far from a road or trailhead.

Most people bring their own gear to the work parties, but these odds and ends things can come in handy.  We don't guarantee that we always have everything, or that we even remember to bring the buckets out to every work party, but we try to Be Prepared.  We want all the trails events to be safe and enjoyable, where possible. Now where's that duct tape?

Now we just have to check the other bucket contents and maybe we'll find that missing glove.  What's in your Go-Bucket?

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Shade Garden Bench Job - Part 1

We're going to experiment with new ways to play with trees tomorrow, if it's not too cold, or icy, or rainy.  We're going to meet over by The Red Barn at 9:00 to see if we can help Mary King by making turning a snapped tree stump into a log, and then cut or split in in half into a bench for the Shade Garden near the Shelton Dog Park.  It should go something like this YouTube video:

Or possibly like this video, but we may have to work on our accents:

This is the spot near the Winterberry bush that Mary wants the bench.  We'll see how this goes tomorrow.

And another closer view of the Winterberry from this morning's work party.  Not only is it attractive, but it offers an important winter food source to wildlife.