Saturday, March 26, 2016

It Was Walk Your Dog Day on the RecPath

It was a brisk, clear Saturday when we met at Wesley Drive today to begin the Spring Clean Up along the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path.  We warmed up though as we started working.  Apparently everyone else thought it was a great morning to get out too, and we had dozens of people passing us thanking us for our work; mountain bikers, strollers, joggers, but also a lot of dogs out walking their owners.  We had big dogs, small dogs, medium dogs, long dogs, you name it.  Including this puppy in the sweater:

She just didn't want to get her picture taken.  But her and her owner were having a good time out walking the RecPath.

We were working on the section from Huntington Woods going north toward the powerlines and Great Ledge.  We had 3 High School students getting in their community service hours.  Some of the tasks that we were doing were cutting back the brush on both sides of the RecPath so that when is starts to grow it won't encroach on the Path.

Terrance had Anthony, Luke, and Jimmy start off with brush cutting.

Jimmy, Anthony and Luke were cutting back the Sweet Pepperbush, Tulip saplings, briars and other assorted brush at Wesley Drive. It won't be long before everything starts leafing out and growing out into the Path.

Val and Rich were raking and leaf-blowing the Path ahead of the cutting crew.  Bill & Jim also took off with leaf blowers ahead and behind the work crews clearing off leaves from the side of the trail.  The leaves and brush had reduced our 8'to 10' wide path to about 5'.

 Val had the muscle job of lifting wet leaves fro the runoff ditches bordering the rec path.

Some of the Joggers thanked the cutting crew as they ran by, as did all the other Path users.  The cutting crew turned into the leaf raking and ditch clearing crew after a while.

A series of small culverts and drains under the path had to be cleared so they will drain properly and not erode the RecPath.  Maintenance is never as much fun as building a new trail but it has to be done.

Luke, Anthony, and Jimmy are working at Basil Brook when these residents came by.

Just two of many neighbors and friends out enjoying the open spaces.

The Shelton Highways and Bridges Department had recently rolled the new processed stone surface that was put down over the winter.   Thanks to the City crews for fitting that in before pothole season starts up.  The walking surface was really improved and we got a lot of favorable comments from all the RecPath users.

And thanks to all the volunteers who came out to help today including Val, Anthony, Luke, Jimmy, Bill, Jim, Rich and Terry.  Many hands makes light work.  See you on the Trails. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Marshmallow March 2016

This year's hike was a bit different than the previous treks through the snow. Mostly because there was no snow! But everyone seemed to enjoy the unusual late-winter warm spell and the opportunity to take a refreshing hike, culminating in a kid-friendly marshmallow roast by a campfire at the Boy Scout camp, sipping hot chocolate. We had a turnout of 44 adults and kids (and a few fur people) before the campfire was finally extinguished. This event was held at the Nicholdale Farm, a part of the Shelton Land Conservation Trust. Many thanks to Joe Welsh of the Trust for "loaning"  us the use of the farm and Scout camp. Check out the participants in the photos below:

Click on photos to enlarge
We started with this group, picked up a few strays along the way, and brought back most of them alive
Anxious to go!

Terrance leads the way

While the hikers make their way to the Scout camp, Jim and Richard prepare the campfire

The race is on to get to the marshmallows first!


At last, everyone has left, bits of burnt marshmallow embedded in their clothes, and Jim douses the campfire

A great day at Nicholdale Farm, as we look forward to next year's Marshmallow March!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Fox Hollow Trail

Until now, the upper Birchbank Trail in White Hills was readily accessible only by an uphill trek from Indian Well Road or Birchbank Road. The Shelton Trails Committee was approached with a request to advise and assist neighbors in the Little Fox Run Road community in creating an access trail from that street to the Birchbank Trail using an open space corridor between them.

Click on photos to enlarge

The developer had installed picturesque cut stone pillars and steps to head a trail that was never maintained. Over the years nature took over and the steps were overgrown
Before - It's difficult to see that this is the entrance to a trail

There is no discernible trail. Private property borders this corridor

 A work party consisting of Shelton Trail Committee members, volunteers, and neighbors gathered to initiate this project
We also had two Shelton High students helping out as part of their Community Service requirements

The group split up into separate teams, the lucky ones with leaf blowers...

....others with rakes and loppers

The most noticeable difference was in the entrance. Heavy brush, weeds, and an accumulation of leaves were removed to reveal a wonderfully crafted staircase

After - Quite a difference!

It's easy now to find the trail without crossing private property
Michael, Joseph, Jimmy, Bill (still working), Sheri, and Karen survived to fight another day!

Thanks to everyone who participated in making this a successful project..... Volunteers Jimmy, Joseph and dad Michael, Valerie, Alison, Carol, Harry, and Stewart and Karen (who initiated this project). Carrying the whips and wasting time taking photos were Shelton Trails Committee members Bill, Terrance, Sheri, Bob, Jim, and Richard. Join us in the future for a morning of healthy fun creating and upgrading our Shelton Trails!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Old Kings Highway Open Space

Old Kings Highway Open Space - top of the falls
For a few decades now, the Old Kings Highway open space property has been quietly biding its time, waiting for the  Paugussett Trail to return. Hikers used to follow the blue blazes through here as they headed south towards Roosevelt Forest in Stratford, or north into Monroe.  That all ended in the late 1960s when the trail was cut off, but the goal has always been to bring the trail back to this very spot, Old Kings Highway, and from here continue on to the Stratford border.  

Old Kings Highway Open Space - A special place
Public access has been limited to this open space because there's no place to build a public parking lot. The public can, and do, walk up Old Kings Highway from Buddington Road and Mill Street, but it's generally people who live in the neighborhood. Although there is an existing band of open space on the maps that connects Old Kings Highway to Buddington Road at the powerlines, it's all swamp. 

Meanwhile, the Paugussett Trail has been restored from Indian Well to Buddington Road, but has had to come to a stop as we waited for the next property along the route to be developed. It's a big one. A full 121 acres, zoned light industrial, along Bridgeport Avenue, right off a highway exit. It's just a matter of time before someone wants to build something big in there.  

Fresh survey pin
Not much time, as it turns out. The property has been recently surveyed in preparation for the big application, which will be submitted this month.  

Existing Old Kings Highway Open Space (green) and proposed trail route
In terms of the long-planned Paugussett Trail, this could be really good or really bad, depending on what is ultimately approved.  We are hoping for a viable greenway corridor for the trail using the ridgeline to shelter the trail corridor from new construction. That would allow us to extend the trail all the way to Bridgeport Avenue and oh so close to the Stratford border and the beautiful Far Mill River Park. On the other hand, if the trail gets dumped into a little band of trees at the base of new buildings and parking lots, that will end decades of hard work and planning. Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trails are expected to be scenic, and an extended stretch of roads and buildings will make it not worth hiking. End of trail. 

Let's be positive today and imagine the first option. The trail would cross Buddington Road and head south to the 16-acre Old Kings Highway Open Space, where the original trail used to be. As hikers approach the open space, they would first come to Old Kings Highway, an old colonial roadbed lined with stone walls.

Old Kings Highway (between the walls)
 The trail would probably cross the road and wander along a stream that plunges down the hill in a series of small waterfalls.  The sound of running water is all you hear. There are no buildings. Just trees and rocks and the trail and the waterfalls ..

The trail would link up with an old woods road that crosses the site (the old Paugussett Trail?), and eventually circle back and cross Old Kings Highway again before heading towards Mill Street and Bridgeport Avenue.  

Old roadbed that crosses the open space.