Saturday, December 31, 2016

We Have a McLeod

The Shelton Trails Committee recently obtained a McLeod.

No,  no, not this McLeod.  Although a marshal with a horse might be helpful for keeping ATVs off trails.  We were looking for a more cutting edge McLeod.

No, not that McLeod either.  Even though the Highlander does have a cutting edge, that's not the one we're looking for.  There can be only one.

That's the beastie.  It's got big teeth on one side and large hoe-like blade on the other.  One's good for ripping up roots and duff and the others good for digging in sidehills (best in gravel) and smoothing out the tread.  It's mostly used out west to control forest fires, but we're trying it out in Shelton for trail construction.

It digs pretty good when benching into hillsides; like at the recent Bluff Walk Re-Route at Riverview Park.  It has trouble if there's too many roots or rocks, but it can be pretty handy in some situations.  It's kinda a super hoe/rake for the woods.  Maybe we'll get a chance to use it this Spring on some of the trail work parties.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Bluff Walk Baseball Bypass

Baseball Bypass (yellow). 
In our previous blog post, we showed how old the Bluff Walk is with a post card view from 1914, and mentioned that part of the path was buried under the two ballfields and the parking area for the basketball court.

Old route follows the back of this fence

When we set out to re-established the trail in the 1990's and mark it with white blazes, we weren't quite sure what to do when we got to that missing section, so we had the blazes directing people to walk directly behind the ballfield fences. It was never a good arrangement and the sunny route tended to become overgrown incredibly fast each summer. There's also lots and lots of poison ivy. 

Behind the War Memorial Building
Another issue was the staging area behind the War Memorial Building. Sometimes it was pretty clear, like in the above photo, but at other times there could be a huge pile of landscaping debris.

North end of the new bypass trail, looking South

So we set out to find a new way. In the photo above, looking south, the new route angles down the slope to the left. The former route simple followed the fence to the right.

The new trail, heading south
The new trail descends to a knoll with a seasonal view of the Shelton Canal. While working on the trail, a bald eagle glided over the length of the canal like an airliner coming in for a landing. 

Much of the trail needed benching 

Most of the new route had to be benched into the side of the slope. It's not a very long reroute, only about 500 feet, but it does re-establish more than half of the long-buried section of the Bluff Walk.

Continuing south, the trail rises to rejoin the original Bluff Walk 
We still have about 330 feet of lost trail, but there are no easy solutions for most of that. About 130 feet of that is hopeless due to the extremely steep slope and infestation of Japanese Knotweed, but the trail could be restored on either end if it's determined to be worth the effort.

1934 path routes shown on Google Earth
Where exactly did the old path used to go? There a series of aerials from 1934 that I was able to overlay perfectly onto Google Earth and trace the paths as new lines. After the 1934 aerial layer is turned off and the view tilted, we have the image above. The orange line is the heaviest path or drive. The yellow is the new reroute. The white lines are narrower paths, and match up with the existing Bluff Walk north of the basketball court.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Bluff Walk: Shelton's First Recreation Path

This post card was post marked 1914
The postcard above, titled "The Bluff Walk, Riverview Park, Shelton, Conn." is postmarked 1914 and captures a view from the south end of the park behind what is now the large ballfield. Shelton's first recreational path is now over 100 years old. It originally served the urban residents of downtown Shelton who worked in the factories that lined the lower part of the Shelton Canal.  In the postcard, you can clearly see the canal, river, dam, island, and train tracks (double tracks back then). The trees have been cut on the steep slope for a view, and there are sand slides going down the hill. The land for Riverview Park was donated to the City by the owners of the dam and canal.

Same view, 2016
Here's the view today. There are a lot of very young trees growing on the slope, so it looks like the vegetation was kept cut for a long time. The vegetation has helped to stabilize the slope, but ruined the view. The trail was forgotten for a time and parts were buried under the new ballfields and basketball parking lot. It was then 'rediscovered' in the 1990s, at which time an alderman for the ward asked the Trails Committee to adopt the trail and maintain it. White blazes now mark the route along the river bluff for a half mile from the playground to the Fort Hill marker overlooking the Boys and Girls Club.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tree Clearing at Pine Lake This Week

SAFETY NOTICE:  The City of Shelton Highways and Bridges Department is removing several large trees at the Pine Lake Entrance to the Recreation Path starting Wednesday this week.  The trees are actually growing on the dam for Pine Lake and need to be removed for dam safety reasons.

The trees slated to be removed are marked with yellow tape.  Avoid that portion of the Recreation Path from Wednesday to Friday due to construction activity.  The Pine Lake parking lot will be closed.

The reason to remove the trees growing on a dam is to prevent potential damage to the dam during a storm.  If the tree blows over the roots can pull out a big chunk of earth, which causes leakage and sudden erosion, which is not good for those downstream, which in this case is downtown Shelton.

We may even wind up loosing the big beech tree downstream of the dam, which would be a shame.