Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Restorative Powers of Forest Bathing

Trails Committee chairperson Bill Dyer penned this interesting article on the health benefits of forest bathing, a Japanese practice that combines nature walks and mindfulness. Explore some of Shelton’s many acres of open space and give it a try!

Shelton Trails Network is a fine place to practice Forest Bathing – a retreat to nature that can boost your immune system and mood. You do not need a bathing suit and you do not get in water. The aim of forest bathing is to slow down and become immersed in the natural environment. It differs from a hike in that you meander along forest trails with no particular destination in mind. All the senses are used: smells, textures, tastes, sounds and sights of the forest.

The practice began in Japan in the early 1990s when the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined the term Shinrin-yoku, which translates roughly as forest bathing. Medical researchers in Japan have found that the forest environment led to a significant reduction in blood pressure and certain stress hormones, while improving energy level, mood and sleep quality.

It is not a surprise that researchers were able to document a decrease in blood pressure compared to a similar length city walk. As people begin to relax, parasympathetic nerve activity increases, which lead to a drop in blood pressure.

Another factor researchers have found is that the release by trees of compounds, known as phytoncides, reduce concentrations of stress hormones and enhance the activity of white blood cells that protect the body against infectious diseases. There is no question that stress takes a terrible toll in the United States – a 2015 study found work-related stress accounts for up to $190 billion in health care costs.

Go for a walk on the many Shelton trails that pass through the woods; walk slowly; breathe deeply; open all your senses. This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku forest therapy, the medicine of simply being in the forest.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Beautiful Fall Day on The Shelton Lakes RecPath

It was a beautiful Fall Saturday on the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path.  The sun was shining brightly thru the leaves.  It was a little chilly to start but we warmed up with a little trail work.

Here's the sun coming through the beech trees at Lizard Head Rock off Wesley Drive.

Jim, Michael, and David were working along Lane Street.  We had multiple groups working from Lane St. to Oak Valley Road cutting grass, spraying, mowing, unclogging drainage pipes, and cutting brush.  The storms earlier in the week caused some wash-outs and Bill will be working with Parks & Rec to try to get that fixed.  In the meantime watch your footing in a couple of spots.

Michael was raking leaves to clean out some of the turns, while Paul and David were clearing out brush along the lower Wesley Drive Crossings.

A lot of people were taking advantage of the weather to go biking, running, walking, and dog walking.  There were a lot of hellos and thank yous.

The little American Chestnut tree before Wesley Drive looked good in the fall colors.

The Maple Leafed Viburnum was turning scarlet and showing off its black berries.

The Winterberry in Spooner Swamp near Great Ledge was also bright red.

Val & Sheri were cutting back brush along Great Ledge near Oak Valley Road.  It had gotten pretty thick in there this summer.  Jim mowed sections of the RecPath from Great Ledge to Lane Street and back.  Hopefully things will stop growing soon.

David & Jim weedwacking and mowing along the RecPath.  It felt like we got a lot of things done with a good crew.  Thanks to Paul, David, Mike, Jim, Val, Sheri, Bill & Terry

So enjoy the RecPath during the rest of the Fall.  Don't forget to finish your lollipop hikes, and join us for the Full Moon Night Hike next week.  

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Paugussett Bypass at Wiacek

We met on a surprisingly muggy Saturday to finish clearing along the Paugussett Bypass at the Wiacek Open Space.  The Bypass had been cleared as earlier work parties and an Eagle Scout project earlier in the year, but like everywhere else had grown back, especially at the powerline crossing.  One of the goals was to clear enough to see if we could get the DR Mower thru for maintenance mowing.

Starting at Constitution Blvd. N. we dove into the barberry thickets cleared by the scouts.  Val, Jim, and Paul cut, whittled, and dug out various saplings, shoots and clumps to make the trail and tread more passable.

One of the challenges is the thick barberry grows in clumps, and the sections that stuck up were tripping hazards.  So we tried using the Pullerbear weed wrench to remove the clumps.

The weed wrench is a heavy steel bar with a jaw and fulcrum welded at the bottom.  In theory, you clamp the jaws on the stem of what you want to pull out and then push down on the handle.  In this case, because the barberry was cut low it was tough to get a good bite with the jaws without tearing the root ball up.  Progress was slow.

After pulling most of the roots out we tried burning the rest with a weed torch.

Careful not to let the fire spread to the leaves, the torch seemed to work well.  Most invasive species require multiple treatments, and barberry is susceptible to burning.  Should bring a fire extinguisher or water bucket next time, don't want to start any California-scale brush fires.

Above is a section of the trail after pulling and burning.  It's slow progress.  Need to have teams of 2-3 people digging, pulling and burning next time.  If we can get one person to loosen the root clump with a mattock, the another to rip it out with the Pullerbear, then somebody to burn the remaining roots, I think it would be more productive.

But we got out and made some progress.  Thanks to Paul, Val, Jim & Terry for helping out.  And thanks to Royal Bakery for the great doughnuts; a weekend special.

The next work party is at Lane Street in a week or so - check the work party page for further details.  Come out and enjoy the Hawley Meadow along Means Brook in Huntington Center.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Dog Paw Path Blowdown is Down

Saturday morning was a good time to clear up that large oak tree that had recently blown down across the Dog Paw Path.  The clearing near the Dog Park was a little tricky due to some large branches hung up overhead.  Potentially a bad thing if they fell on you while cutting below them.

A couple of us had looked at that earlier and said "Yup, that's a job for more than one person", and walked away.  Where's Rich when you need him.

So today Jim & I attacked it by whittling away the smaller sections across the trail.  That still left some hung up branches.  But with a rope, climbing up onto some of the trees, a handsaw, an axe, wedges, a lot of tugging and leverage, we encouraged the biggest pieces to come down and rest on earth where they couldn't hurt anyone.  Then we finished clearing the worst parts of blowdown.

Near the end I nicked the chainsaw on some rocks which reduced it's cutting efficiency greatly.  We may go back to clear up the rest of it after sharpening the saw.  In the meantime enjoy using the Dog Paw Path.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

We Gotta Up Our Game (Mapboxes and Kiosks)

On a recent vacation in New Hampshire we saw some interesting examples of map boxes and kiosks.

Here's the Fox Map Box at Gap Mountain in New Hampshire with the beautiful painted fox pictures decorating portions of the kiosk.  Interestingly, this Live Free or Die State wants money to walk in the park, which our City does not.  Maybe we should set up some easy system where people could donate to trails and open space if they choose to, but for now everyone is welcome to enjoy our open space for free in Shelton.
Here's the kiosk at the Gap Mtn. N. Access Trail with the cool map box.  One interesting aspect of the kiosks is that they assign a street address to the kiosks for 911 Emergency Address purposes.  This allows someone in the woods to call in a situation to 911 with a defined street address for quick emergency response.

Here's a detailed note at another kiosk.  So that if you broke your leg and had to call for help you could let the Fire Department know where you were.

This is the sign out by the road to assist the public with the street address for the kiosk and trailhead parking.  Many of the trail parking areas are set back off the road a short ways and may be away from nearby house mailboxes, so giving the trailhead a distinct street address helps first responders.

Here's a very basic map box at one trailhead kiosk.

Nothing too fancy, but durable and practical.

Here's the trailhead kiosk; maps, rules, contact us info.

Here's another really cool map box at Rhododendron State Park.  Someone up there has a lot of artistic talent.  We thought that we had some interesting folk art along our trails, but we may need to up our game.