Sunday, December 30, 2018

Fixing Flooding

We had a lot of local street flooding a week ago Friday, which caused some washouts on some of the trails.  Some of the worst were along the Recreation Path near the Dog Park at Nells Rock Road.  And then it rained all day this past Friday when one of the volunteers checked out runoff issues with a member of the Parks Department.  So yesterday some of the Trails Committee and volunteers fixed some of the worst washouts along the RecPath.

Bill & Jim dug out the drainage ditch on the uphill side of the RecPath just above the Nells Rock Rd. parking lot.  The water from the hillside jumped out of the ditches capacity and scoured out the side of the RecPath.

Meanwhile, Mark and Jose used the Gator to ferry loads of crushed stone to fill in the wash outs where runoff from the Dog Park parking lot washed thru the big flower bed and eroded the RecPath.

Terry & Bill shoveled up washed out material from elsewhere and filled in the worst holes so nobody would trip.  Some more permanent drainage solutions are in order, but the most serious issues were fixed by volunteers yesterday.  There were a lot of folks out walking and running the RecPath in the unseasonably warm weather.  We got a number of thank yous from people going by.  Everyone should be aware if changing trail conditions and storm damage as they are enjoying the open spaces. 

Have you ever wondered about what being a on town committee in Shelton entails?  How glamorous and exciting is it?  Well here's Bill Dyer, Chairman of the Shelton Trails Committee fixing erosion on the RecPath over the Christmas Vacation.  I don't know if other City committee members actually have to fix the infrastructure they oversee, but the Trails Committee does.  And we're always grateful for the volunteers that have helped out.  Thanks to Jose, Mark, Jim, Bill & Terry for today's repairs.  Have a Happy New Year on the trails.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Gristmill Trail is Clear

Gristmill Trail on Mill Street is a short level walk along the Far Mill River.  Even in winter it's very picturesque.

The Far Mill River flowing over the old mill dam is a great feature along the trail.  This park is one of the reasons that Mill Street is one of Shelton's Designated Scenic Roads.  If you're work or live near Bridgeport Avenue it makes for a surprisingly peaceful visit for a short walk or lunch outing.

The mostly level trail lies within the floodplain along the Far Mill River.  Open space and trails are good uses for a floodplain.  The land acts as a sponge to absorb some of the impact during floods, and no ones home or business gets damaged.  The property is nice and level, with good footing and some occasional trees that you had to step around.  But when we get a series of floods like we had during this year the river gets it into it's head to start wandering and rearranging things a bit.

One area that was a problem was a growing log jam across a portion of the trail that was causing the water to back up and erode a nice quality stone tread section that someone had built.  Water would swirl around the jam, overtop the bank and threatened to wash out the stones.

A little chainsaw work this past week cleared up most of that problem and re-opened the trail for the public.

Other blow downs and hanging trees were also cleared along the trail.

Over New Years we has some more flooding, but this time the water could pass around the side of the stone steps without as much erosion.

And here's a better view of the trail during a flood.  Normally the water isn't this high, but you have to plan for those things.  The stonework does a great job holding the trail tread in place.

There are other sections of the trail that still need work; clipping, raking, filling in holes, but it's much better now than it was.  So take advantage and go exploring the Far Mill River in 2019.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

New Paugussett Trail Manager

Photo of Polly stolen from CFPA's Facebook Page
We're delighted to welcome Polly Buckley, the new
 CFPA Trail Manager for the South section of the Paugussett Trail. Her section starts near at Indian Well State Park and extends south all the way through Shelton Lakes to Buddington Road. It's the section that was created by the Trails Committee a few years back. 

Polly has been active with CFPA since 1989 and brings a wealth of experience to Shelton. She's an experienced Trail Manager, having filled the role for the Quinnipiac Trail, the Naugatuck Trail, the Iron Trail, and the Hatchery Brook Loop Trail. 

Several stretches of the Paugussett Trail run through open wet areas that are quickly overgrown in early summer, so when CFPA accepted this new section of trail, it was with the understanding that the Trails Committee would continue to work on keeping these difficult areas clear. Stretches under the powerlines, for example, are routinely mowed and cut back by Trails Committee crews. And work parties held in the Shelton Lakes area lead to parts of the trail getting cleared out.. 

But the less-traveled sections of the Paugussett tended to be overlooked each summer while the Trails Committee prioritized busier trails like the Rec Path and Turkey Trot Trail during the growing season.  Eventually the trail would get cleared out, but for a time it could get really overgrown. Having a designated CFPA Trail Manager means that someone will be looking out for the entire trail. 

CFPA manages about 825 miles of CT Blue-Blazed Trails, so they have adopted a system of volunteer Trail Manager for each trail or section of trail.  The Paugussett Trail has three sections for maintenance purposes, each with a designated CFPA Trail Manager: 

Monroe section: Bob Blackwell
Shelton North (Monroe border to Indian Well and Tahmore Trail): Teresa & Terry Gallagher
Shelton South (Indian Well falls parking to Buddington Road): Polly Buckley

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

2018 Paugussett Trail Tweaks: A Summary

Improvements to the Paugussett Trail "Shelton North" section continued in 2018. As a reminder, in 2016, the trail was reroute through Birchbank so that hikers would come to a newly cleared overlook of the Housatonic River and then descend to the Birchbank chimney. In 2017, a major reroute at Indian Well was undertaken, the overlook was cleared, and the beach access trail gained over 50 new steps. 

In 2018, there were no major reroutes. Instead, there were a series of incremental trail improvements between the Monroe border and the beach at Indian Well. Here's a summary: 

1. The Poet Path section between Princess Wenonah Drive and Thorea Drive was greatly improved in early spring. Crews dug the existing trail into the side of the hill so it would a more pleasant walk. The steep climb up the hill from Princess Wenonah Drive was made much easier with some route tweaking and steps. Finally, five painted slates were added that depicted famous poets.

2. The south side of Birchbank has the most difficult footing of the entire trail in Shelton. One section that descended steeply loose rocks and then ascended back up was replaced by a new section that was cut into the side of the hill. It's still very rocky, but the footing is much more stable.  There were a few other tweaks in this area. A short switchbank was added near the overlook due to a steep section of trail, and another switchbank added near the "caves." The switchbacks make it  much easier to descend when conditions are slick.

3. The section between Thoreau Drive and the Monroe border (Webb Mtn) was staked out by a surveyor. Once the narrow twenty-foot open space corridor between houses was staked, we were able to adjust the trail accordingly and add a split rail fence to help delineate the public corridor. Next, the steep rotting steps leading towards Round Hill Brook were bypassed with a switchback leading to a new brook crossing location. The old crossing had become washed out and very difficult (and at times impossible) to cross.

4. About 300 feet of trail was shifted just north of the pedestrian bridge at Indian Well due to severe erosion issues associated with the stream. The existing trail was very steep and an advancing 15-foot-deep gully appeared next to the trail. The new trail route is a good one, though it passes through thick barberry.

5. Another 300 feet of trail was shifted at Indian Well between "Blowdown Brook" and "Hickory Hill." The trail (old road?)  there had descended straight down a long slope and was eroded in places, making the footing difficult. The new route curves up the hill, allowing rainwater to escape the trail. Some side-hilling was required. The footing is much easier now, especially going down hill.

6. And yet another 300 feet or so of trail was reroute near the top of Hickory Hill. This is where the river slope steepens and the trail starts to get very close to some houses on Hickory Hill Lane. A huge tree had fallen across the trail a few years back and was across the trail at chest height. The tree was not something we could cut, so the trail had been reroute around the tree at the stump end, close to  houses. It appeared the reroute might be on private property, though. The trail was then rerouted down the hill through the other end of the tree, about 100 feet down the hill (it was a big tree). This gives the trail a lot more privacy. Here are some photos:


Within the past three years, the Paugussett has gotten a lot of attention! Hope it's a better hiking experience for all. What's next?

Turkey Trot Trail Tweak

The new route is up out of the mud
Trails Committee member Mark Vollaro recently carved out a new route for Turkey Trot Trail that bypasses a low muddy area. This is near the intersection of Shelton Ave and Willoughby Road (there is an unfortunate amount of road litter in this area). The new section is about a hundred feet long and seems much drier. Enjoy!


Growing Gully Threatens Paugussett Trail at Indian Well

This gully keeps advancing up hill
The Paugussett Trail crosses a tiny stream at Indian Well State Park that has managed to create a rather large gully. Canyon might be a better word. It swallows large trees. It's might be thirty feet deep in places and far too wide for a pedestrian bridge. The unstable sides of the sandy gully are impossible to walk up or down. In other words, it's not something a trail can get across.

Overview: Stream erosion from Tahmore Place and gully advancement up the hill
The Paugussett doesn't need to cross the gully just yet, but the gully head is advancing up the hill and is now within fifty feet of the bridge. Based on the location of a previous trail route, it can be inferred that the crossing used to be about 100 feet downstream, but was moved up the hill to escape the growing chasm. No idea when that was. The northern approach to the bridge needed to be rerouted in 2018 because a fifteen-foot drop at the head of the gully was too close to the trail. The trail was one large storm away from collapsing into the gully. The original southern approach was apparently abandoned some years ago, but can still be seen on the LIDAR aerials. The current southern approach is in jeopardy as well, but there is not an easy reroute due to the topography.

The head of the gully is now near the property line between Indian Well State Park and the Shelton Land Conservation Trust (the red line in the aerial below). The bridge is on Land Trust property. 

Add caption
Why is this stream eroding so badly? Obviously it's a steep, sandy hill, so it's highly prone to erosion, but compared to the many other small streams descending the river bank, this one seems to be suddenly eroding at a very fast pace. The most likely explanation is that the stream handles too much stormwater runoff from subdivisions built on top of the river bank. All the water from streets, roofs, and driveways goes right down the stream whenever there's a storm.  The hillside consists mostly of sand that was at the bottom of a glacial pond. It's not the normal Connecticut glacial till. The consistency is closer to sugar, and it washes out badly during big storms.

Head of the gully, where a waterfall drops about 15 feet into a narrow trench
The head of the gully is only about five feet wide, but it's maybe fifteen feet deep. It's a narrow trench.  A waterfall plunges down the face of the trench, and undermines the sandy bottom. Eventually the walls of the trench collapse and the gully advances up the hill and widens. 

Where does all the washed out sand go? A lot of it piles up on Indian Well Road. Here's a photo of the gully taken in 2007 from Indian Well Road right after a major storm:

Bottom of the gully at Indian Well Road

And here is some of the sand that had to be scraped off of the road with backhoes:

Sand scraped off of the road
That's a lot of sand. Some of it is presumably making its way into Lake Housatonic, where it would be filling in the lake created by the Derby-Shelton dam. At some point after the 2007 storm, some check dams were installed at the foot of the gully to stop sand from washing onto the road, but they don't stop the gully from advancing up the hill. 

Check dams near Indian Well Road in 2018
So the gully just keeps on growing, getting wider, deeper, and heading up the hillside. 

It's just a matter of time before it reaches the Paugussett Bridge. And then what? Assuming no action is taken to stabilize the slope, we'll need to move the bridge up the hill again. And over time we'll need to do it again and again, and the trail route will need to go up the hill closer to the houses. Eventually the gully will either hit bedrock (hopefully) and stop growing, or it will go all the way up to the houses on the hill, at which point it's not clear how the Paugussett will get across.

Paugussett Bridge

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Brush Cutting at Great Ledge

There are never enough hours in the day to cut all the brush along Shelton Trails during the growing season.  Last year was tough with all the multiple Nor'easters, storm damage repairs, and brush clearing. There was explosive growth particularly in the sunny wet spots.

There are spots where we get these walls of brush growing into the trails during Spring and early summer and they can restrict the trail width while we are working on other problem areas.  It seemed like we were always behind the Eight Ball trying to play catch up with the brush. 

But not this year.

On Saturday, 10 volunteers staged a preemptive strike to cutback the briars and brush along the RecPath near Great Ledge just south of Oak Valley Road.  The area is open and sunny next to Spooner Swamp and the brush has been gradually growing in tighter along the RecPath.  We've cut it every year, but usually it's later in the season after all the other crisis' have been dealt with and the brush is growing into the RecPath.

We spread out and cut back the briars at least 2 feet back from the edge of the crushed stone surface, and tried to go further for anything with thorns or aggressive growth.  We also tried to clear out invasive species, but left slower growing native species; like Mountain Laurel.

Some cut hi, some cut low, some by hand, some using power tools.    We also cleared out clogged drainage pipes, raked leaves (where they weren't frozen in place), and cleared out debris.  It was great having a good sized crew.

The RecPath looked better after we were done.  There were a number of folks out enjoying the trails on a cold December morning.  Hopefully this pre-growing season cutting makes the RecPath a little nicer to use now, and it should make things more comfortable come Spring when everything leafs out.

 After.  We hope to do this type of treatment elsewhere along the trails during the coming winter months, weather permitting.  Thanks to Jose, Marc, Joe, John, Val, Jim, Bill, Mark, Mike and Terry

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Fun with Lidar Maps

Birchbank Mountain
Here are some fun LIDAR maps courtesy of the City's GIS mapping system. They show both "hill shade" and false colors that correlate to the elevations. LIDAR penetrates tree cover to show you what the ground looks like. The first map is Birchbank Mountain. At the base of the slope along the Housatonic River you can see the oval groundwater recharge ponds owned by the Aquarion Water Company.  The white dashed line is Birchbank Trail, a moderate "lollipop loop" trail that does a circle around Upper White Hills Brook. The blue trail is the Paugussett "Blue Dot" Trail, which follows the riverbank just below the top. The aqua colored trail on the map is the blue/white connector.

Willis Woods and Nicholdale Farm
The second map shows the trails at Nicholdale Farm and Willis Woods on either side of Leavenworth Road (Rt 110). The trails are generally on the lowlands near Means Brook. Only the red-blazed Willis Trail has any real elevation to it. The swamp and stream crossed by Stockmal Trail are pretty obvious, and the trail ends abruptly at Means Brook (someday we hope for a bridge to cross to open space on the other side).

Rec Path from Huntington Center to Oak Valley Road
Lastly we have the Rec Path from Huntington Center to Wesley Drive and Oak Valley Road. It's a little hard to see on the map (click the map to enlarge). Anyone who has tried to bike this route comes to realize pretty quickly just how much of a hole Huntington Center is in, because it's all up hill until you reach the upper Wesley Drive crossing. This map also shows the ledges of the Nells Rock area (originally called "Knell's Rocks", probably as a joke Mr. Knell had to endure). These are mostly in white on the map. The ledge/swamp/ledge/swamp terrain of this area is why it was little farmed or settled and is now open space. The Paugussett Trail is also shown on the map as it heads north from Buddington Road.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Great Turnout for the Turkey Trot Hike

The warm, sunny weather brought quite a turnout for today's hike on the Turkey Trot Trail -- 42 people, 2 dogs, no turkeys. We enjoyed a leisurely walk and dodged a few mud puddles from last night's heavy rain. A good time was had by all! Thanks to all who participated.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Paugussett Reroute at Indian Well: Blowdown Brook to Hickory Hill

"Before" (looking northbound)
A short but annoying stretch of the Paugussett has been bypassed with a reroute at Indian Well. This section was part of a long, straight walk up a moderately steep slope as the trail climbed up "Hickory Hill" (the hill on which Hickory Lane is located). Because of the long hill, there was a lot of erosion, and a gully about a foot deep had formed in the worst section. At the bottom of the gully was a pile of leaves and of course some random cobbles and sticks under the leaves that could turn an ankle. So you had to go really slow and watch your step. It was just steep enough that a group of hikers in light snow couldn't make it up the hill and were forced to turn back.

"After" (looking southbound)
The reroute curves back and forth along the slope, roughly parallel with the old section. Some parts had to be side-hilled. The new section is less steep, and the curves allow water to drain from the tread before getting up too much speed and washing out the trail. Hiking down the hill is a lot more pleasant now!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Indian Well Reroute at Bridge

Trail reroute due to an advancing giant gully

CFPA Trail Managers Terry & Teresa Gallagher completed a 300-ft reroute of the Paugussett Trail at Indian Well State Park next to the pedestrian bridge near the beach area. The original trail was pretty steep, but a more serious problem was an advancing gully beside the trail that is 15 to 30 feet deep . The gully threatened to undermine the existing route. The old route descended along the stream, while the new route moves away from the stream quickly.

"Before". Lots of barberry
It probably wasn't done before because of all the thorny barberry. A gas-powered brush cutter really helped.

We'll have to stay on top of the resprouting barberry during the 2019 growing season. We were able to dig some of it out, and will probably dig out more.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Paugussett Work Party Thoreau Drive

Terry Gallagher and crew install the second fence
The Trails Committee and volunteers worked on the Paugussett Trail north of Thoreau Drive where the trail slips through a twenty-foot-wide open space corridor between houses. The trail was shifted earlier this year after we had the property surveyed and discovered part of the trail was on private property.

Mark Vollaro and Jim Taradine work on the first section of fencing
 After the subdivision was constructed, no one really knew exactly where the open space boundaries were located. Trail managers took a guess and neighbors just mowed whatever the developer had cleared. Once the property line was established, we were able to move the trail to the best location based on the topography. This lead to neighbor concerns that hikers might leave the trail, so a fence needed to be installed in two locations.
John Giliotti attack some rock in the treadway
The new trail tread was also uneven, so volunteers worked at hacking out some ledge and leveling things off.  

Mark Vollaro, Jim Taradine, Luis Isaza, and Val Gosset work on the 2nd fence
Two fences were installed, one with two sections and the other with four sections. Hikers should feel more comfortable in knowing the location of boundaries of the public property on which they walk.

The new fence helps delineate the trail
The opposite side of the twenty-foot open space corridor was previously delineated with some new plantings, allowing room for the new shrubs and trees to grow. It's hoped that the corridor will re-vegetate over the next several years, providing a better hiking experience.  

Paugussett Trail Manager Terry Gallagher is happy with how everything turned out

Friday, November 9, 2018

Paugussett Reroute at the Monroe Border

"After" - Reroute at the top of the obsolete stairs
A long set of steep stairs have been rotting near the Monroe border. New steps are a lot of work, and expensive, too. Purchasing, cutting, and hauling new timbers and stakes is a big job, and that's just the beginning. And then the steps have to keep getting replaced every ten years or so.

"Before" - Top of the rotting stairs
This year, a bypass route was dug into the side of the steep hill, made possible in part by a recent land survey. The stairs were replaced by a switchback that takes hikers directly to the bottom of the hill.
New switchback helps replace the stairs
It was a lot of digging in, but not much more work than replacing the stairs, and it's definitely less work in the long run.

Lower leg of the switchback
Even so, it was a lot of muddy work. Lots of rain this season.

Trail had to be dug into the side of the hill during some wet weather
The crossing location for Round Hill Brook was also moved, so instead of continuing downhill along the brook, crossing into Monroe, and then following the brook back up the hill, the trail crosses immediately into Webb Mountain Park. The new crossing location is immediately below the old stairs.

Round Hill Brook and the Shelton-Monroe town line at Webb Mtn Park
The old stream crossing had become very difficult. Maybe it was once easier with stepping stones, but those stones washed out. The new location is much easier to cross, even when the water is a bit high.

Joining the old route at Webb Mtn Park
Once across the stream, it's only a few feet of new trail in Monroe before the old Paugussett route is rejoined.

The old Paugussett Route was converted to blue/red at Webb Mtn. 

The abandoned Paugussett route in Monroe was reblazed to blue/red, since people definitely walk this old road along the brook. It leads to the orange and red trails near the camping area (the red trail leading to Goat Rock overlook). The blue/red blaze signifies a trail connecting the blue and red trails. Previously, a portion of this route was unblazed and a bit confusing.