Monday, June 28, 2021

Birchbank Invasives

Trillium, Bloodroot, and Bladdernut (a stunted shrub)

What's going on at the beginning of Birchbank Trail?  Invasive species removal. Why? Because Birchbank Mountain has some really distinctive growing conditions and native plants that we don't usually see in this part of the state. That includes all the spring wildflowers like Dutchman's Breeches, Trillium, and Bloodroot. But that's just the start. Basswood, Catalpa, Elm, and Sugar Maple are classic for this "Rich Mesic" forest type with sweet and rich loam, so different from the acidic glacial till we usually deal with (there were a lot of ash, too, but they've all died). Water seeps out of the base of the river slope, but drains easily through the loam.  Shrubs include Bladdernut heavily stunted by deer. Bladdernut and Basswood are considered classic for this type of forest. Maidenhair Fern, Green Dragon, Wild Cucumber, and Doll's Eye Baneberry can be found here as well. 

This used to be a Burning Bush the size of a small tree

Several years ago, the Birchbank trailhead would become impassible each summer due to a patch of invasive Japanese Knotweed that was 350 feet long. A brush cutter had be used every year to cut down the Knotweed forest and allow hikers in. What a nightmare that plant is. So a lot of effort has gone into removing the Knotweed over the years, and it's over 99% gone. Sprigs keep coming up here and there, so it's important to stay on top of it. In doing so, it's become sadly obvious that the native plants are under siege from all the usually invasive species that are such a problem around the state, as well as deer overbrowsing. 

Doll's Eyes Baneberry

One thing that became very apparently this year is how the thriving native plants inside the first deer exclosure have been doing a fantastic job of outcompeting the invasive plants. Outside the deer exclosure, the invasives would get pulled and the deer would then come by and eat all the native plants. And then there would be nothing, and the next year the invasive would come right back to fill in the gap. So this year, the area is also getting some deer repellent to help fight the invasives.

Basswood and Catalpa

Previously, invasive species removal has been somewhat random as time allowed (other than staying on top of the Japanese Knotweed, the priority). This year, things are more methodical. After pulling out a mountain of garlic mustard that had gone to seed, the goal is to start at the trailhead and work gradually down the trail, pulling every invasive along the way on the left side of the trail and up the hill about 100 feet (beyond that there are not many invasives).  This includes some Burning Bush and Japanese Barberry, which open up the hillside quite a bit in places. Both can be uprooted surprisingly easily, although it's hard work. The larger Burning Bush shrubs need to be sawed off and herbicide painted onto the stump to keep them from reprouting. After a section of the left side of the trail is done (marked with stakes), the right side will be worked on. As of today, the stake is about 100 feet down the trail. 

Wild Cucumber (with Virginia Creeper)

Other invasives getting removed include Bittersweet vines, mugwort, multiflora rose, wineberry, and first year garlic mustard. 

If this is something that interests you and you're willing to help out, please shoot an email to Teresa at 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

June Cutting at Lane Street

It's June, so it's time to do some cutting along the RecPath at Lane Street.  The stretch along the Land Trust Meadow is one of the most scenic areas of the RecPath, but it also grows like crazy in early summer.  We're also entering a early Hot & Sticky spell in the weather, so we've got that going for us.

Fortunately, we had a good turn out of volunteers, so we got everything done before it got silly hot.

Helpful Trail Tip: Bring lots of water to drink on these work parties, and don't leave your canteen in the car.  Bring it with you too.

The RecPath follows the edges of the meadows with the Means Brook floodplain on the other side.  It's a prime area for robust edge growth.  The hay and thorns starting to encroach on the RecPath were trimmed.  Some invasive species were removed, and sightlines improved going around some of the curves.

The raspberries and other plants were in full bloom.  One of the benefits of coming to this work party were the trailside snacks.

Mike & Terry also fixed holes in the decking on the boardwalk.  Some of the screws were reluctant to come out, but luckily Terry had his tool kit in his car.  

Mike let Terry try to fit all the parts back into the tool case.  Maybe we'll get him a Rubik's Cube for next time; it might be an easier puzzle to solve.  

The boardwalk looked good by the end.  There's some great viburnums and shrubs flowering along both sides, and unless you like wading deep into swamps this is one of the easiest places to see these plants.

 There was a nice patch of Mayapple at the end of the boardwalk.

The meadow hasn't been mowed this year and there is a mix of meadow grasses and wildflowers that are attracting a lot of butterflies and birds.  It doesn't show in the photos, but if you walk along the RecPath and stop to look from time to time you'll see a lot of activity in a very pretty meadow.

There were a lot of folks out enjoying the RecPath.  We'd like to thank the neighbor who offered to get us doughnuts at Royal Bakery.  We'll take you up on that next time.  Thanks to everyone who came out to help:  Matt, Terry, Bill, Luis, Graham, Mike, Terry & Mark.  It definitely helps to have a lot of hands on a job like this.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Great Views at Great Ledge

On a drizzly Saturday morning 11 volunteers cut and trimmed brush along the RecPath at Great Ledge, while enjoying some great scenery.

The section known as Great Ledge is south of Oak Valley Road and crosses some of the powerlines along Spooner's Swamp.  The combination of wetlands and open sunlight make for some rapid growth out into the RecPath and this is always a section that needs attention.

On the plus side it's really scenic working along all the flowering shrubs.  There's various viburnums, Highbush blueberry, Mountain Laurel, Sweet pepperbush, and others.

Even the Green briar looked good.  

There were a lot of trail users out enjoying the open spaces.

Some of the Highbush blueberry along the RecPath.

We strung out along the trails so that there was adequate room for power tool users and hand tool users to work safely.

Bob & Graham were cleaning up a blowdown with Ralph & Ralph.

Mike and Bill were clearing the edges going south toward Huntington Woods.

Some of Basil Brook Bypass were cleared, especially at the entry points along the powerlines.

Sections of Nells Loop Trail were also cut back and cleared.

The cool, overcast weather made it much easier to work in than last weekend's hot spell.  There are some really scenic areas along Great Ledge.

We got a lot done with a good sized crew.  Thanks to Matt, Bill, Ellen, Ralph, Ralph, Luis, Graham, Bob, Mike, Terry & Mark.  Now, everybody go enjoy the scenery while everything is blooming.

Friday, June 11, 2021

It's Mountain Laurel Time

 The Mountain Laurel are really blooming in Shelton this year.

A combination of rain and early hot weather have produced a bumper crop of Mountain Laurel flowers a little earlier than normal.  The Mountain Laurel is a 15' high shrub and is the Connecticut State Flower.  It's said to like rocky woodlands, which we have a little of in Shelton.

The shrubs out in the open have the most spectacular flowers.

One of the best locations to enjoy the display is along the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path south of Rt. 108.  The RecPath passes thru sort of a tunnel of Mountain Laurel before emerging out into the open areas along the powerlines.  The utility companies trim the trees along the powerlines, but leave the shrubs, which makes for an interesting display.

Other trails to see the Mountain Laurel include Nells Loop Trail, Turkey Trot Trail, and the Paugussett Trail.  Don't wait too long though, it's a short window for this show.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Eagle Scout Project: Kevin Wokanovicz Paugussett Improvements

Locations of Trail Improvements
(Meadow Street in upper right corner)

Our trail system has been graced with yet another Eagle Scout project, this one from Kevin Wokanovicz from Troop 27. Kevin improved some low areas just south of Meadow Street in an area we call Wiacek Meadows and Wiacek Woods. The Paugussett Trail between Independence Drive and Meadow Street has a number of poorly drained areas (even on the hills) that have been a challenge to hikers, most of whom are just passing through to get from Shelton Lakes to Indian Well. But the trail has been improving a little at a time. 

Bog Walk just south of Meadow Street

Kevin's first spot is close to Meadow Street in the 'tunnel' where a cul-de-sac was almost built (some grading had been started, which explains the topography). A bog walk now crosses a seasonal mud hole. 

"Before" shot of the first mudhole

Spot 2 is located at the south end of the meadow crossing where the trail crosses an old farmers ditch that ran along the edge of the meadow. The crew installed a culvert and then built a causeway across the ditch and dug through a hump of land on the northern edge. 

An old farmer's ditch was leveled out
with a culvert added for drainage

The third spot was just to the south, where the crews installed a second bog walk over a muddy area. These last two spots are on a fairly recent part of the trail, which was rerouted a few years ago. 

Second bogwalk through the Wiacek Woods


Well done!  And we look forward to more Eagle Scout projects along this part of the trail. It keeps getting better.