Thursday, December 15, 2022

RIP Boehm Beaver Pond

The beaver pond 

Park users had really been enjoying the trailside beaver pond off Winthrop Woods Road until someone -- we don't know who -- came in with heavy equipment and ripped it apart. 
The beaver dam before it was destroyed

After the dam was breached and the pond drained

Hikers had been sharing photos of the beaver, along with other pond animals like muskrat, ducks, and even some visiting otter. Beaver ponds make great habitat for a number of species. The beaver pond was an enlargement of Boehm Pond, which is completely surrounded by protected conservation lands. There were no reports of human structures being impacted, so the beaver seemed OK. Some people did call to complain that the beaver were killing the trees in the open space, and they thought it was an eyesore, but since it's conservation land, and beaver ponds are natural and beneficial to wildlife, no action was warranted. 

Boehm Pond Beaver Dam (2020)

Nevertheless, someone dismantled the guardrail on Winthrop Woods Road and brought in heavy equipment to rip apart the beaver dam, take out trees, and move large rocks along the shore. People in the neighborhood assumed City crews had done the work, but no one at the City authorized or knows of any crews having done this. 

Otter slide tracks on the beaver pond

Normally, beaver would immediately rebuild the dam, but it hasn't happened. That means the beaver died or moved on. We did receive a report of one beaver hit by a car over the summer.  What happened to the others? 

The dam breach

The drained pond is pretty ugly for the time being, but it should green up quickly next year. Lots of sunlight will reach the enriched ground, and a new kind of habitat will be created. This would have been the normal end for the beaver cycle, but it happened faster than normal and old beaver dams normally retain water long after the beaver have left, so the beaver pond is longer lasting. 

If anyone has information on what happened to the beaver dam, email 

Saturday, December 10, 2022

You Shall Not Pass

There was a big turn-out to help clean up the Old Trails Barn and move stuff over to the new Trails Barn.  It was a brisk morning and by brisk I mean cold.  So we got to it quickly.  Folks broke up into multiple work parties and started tackling various tasks to get the blood moving.

Some when to clear out the old woodpile by the Dog Park fence, and move it into the old Barn.  Some moved some stuff to from the Old Barn to the New Barn, some went to fix broken railings at the Silent Waters Dam, some started shoveling the pile of processed stone before it froze in place, and some started driving the stone around and dumping it off. 

Val & Bill fixed the busted rails on the RecPath fence at Silent Waters (again).  A tree had come down and smashed the rails, and the Trails volunteers fixed this hazardous spot.  There may be other hazardous spots out there along the trails, but we repaired this one today before the ground froze.

The Silent Waters Canoe Launch on Constitution Blvd North needed some tread repairs due to erosion and tree roots.  So while people were moving stone and barn contents, others were dropping off crushed stone to improve things for next spring.

It took at least 4 loads (surprisingly) but we got the canoe drop off ready for Spring.

 There were some RecPath customers that came by as we were working.

This little guy seemed a bit bewildered by the whole process, but who knows; he could be on the Trails Committee some day, probably also fixing up the RecPath and canoe launch.

The ramp down to the lake was fixed up.  Now all we have to do is fix up the stones along the launch.  That may wait until the weather is warmer at this point.

Others were moving stuff between the barns, and loading stuff into the Gator to get hauled up the RecPath from the Dog Park.  That material will get moved around to repair erosion when it defrosts.  Thanks to the City of Shelton crews for dropping the crushed stone mix off at the parking lot.

Here's Graham doing his "You Shall Not Pass" pose from Monty Python and the Holy Grail movie.  In reality, he's just finished feathering out the drop off at the bridge abutments so our handicapped - accessible path is actually handicapped-accessible for folks who want to enjoy the woods without an aggravating 3/4" jump at the bridge.  And it's also more enjoyable for folks that walk, ride bikes, push baby strollers, etc.  It may sound dumb, but it's the little things that matter sometimes. 

Thanks to everyone who came out: Bill, Val, Mark, Mike, Ralph, Ralph, Ted, Graham, Mary, Mike, Terry, Annie, Bob, Sam and anyone else we missed.   A lot of seasonal tasks got done around the Trails Barns and RecPath at Shelton Lakes.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Round Hill Road Roundup

Following risking my life getting supplies for Christmas Cookies at Shop Rite on Sunday I headed out for some trail work.  Went out to cut up what I thought were some easy blowdowns on the Paugussett Trail south of Round Hill Road.  Sharpened my saw, filed it with gas and bar oil, drove up to the site, and what did I find.

A great big old 24" birch tree smothered with vines, briars, poison ivy, you name it, fully across the trail not 20 feet behind the trailhead.  I just had to laugh, possibly sob, and said this is going to be an interesting day.  A nearby neighbor heard me and came over to say that this had come down in the storm last night.  I asked if it made any noise, and that was a big Oh Yah.

So, carting my gear I hoofed it back toward Birchbank Mtn. to find the other blowdowns that were on our To Do List.  I came across some new blowdowns too, got to a good stopping point, turned around and started working my way back to Round Hill Road.

Practiced my Notch-Bucking techniques from the CFPA class on some old dead ash trees along the trail.  The blow downs were all ash and birch trees.

Then roll the logs out of the way.

Rinse and Repeat.  Here's a birch tree that came down recently and the top dropped across the trail behind it.

Cleared that all out and the original trail tread is restored.

The top notch is on the right (rolled away from me - on purpose), and the birch shows the "nibbling" cuts to take out the hinge

Cleared out a bunch of blowdowns and getting back to the big one at Round Hill Road.  Who rolled up at that time but Mark Vollaro (fabulous timing).  We took off the vines, briars, and whatnot, so we could see what to cut.

Mark was game and started dropping the log.  We tried to make sure it didn't bounce funny off the rocks.

But Mark brought it down with no crushed toes.

Here's mark at the end of the job.  We left a narrow notch to keep out the ATVs.  We stood back to admire our handiwork.

A right on cue a southbound hiker came through to enjoy the newly cleared trail.  Timing is everything today.  This stretch of the Paugussett Trail is now clear for the public to enjoy.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Fixing an Old Rake, Again

Fall & Winter are a good times to fix busted tools.  A while back one of our old bow front rake heads was pulled from the land of broken toys box.  The handle was broken off just below the ferrule, and it seemed to ask if we should just junk this or what.

The old bow head rake, after cleaning.  It looked like it had potential.  This may have been a donation, or a pick up at the dump.

I looked a little closer and remembered that this was an old rake that was fixed up in the past by Rick Swanson.  This had been repaired once before when the rake head bow had rusted out.  Rick had fixed that by welding the head to the ferrule and it was jammed back on the old handle and put back into service.  That old handle finally gave up the ghost a couple of years ago, and left us with another repair.


So, next steps were to cut off the remains of the broken handle, grind off one head of the rivet holding the head to the handle stump, knock out the old rivet (using a punch or nail), wire brushing the rusty rake head, clean out the remains of the old wooden handle from the socket, and gave it a little Rustoleum love.

In the early years of the Shelton Trails Committee we got a lot of tools through donations, dump finds, or neighborhood tag sales.  We're still cheap Yankees whenever we can. 

Fuzzy picture of the cleaned-out-ferrule.  

Helpful Trail Tip: A masonry drill bit works well to take out the old handle without getting the a wood drill bit dulled up inside of the metal ferrule.

Next:  Getting and shaping the handle.

1. Skip Home Depot or Lowe's, and find an ACE Hardware store, or something similar, to get a replacement handle.  The pickings for a quality ash handle are much better at a small hardware store that caters to contractors.  Be fussy, get the grain to go perpendicular to the handle with no weird curves.  It will make the handle stronger in the future when volunteers beat on it.

2.  Shape the end of the handle to match the ferrule.  Do a trial and error pushing the handle into the ferrule and twisting it to see where it rubs.

3,  In this case we used a spoke shave and rasp to shape the handle end.  You can also use sandpaper or a file depending on what you have available.  Use whatever you have to do the job.  Just take your time and do not rush it.  Try to avoid a sloppy fit.  It'll make for a stronger rake in the long run.

After getting everything so it was a tight fit, we added a little epoxy and banged everything together.  Next day, we drilled out a hole through the handle for the new rivet, held the replacement shovel rivet in pliers, heated the end up red hot with a propane torch, shoved the rivet through the handle, placed the rake ferrule on a vise to act as an anvil, and formed a tight domed rivet with a ball peen hammer.  Lots of repeated hammer blows to shape the rivet head.

Shovel rivets are tough to come by these days.  Some are attached to replacement handles in the store, but you often have to scrounge for them.  In a pinch use a large nail, cut it off  a bit above the ferrule, heat it with a torch and then bang it into a tight dome with a ball peen hammer.

Historical Rake Note:  Rick and Madeline Swanson were great neighbors.  Rick worked on cars and was a true artist when it came to body work and painting.  He was also a good neighbor (and so was Madeline), I think he worked on every car our family ever had.  The nice part about having the village blacksmith living next door was that he welded up all our busted tools; pitchforks, shovels, rakes, it didn't matter.  And he never wanted anything for it.  He was just being nice to his neighbors and helping out Shelton's trails.

Here's Rick on left and Madeline on right, talking to Bert and Nancy in the middle; our fiends and trail volunteers, at a picnic that we had in 2005.  I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that Rick and Bert were talking about cars (both are big-time car guys).  I'm constantly amazed how very lucky we are to have so many handy, talented, and hardworking people willing to help out with trails and open space in Shelton.

Sometimes you fix up old tools because you don't have money to buy new stuff.  Sometimes you fix up old tools because they're better made, and it's cheaper to fix them up than to buy the stuff sold in the stores today.  And sometimes because it brings a smile remembering old friends who helped you out in the past.

We gave everything some black spray paint, and added some orange duct tape with S.T.C. to the handles so we could find the rake in the woods.   The old, newly fixed up rake is ready to go.  It may not be as quick or easy as running out to the store to buy a new rake, but we do try to save the Shelton taxpayer's money where we can.  It only cost about $12 bucks for the handle.  Another tool is now ready to get dirty on Shelton's trails in 2023.