Sunday, January 29, 2023

Success!: First Public Hike of 2023

The first guided public hike of 2023 was a success.  We had about 29 people show up for the Mid-Winter Hike at Tahmore Preserve, and we didn't lose any of them, we think.  Ellen was our sweeper, we'll have to check with her.

There were good views of the Housatonic River from the Tahmore Trail and Paugussett Trail.

There was a good turnout at the Tahmore Place cul-de-sac to start the hike.  Nothing like a 50 degree day in January to bring out the crowds.   
A lot of guided hikes were postponed or eliminated during the Covid epidemic the last couple of years.  We're going to try getting back to a more normal schedule this year and see how it goes.
Luckily, we had some crack guides show up to help manage the crowds.  This hike went pretty well.  The next one scheduled is The Marshmallow March on March, wait for it ..., Fourth.  See you then, or sooner on the trails.



Monday, January 23, 2023

Mid-Winter Hike at Tahmore Preserve

It's been a weird, wet winter in 2023.  Will there be snow for the Mid-Winter Hike on January 29th?  We don't know, but the first public hike of 2023 is on for this coming weekend.

Meet at the Tahmore Place cul-de-sac in the White Hills at 1:00 on Sunday January 29th.  The hike is moderate and will take about 1 hr. (individuals can extend their hike on their own if they wish).  The Tahmore Preserve is owned by the Shelton Land Conservation Trust and joins with open space at Indian Well State Park.  See the Trails Events page for more information, and print out a trail map to bring along.  It should be fun.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Pearmain Preserve Expanded

Removing 'private property' signs along the Nicholdale Farm boundary

The City of Shelton took title to land owned by the late, great Guy Beardsley in December, tripling the size of the Pearmain Preserve. The price was $218,000 for over 14 acres of land off. The property had been partly protected by an agreement in 2002 that prohibited subdivision of the property but still allowed a residential home and several farm buildings to be constructed near the Nicholdale Scout Camp. No worries about that happening now. 

The old sign warning about  hunting on
private property .

 After the deed was filed, it was time to update the signage. The old signs reflected land that was privately owned and hunted, but partly protected by an easement through which a public hiking trail passed.  The "POSTED - PRIVATE PROPERTY" sign was the first to come down. This was right at the entry to the Pearmain Path at Nicholdale Farm. Next, the signs required by the CT DEEP recognizing their grant contribution were swapped out. The old ones said, "You are entering private property" and carried a prominent warning to wear bright colors during hunting season. The new signs simply say that this open space was acquired with help from the DEEP. 

New signs

On a side note, there are at least two deer stands in the new open space that will need to come down. Guy Beardsley had granted some people permission to hunt the property, but the Open Space Ordinance currently prohibits hunting on city land. We'll let the deer stands stay up for a while to give their owners a chance to come and retrieve them, but the stands will be removed one way or another before the next deer hunting season begins (Fall 2023). 

Trail closure sign

A number of new Open Space markers were installed along the new line, along with a sign making it clear that dirt bikes and ATVs are prohibited. 

Then there is the problem of rogue trails and signs for that. An old version of the Pearmain Path located alongside the gas pipeline was closed down a couple years ago at the request of Guy Beardsley, but some people kept using it, possibly due to an AllTrails listing where people got credit for following the old route in the AllTrails App computer system. Makes no sense otherwise, since the new route is much superior.  The old signs imploring people to stop using the old route where taken down, and our "Wildlife habitat protection area - Trail Closed" signs installed, with yet more sticks placed across the trail entrance (which someone keeps removing). These 'habitat protection' signs seem to work well. One big reason we don't want a proliferation of rogue trails is that wildlife needs areas for resting and nesting where they know they aren't going to be disturbed by hikers. Every hiker coming through is a disruption and it takes time and energy away from animals trying to survive and raise their young. Not to mention the dogs people have off-leash running through the woods. We want to maintain a balance of hiking trails for people and undisturbed forest for the animals. 

Rogue access trail

So it was annoying to find a new rogue trail coming in from Pearmain Road, all raked out and marked with survey tape. Somebody didn't like the official blazed and mapped access trail and decided they would build a better one. That's not the way to do it. Members of the public can always contact the Trails Committee with suggestions for trail improvements or relocations. Never, ever just build another trail across City conservation land without permission. It confuses other hikers and disrupts wildlife. And in this case, it also makes the trail system easier to access via ATVs. Please respect the land and use the blazed trails only. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

2023 Eversource Trail Closures Expected

The Eversource "Pootatuck Rebuild Project" was approved by the Connecticut Siting Council on Dec. 8, 2022, so we are on track for extensive trail closures in 2023. Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in late February near Bridgeport Avenue and working north from there. Trail closures will be at Shelton Lakes and French's Hill only. All other trail systems should be fine. 

Eversource will be building new roads and upgrading existing ones, grading out large flat pads for new monopole towers, and then taking down the old towers. This is going to have a significant impact on the trails, short term as well as long term. 

The work zone bisects most of our loops, so hikers wishing to be sure of a good loop hike in 2023 may need to look elsewhere, such as Nicholdale Farm, Boehm Pond, Birchbank Mountain, or Indian Well. Trail maps are posted on the Conservation Commission's website

Here is how specific trails at Shelton Lakes will be impacted: 

The Rec Path: Most of this 4-mile trail will be fine. The area south of Oak Valley Road under the powerlines will be closed for an extended period of time, however, and there is no simple way around it. This is roughly the middle of the trail. Eversource will be regrading the area around Great Ledge for new towers and will ultimately shift the Rec Path a bit. 

Turkey Trot Trail: The "inner loop" section that follows the powerlines (giving cross country runners their 5K), will be buried in earthwork for two new towers and we are not sure how or where the new trail location will be when work is completed. The outer loop crosses the powerlines in two places that may be closed for roadway improvements, and there will otherwise be truck traffic. 

Oak Valley Trail: The north powerline crossing near Shelton Avenue may be closed on some occasions, and truck traffic should be expected. For the south crossing near Oak Valley Road, the red blazes follow the powerlines up and over a hill that will be a work zone.  But it is easy to bypass that walk along the powerlines and cross directly instead. Expect truck traffic and possible road upgrades. 

Nells Rock Trail: The far end of this trail crosses directly under two sets of towers and will be heavily impacted. There will be extensive grading, a new road parallel with the old utility road, and slightly new tower locations. The north junction does have an alternate route mostly used by mountain bikes that avoids going under the existing tower. This is near the Rec Path.  

Paugussett Trail: This trail should be mostly fine between Buddington Road and Silent Waters. Sections between Independence Drive and Constitution Blvd will be heavily impacted and impassible at times. Northbound travelers can avoid the entire mess after passing Silent Waters by staying on the white-blazed Rec Path/Turkey Trot Trail past the junction where the blue blazes turn left up the hill, and following the Rec Path to Constitution Blvd. Turn left on the road and follow it for 0.3 mile to rejoin the Paugussett on the right. (See map below). 

Paugussett Trail detour bypasses work in the vicinity
of Independence and Wellington Drives

Click on our custom Google Map of the trails for more detail (use this on your phone to locate your current location while hiking the trail).  Red hazard triangles are where new tower pads will be constructed and where the trail is mostly likely to be closed. Orange hazard triangles are where utility roads are being upgraded or new roads built, and hikers should expect construction equipment even if the trail is not closed.