Sunday, September 3, 2023

French's Hill Eversource Update

Wood matts cover the main trail at French's Hill

While Eversource is in the clean-up and restoration stage over at Shelton Lakes, their work at French's Hill is still in the construction phase, with some of the new towers not yet installed. The trail has been marked as "closed" all summer and we've skipped the trail maintenance for that reason. Eventually, though, we'll need to have a work party and clear it out even if the trail isn't open for public hiking. So a quick check on the trail was on order and here are some photos from that walk. 

New millings on the parking lot
The parking lot was nice and dry thanks to some work done last spring by the Shelton Highways & Bridges Department. They graded out the muddy lot for drainage and put some millings down. Previously, there were some pretty fierce mudholes and people needed to be careful not to get stuck. The entryway and drive are a bit shaggy with tall invasive mugwort and other vegetation which could be could be cut back, but it's not terrible. 

This is the trail
The very first 100 feet or so of trail is by far the worst. It looks like a deer path through tall meadow vegetation and seriously needs a brushcutter. People or deer have been going through it. Hard to tell which. Except that both of the Eversource "Trail Closed" signs have been ripped out and tossed aside. Don't do that, people! If you want to ignore the signs, that's on you. But don't remove the signs, which alert other trail users and explain why the trail is in such bad shape. 

Eversource "Trail Closed" sign

New tower, old tower

Once in the woods, the trail isn't too bad. Clearly, people have been removing sticks from the trail, and there are no big blowdowns across the trail. Coming out to the Eversource powerline corridor, there's a short overgrown section, and then a stretch of heavy timber mats covers the trail for a bit. All our trail markings seem to have survived (thank you, Eversource). 

The trail crossing the powerlines where there are no towers, so the only real hazard is any equipment that could be traveling back and forth on the timber mats. After construction has been completed, the timber mats will be removed. We're happy that there won't be a big new gravel road to mar the scenery.

After the trail crosses the powerlines, it becomes a loop. This part was in pretty good shape. Again, a bit shaggy and some spots could use a hedgetrimmer or hand pruners where stray barberry shoots have crossed the path, but not bad overall. 

Shaggy trail, but passable

The bigger issue in here is the terrible footing (mud-rock-roots) and the fact that a lot of wheeled traffic has been making it worse. The trail is for foot travel only due to the vulnerable trail tread. But there were lots of fresh dirt bike tracks churning up the mud.  So it was time to check the security camera and harvest photos of these guys. They may have been coming in via the powerlines. The photos will be forwarded to the Police Department. City ordinance allows for the PD to seize any quad or dirt bike that's been ridden on City property.  

The Red Trail crossing point
There's a short red-blazed access trail that leads to the big meadow on a hill. This trail is very overgrown and passes right next to the existing towers, which have not yet been replaced. The long-term goal was to have the trail go onto the new gravel pads that would be constructed around the new poles. But it's not clear if Eversource's plans have changed, since we see timber mats there instead of gravel. Bottom line is that we'll wait until they are done and then determine where the exact trail crossing should be. It's a very wet area. 

The old farm road
The hayfields have been cut, along with the old road that the trail follows for a bit. Overall, it was a pleasant site walk with the only real problem being the dirt bikes damaging the trail. The goal for the Trails Committee is to get the summer overgrowth cut back so that when Eversource is done working, the trail will be immediately open and ready to hike. Stay tuned for a potential September work party there.