Saturday, February 14, 2015

Making Map Boxes

Richard and Jim work on a map box.
As the polar vortex or whatever took a little detour into Connecticut, members of the Trails Committee retreated to a relatively warm workshop to build a slew of cedar map boxes. By warm, I mean with three space heaters going, I think the temps eventually got up to maybe 50°.  It was a lot warmer than out on the trails, though!  The map boxes will be attached to the trail kiosks around town. The hard part will be keeping them stocked with maps.

Terry offers some friendly advice. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Birchbank Trail Mapping

Most of our trails were mapped back in the 1990s before the proliferation of gps units, and we did it by looking at a topo map and simply estimating where we thought the trail was on that map. Recently, I took advantage of a clear sky and clear canopy to record the trail location with a Garmin gps receiver. Steep hills and rock outcroppings can interfere with satellite signals, an effect called "bounce", and clouds and a heavy canopy can also weaken the signal. 

In the map below, the grey lines are from the existing Birchbank Mountain trail map, while the red line is the route recorded by gps. As you can see, the old-school method of trail mapping was in the right ballpark, and good enough for hiking, but the gps data is more accurate.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Open Space off Buck Hill Road

The Board of Aldermen just approved the purchase of two acres of land in the Shelton Lakes Greenway located between Buck Hill Road, Doe Place, and Wesley Drive. The Rec Path and the Paugussett Trail are nearby. The map below shows the location of the property in relation to the trails. 

The property was offered for sale by the owners Theodore and Nina Shevzov, who are splitting their four-acre property in order to sell the back two acres as open space.  The sale price of $75,000 was based on the per-acre price of the abutting Dikovsky open space purchased a few years ago. The new open space is surrounded by pre-existing open space on three sides. 

This is the third strategic open space purchase along this part of the greenway belt in the past few years. The first was the Dikovsky acquisition, which included a broad valley overlooked by the Rec Path.  Last year the City purchased the Kassheimer property, known for a set of impressive cliffs just north of the Rec Path. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New Shelton Lakes Garden Kiosk

The latest Eagle Scout kiosk, courtesy of Bryce Gallagher (Troop 19), is located off of Soundview Avenue and was built primarily for the Shelton Lakes Community Garden, but since this is a backdoor access to the Shelton Lakes trail system, it also functions as a trail kiosk. One side has general information posted about the open space and the community garden, while the other side is for garden communications. We'll be able to post information about whatever garden pest is currently causing a problem, for example.  Also, hikers wandering about the trail system sometimes emerge from the forest and wonder where they are. This kiosk can help them.  Bryce also donated $121.25 to our fund for Scout projects. Nice job!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Pearmain Path

Nicholdale Farm (Land Trust) and the new trail to Pearmain Rd.
Some years ago, the City of Shelton was awarded a grant from the State of Connecticut to purchase the developments rights for a wooded property just south of the Land Trust's Nicholdale Farm. The grant included a right, yea, a requirement even, for the City to construct a public hiking trail through the property from the Scout camp at Nicholdale Farm to Pearmain Road, closely following the Iroquois gas pipeline.  Somewhere through the sands of time, the trail requirement was lost, and only became known again when the State called and asked about it. Long story short, we now have a new trail.

The trail starts at the Nicholdale Scout Camp. We'll begin our tour by looking at the new outhouse there, because it's a fine looking outhouse. It was an Eagle Scout project, and here's a link to a picture of the construction, although I don't have the names of those involved.

New facilities at the Scout Camp

This is pretty luxurious compared to what was here before. 

Scout Camp at Nicholdale
There is a loop trail that passes right through the middle of the Scout camp, and one simply follows that a very short ways south out of the camp looking for the yellow square blazes that mark the new trail veering off to the right while the Nicholdale trail curves left. The yellow squares quickly crosses over the stone wall that marks the end of Nicholdale Farm and you are now entering private property.

The beginning of the yellow squares that lead to Pearmain Road
CAUTION:  Hunting is allowed on this property, and there are signs on the trail saying so.  Wear bright colors, especially if it's hunting season, you are hiking within a few hours of dawn or dusk, and it's a Saturday. Hunting is allowed on many of the properties that surround the Nicholdale Farm property, and property lines are not always easy to identify (for hikers or hunters), so it's safest to always just wear bright colors in the fall. 

Wear bright colors, like this "blaze orange" fleece jacket from Cabelas.
The trail is only about a quarter mile long. It's still a bit rough and needs more clearing for sight lines, but it's good enough to follow for now.  The trail follows the Iroquois Gas Pipeline, staying just far enough from the pipeline to avoid thickets and bad footing.

Follow the yellow squares.

After a couple of stream crossings (bridges will be needed), the trail pops out onto Pearmain. This road is paved coming in from Birdseye Road, but the last 200 yards before the trailhead is a compacted crushed stone. It's good enough for regular cars, but you might think it's a driveway, especially since you pass through a gate (apparently always open) where the pavement ends. After the trailhead and the gas pipeline, the road is extremely rough and suitable only for 4WD vehicles with insane drivers. It's a City road, and we aren't sure what the story with the gate is, but it probably has to do with attempts to stop illegal dumping vs the need for property owners to access their land.

Pearmain Road at the trailhead.
There is room to park where the gas pipeline crosses Pearmain, assuming that gate is open. Note that there were several large pickups parked there today with hunters. Don't forget to wear those bright colors!

Will anyone want to hike out to Pearmain? Only time will tell. You can actually continue walking south on Pearmain Road because it's certainly not fit to drive on. Long range plans have included a possible regional trail that would encompass this route. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

New Trail

New Trail

Work was completed on a new bypass trail, providing an alternate passage from Shelton Ave. and Constitution Ave. North to the walkway behind Shelton Intermediate School, which in turn connects with the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path. This is a short (¼ mile), pleasant, wooded trail that avoids walking along the edge of Constitution Blvd. Since it ultimately meets up with the Rec Path, a circular hike can be made from the dog park via the new trail, turning left at the rec path, following it to Silent Waters, then over to the dog park.

Click on photos to enlarge

New trail in blue

 Steele, Sam and Cameron open up the new path

 Lynn gets down to details

Lots of fallen trees and debris had to be moved out of the way. Jacob muscles a log aside

Richard cuts through one of many fallen trees across the trail

Luis kept busy cutting away at stray branches

Work was interrupted by the appearance of a water-breathing dragon!

Whew! It was only the fire-fighting rig from Echo Hose, practicing on what they thought was an empty patch of forest, unaware of our work party. Fortunately, their target was not close to our trail and no one got soaked

 Sometimes the chainsaw was coupled with brute force

 Dave and Bill get down to earth to cut off small tree stubs

Sam, Steele and Cameron stroll down the newly finished trail

Many thanks to volunteers Steele, Sam, Cameron, Dave, Luis and Jacob for helping Trails Committee members Lynn, Jim, Richard and Bill and our photographer Sandie.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New Open Space - The Kassheimer Property

Map showing the new property relative to the Rec Path
On October 9,  The Board of Aldermen approved the purchase of 7.3 acres of land owned by the Kassheimer family for $70,000.  The Conservation Commission had pursued the property for many years because it is almost completely surround by public and private open space, and impacts the view along the    Rec Path.  The property features an impressive cliff face along a ridge known as "Great Ledge."

Scenic cliffs. The "gap" is in the right center of the photo.
The conservation land to the west is owned by Aspetuck Village (private). To the north and east is City of Shelton Public Open Space. To the south is the ongoing Huntington Woods development, and the Conservation Commission had some concerns over the years that the development might be extended into the Kassheimer property via Crab Apple Circle, and disrupt the view along the Rec Path.  With this purchase, the entire Great Ledge ridge will be protected from development. (Read about the previous purchase Great Ledge Purchase).

Kassheimer property at the bottom of the ridge
The area is challenging but rewarding to bushwhack across.  From the Rec Path, the easiest way to access the property is probably at the hair-pin turn just south of the powerlines.  From this point, you can head straight towards the cliff through pepperbush. It looks swampy, but I was able to walk through without my feet getting wet. Turn left at the base of the cliff and you are entering the Kassheimer property.  There is a gap between cliffs on the Kassheimer property where one can climb up to the top of the ridge. The top of the cliff is fairly open and there are game trails that are easy to walk along, and in places you can see the Rec Path through the trees.  

Impressive rock face

View from a gap in the cliffs

At the top of the cliff

Looking down the gap between cliffs
You could also try your luck by climbing up the ridge from the north at the powerlines.  There is lose rock and plenty of mountain laurel, but the occasional random path as well. Maybe some day there will be a trail in there, but the Trails Committee is stretched pretty thin just now.

The Great Ledge ridge extends northeast and end at the powerlines