Monday, September 14, 2015

Dig We Must!

A small section of the Paugussett Trail in Shelton strays from the natural wooded path onto Mayflower Lane, returning to the wild at the Wiacek farm fields. To keep hikers aware of the correct trail entrance at the end of the cul-de-sac and avoid straying onto adjacent neighbor's properties, it was decided to erect posts clearly visible from the road. Shelton Trail Committee members Bill, Terry, Jim, and Richard were joined by volunteers Joyce and Harry on this work party.

click on photos to enlarge

Jim scouts the area for a place to erect the posts. The trail entrance is barely visible behind him

One hole dug,  Jim pounds rebar into the sides to reinforce the concrete to be added

Harry takes a turn with the post-hole digger. 
Bill tries to keep the post level while Terry adds concrete
Bill uses a special level to keep the post straight on all sides
Richard stands idly by while Harry tops off the post hole
Joyce joins Bill, Richard, Harry, and Jim after working back on the trail
The finished posts. Blazes, and possibly signs, will be added later.

Since we finished erecting the posts sooner than we expected, we turned our attention to the trail itself, trimming wayward branches and weeds, and removing exposed roots and "trippers", small tree stumps that had been missed during previous clearing.

Terry cuts a dead tree that blocks a view of the trail ahead
Joyce goes after some wayward roots
Clearing the way
Unfortunately, where there are people, there is trash, and possibly a lost golfer!
This work party accomplished its goal, increasing the visibility of the trail entrance as well as cleaning up a bit of the trail itself. Come to our next work party!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Test Driving the New Basil Brook Bypass

It was a great day for a hike, and a pack of 9 adults, 5 kids and 4 fur persons turned out to trek the newly created Basil Brook Bypass. Bill, Lynn, and Richard of the Shelton Trails Committee guided this tour of our new trail, a 1 mile diversion from the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path, for those who would enjoy a more primitive hike. A side route leads to a waterfall, which due to the lack of rain this summer, was as dry as Basil Brook itself. But everyone on the hike appeared to enjoy the overall expedition.

Click on photos to enlarge

The group stepped out from the Lane Street entrance to the rec path. Maverick was more interested in exploring the hayfield than the trail
Jessica takes the lead through the meadows

The bypass is entered from the rec path
Look for the signs showing the way

The bypass offered a diversity of environments

Unfortunately, due to the lack of rain this season, one of the highlights along the trail, the waterfall, was bone dry... was Basil Brook itself

The group poses at the end of our adventure. Missing from photo, Trails Committee members Lynn and her two pups, and Richard

We're hoping that with the return of substantial rain, the new trail will present a different and relaxing environment for all to enjoy, a welcome addition to the existing network of trails that we currently enjoy in Shelton. 

NOTE: These trails do not build themselves. We depend upon volunteer help in creating and maintaining the more than 14 miles of trails in town. Join us on a work party and feel the satisfaction in knowing you've somehow paid back for the enjoyment you find in using your trails.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Attack of the Trail Huggers

One of our trails, the closest to downtown Shelton, winds its way the woods at Riverview Park. The section behind the ball fields was overgrown and badly in need of a haircut. In spite of the proximity of poison ivy (which seems to be everywhere and in abundance this year)Trails Committee members and volunteers plowed into the jungle and cleared at least one overgrown section of trail.

Click on photos to enlarge

It took a lot of hacking to clear the Japanese Knotweed, a fierce invasive, from the entrance to this section. The pile in the foreground is just from the first few feet

Edmund and Joe plan the next area to attack
Joe utilizes a weed-whacker to clear a path

Bob finds battling the Japanese Knotweed a real challange
At the next ball field, weeds choked the narrow path right up to the fence
At this point, it became impractical to work here here without being right in the midst of the worst poison ivy growth
This was a bumper crop!
Although we were successful in clearing a substantial length of overgrown trail, we had to abandon a piece for the time being until we are prepared to attack the poison ivy without exposing any of us to the dreaded, inevitable itchy rash.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Attack of the Knotweed - Birchbank Trail

Japanese Knotweed obliterates the trail in just a few weeks
I think we can all agree that Japanese Knotweed is evil.  It's an invasive species that shoots up quickly each spring, with canes reaching heights of 12 to 15 feet in a very short time, and over an inch in diameter. The roots can go down eight feet deep and come up through pavement. It's extremely tough to kill: When you cut it back it just shoots right back up again.  

Birchbank Trail runs through an ever expanding patch of the stuff, starting at the entrance and continuing 350 feet down the trail. The above photo of Birchbank Trail was taken in June. Since we have an intern this year, we decided to finally tackle the cancer that is knotweed. The first emergency step was to just clear a path, which intern Stephen did with hand pruners. People could now find the trail, but the knotweed starting growing back over the trail lightening fast, about a foot a week. So we decided to get the big gun: the brush cutter. The two photos below are a before and after of the exact same location:

Before using the brushcutter

Exact same location after removing the knotweed
Because knotweed grows as a colony, we decided to cut every shoot we could in the patch. Just cutting part of it is like trying to slay a giant by hacking at his toe. But even this will all be a waste of time if we don't follow up with repeated cutting to weaken the giant, followed by applications of Round-Up in late summer and fall when the plant begins to draw nutrient down out of the leaves and into the roots. Most of this plant is underground, so we need to starve it by repeated cutting.

While cutting, I discovered several native species hiding down below the tall canes of knotweed along the periphery, such as Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Trillium. While cutting the knotweed frees these natives from certain death by asphyxiation, they are now vulnerable to deer. One thing we plan to do is install a deer exclosure around a small area to demonstrate the impacts of deer.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Please Fence Me In!

Time and weather have taken their toll on much of our split rail fence along the Silent Waters dam. Periodically, the Shelton Trails Committee, with volunteer assistance, replaces the rotted and broken rails where they pose the most danger. It doesn't help that some teens (and possibly adults) test the strength of the fence by sitting or standing on the top rail. Our goal is to prevent serious injury from occurring by maintaining a solid fence line.

 Click on photos to enlarge
Wild foliage growth spreads onto the path. Poison ivy is a big concern this year
Bill and Jim cut a rail to fit a short section of fence
Mary assists in rail placement

Luis hacks away at the weeds with our gas-powered hedge trimmer
Meanwhile, a fisherman enjoys the serenity of Silent Waters (while we work!)
A repaired section of the fence at a favorite observation point
In all, we replaced ten rails this day, which doesn't seem like much, but the work can at times be strenuous and difficult. Some rails go in easy, others require military tactics. There will be future work parties involving rail replacement, and we could use more volunteer help if we are to be more productive. Come out and give us a hand next time! You'll feel good about it!

Monday, June 22, 2015

HAY JUDE, keep it mowing

All the trails are exploding with vegetation this June due to some of the recent rain.  It can be tough for a limited pool of volunteers to keep up with it all.

Here's Joe at the Lane St. Boardwalk trying to clear brush along the RecPath in Huntington Center.

Somewhere in this picture is our mowing crew, or Waldo, we're not sure which.

Here's the boys.  They are trying to clear back the hayfield that is overtaking our 8 foot wide RecPath.

Jim & Rich out mowing the trails with our DR Mower.  One of the drawbacks to a crushed stone path in open areas is grass growing into the trailbed.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

We Want Your Feedback (Trailhead Kiosks in Action)

We're always experimenting with new ways to make using the trails and greenways more enjoyable.  We have a Trails Blog, a Facebook Page, the Bulletin Board at the Community Center, maps at City Hall and the Plumb Library, and sign kiosks at some of the trail heads.  Some of the newer kiosks are in great shape, but some of the older ones need some work.  One of our 2015 Goals is to give some of them a serious makeover.

Some of the existing metal or plastic mailboxes that were using at some kiosks were pretty old and beat.  This one had a wasp's nest in it (which we evicted).

So we added the new map boxes to the kiosks like this one at Lane St.

In addition to maps we also added cards with e-mail addresses for people to mail in their favorite trail photos, and little notebooks for people to leave their thoughts and comments.  Ten boxes were set out in all at most of the trail heads around town.

Unfortunately, somebody vandalized the Lane Street box after only one month.  They hit it pretty hard too, actually split the boards.  Our joints held so our carpentry must've been better than we thought.  But we're a pretty stubborn bunch so we made a new box and repaired the broken one.

Here's the new box.  The following are some of the comments from the Lane Street notebook:

"Love the trails!"

"Mile markers would be nice.  That is the only change I would make."  We have talked about adding mile markers to the Recreation Path.  There is an on-line map on the Trails website with mileage on it.

"4-17-15 Great trails with open space and wildlife and peaceful environment to enjoy Shelton!"

"4-12-15 Your good friends, Evan Mom and Dad"  Thanks Evan.

"4-11-15 Ryan & Tucker  Enjoyed a great hike.  Love the trails here."

"4-18 Great hike today.  Is that a beaver home on the right approx. 100 yds?"   It was a beaver lodge, but I don't know if its active right now.  The beaver move in and out of the area, but you can see them here when they're around.

"1st bridge landing is loose."  Thanks for the update.  We have a trail work party scheduled for Sat. 6/13/15 if anyone would like to check out the trail and help us fix this loose board.

"Connor regretted eating running on the lovely trail 4-19-15"  ???Hopefully he didn't trip while chewing.

"This is a lovely walking path.  Good job Shelton.  Stay golden Pony Boy!"  C. Thomas Howell is happy somewhere.

So keep up the comments, enjoy the trails, return a map if you don't need it after you're done, and feel free to take a card and e-mail us some cool pictures.   And feel free to join us Sat. if you have time.  It's fun to work on your trails.   We'll keep posting the comments.