Tuesday, September 16, 2014

You're Bluffing!

The Bluff Walk Trail is an easily accessed hike close to downtown Shelton but presenting a quiet and picturesque view of the Housatonic Dam. One section of the trail skirts two ball fields, and narrows between the outfield fences and a steep drop. This section tends to become overgrown quickly, and our work party's goal was to open up this path as well as clear the leaf litter that had gathered on the length of the trail over the summer.

Shelton Trail Committee Chairman Bill and members Terry and Richard were joined by volunteers Mike, Mary Beth, and Anthony on this Saturday. Committee member Sandi was our photographer.

Click on photos to enlarge

Knotweed, tons of it


Japanese Knotweed, Poison Ivy, Wild Grapes, and assorted brambles and choking vines obstructed the trail behind the baseball outfield fences

Bill uses power shrub trimmers to tackle the weeds....

...while Richard swings a machete

Mike fires up the leaf blower. The trails had a residue of fallen leaves left over from the previous Autumn

Mary Beth tries to find a place under the rug to hide all the cut vegetation
Anthony used most of the tools at hand in his efforts
The trail went from this...

...to this by the time we were through

Another productive Saturday, made possible with the help of volunteers. We hope to see some new faces pitching in at our next work party. Join us!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Do We Have Rattlesnakes?

Do we have rattlesnakes along the trails?  We don't know. Here's what we do know:
  • A total of three four rattlesnake sightings have been reported at Shelton Lakes over the past six years. Three sites were along the powerlines between Shelton Ave and Buddington Road, a fourth was several years ago near where the Intermediate School now stands. These reports have been forwarded to the CT DEEP.
  • Some snakes, including Black Rat Snakes and Hognose Snakes, mimic rattlesnakes as a defense mechanism (the above video is a harmless Black Rat Snake, while the one below is a Hognose Snake).  They may rattle their tails in dry leaves to make a rattle sound, or mimic the sound of a rattle with a particular type of hiss. Hognose snakes can also make their head appear freakishly like a cobra. Black Rat Snakes are very common at Shelton Lakes (they can be 5 or 6 feet long). Not sure if we have any Hognose Snakes or not.

  • The known range of the Timber Rattlesnake in Connecticut currently does not include Shelton. On the other hand, the Shelton Lakes/Nells Rock region has always been remote, with lots of rocky places for snakes to hide. The area had relatively little farming and was used instead for charcoal production.  So you never know.
Known Timber Rattlesnake Range (CT DEEP)

  • What if there really are Timber Rattlesnakes in Shelton?  No need to worry. Just think twice about sticking your hand in a rock crevice (I'm talking to you, Geocachers and Letterboxers).  These snakes are endangered in CT and should be treated with respect.  If you do see a snake you think might be a rattlesnake, please try to get a photo of it without endangering yourself, especially a high-quality photo of the tail, and forward that info my office at conservation@cityofshelton.org. Also take some photos of the snake at a distance or that include some recognizable distinct feature that can be verified (to prove that the photo was taken at that location and not in some other state). 
[UPDATE 9/9/2014:  I spoke with someone from the DEEP and was told that although rattlesnakes are theoretically possible they are "highly unlikely" in Shelton. A low-resolution of one of the most recently reported  'rattlesnakes' was forwarded to a herpetologist and although the photo was not clear, he though it looked more like a Black Rat Snake. Also, there are no historical records of rattlesnakes in Shelton. A verifiable, high resolution photo is needed.] 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Google Maps Can't Get Shelton Right

The grand opening for the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path was two full years ago, and that's how long I've been begging Google to fix their map. I've submitted repeated "Report a Problem" requests and also gone into their user editor mode (Google Map Maker) repeatedly. Every time I submit a request, I provide a link to our official City maps on our official City website as a reference. On rare occasion, they will actually make an attempt to fix it, and only make matters worse. After the latest "correction", we now have a network of trails all labeled "Shelton Lakes Recreation Path". This is like labeling every street in Bridgeport as "I-95".   I don't know who submitted some of the other trail information to Google, but I wish they would stop, because Google insists on labeling every single trail as the Rec Path, including bits and pieces of Oak Valley Trail, Nells Rock Trail, the Flower Trail, the Paugussett Trail, and an emergency fire access road that connects Lane Street to Wesley Drive. It's a mess. For the longest time, according to Google Maps, you could get on the Rec Path across the street from L'Hermitage Condos, which is very, very wrong.

Dear Google: Not everything is the Rec Path, including this emergency access road.

They can't get the parks right, either. They still have two "East Village Parks" in Shelton, one in the correct location on East Village Road, and one inexplicably over by the Monroe border. The second park is completely fictional and mostly covers land owned by the Aquarion Water Company and the Stockmal family. It's private property and you would be trespassing if you tried to walk it. That's another error I've repeatedly tried to correct over many years and am just ignored.

Most of this fictional "East Village Park" is private property (the correct East Village Park is off to the right).

Shelton's largest park went missing. Why?
While Google refuses to remove their fictional western "East Village Park," they did remove the largest park in Shelton, the 450+ acres of the Shelton Lakes Greenway.  I personally spent a lot of time entering the contorted property lines of this park into the Google Map edit mode for that greenway, and it was on the maps for a couple years. Then, one day, for no apparent reason, it just vanished. Why???  Again, I had provided official city documentation for my edits.

They also like to draw in private driveways as if they are roads. I've had a couple of those corrected, but why do they do that? At one time, they had Old Town Road continue on to the south of Buddington Road. We do have a paper street there, but not a drivable road. So I asked it to be removed. They responded, "you're right and we've fixed it!"  But when I looked, they had then made the neighbor's driveway, which runs alongside the City's paper street, look like a road. I tried to get that corrected but was just ignored.

That's a private driveway, not a road.
How does one go about requesting map changes in Google Map?  One option is to select a feature, and then select "Report a problem", which is in small type on the very bottom right side of the map. Another is to contribute via Google Map Maker. I encourage everyone to request that these issues be corrected. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Birchbank Trail Stabilization

This new rockwork will keep the intermittent stream from turning down the trail
For years we've been looking for a prospective Eagle Scout to take on the challenge of trail stabilization, and Tom Savarese from Troop 27 rose to the challenge at Birchbank.  Bridges and kiosks are favored by Scouts, which is understandable, but trail stabilization is something we really, really need.  And as our trail system continues to mature and shows signs of wear, the need for these types of projects will increase.

Birchbank is particularly susceptible to erosion. The trails at are very old, in some places over 100 years old where the old colonial road is followed (and it may have been an Indian road before that).  Also, the soil is unusually sandy and unstable, and much of the park slopes steeply.  Finally, there is a long history of illegal ATV usage on the trails that has caused damage so severe that some trail sections eroded as much as 3 feet deep and had to be abandoned. 

Along the flat part of Birchbank Trail, which runs parallel to Birchbank Road, there are a series of intermittent streams or gulleys that run straight down the hillside and then cross the trail at right angles. Or at least they used to, before the ATV tracks changed the topography, kicking up so much dirt along the sides that the trail began to intercept these streams.  There were times in the spring when a good long stretch of the trail was actually a river and was impossible to walk on unless you had really good waterproof boots.  Tom Savarese's project channelized these crossings to stop the water from turning down the trail. He also threw in a nice bench.

A bench was also added
Tom also constructed some new waterbars where the old trail turns up the hill. Waterbars move water off of the trail, reducing trail erosion. 

A waterbar intercepts and directs stormwater off the trail
Waterbars and/or steps in needed in various places along the trails. The trail at Riverview Park has a lot in common with Birchbank Trail, being a very old trail on a steep, sandy hill. All sorts of erosion issues there. And Turkey Trot Trail has a steep spot that is wearing badly. The trail may need to be rerouted, or some sort of stabilization used.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Bridging the Gap

What's neater than a bridge over a stream or wet area? Part of the challenge of walking the Paugussett Trail is confronting nature's obstacles, but sometimes it's nice to keep your feet dry. The Shelton Trails Committee selected a location on a recently developed extension of the trail and set to work building a bridge.

Click on photos to enlarge

O.K....so it isn't wet, YET!
Weather-resistant lumber and quality hardware insure a safe and sturdy structure

Jim lays out the floorboards for Bill and Richard to fasten with screws

Jim anchors the bridge abutments with rebar rods

The finished product

The bridge builders exit in military formation
Not bad for a morning's work! We're sure that this project will be appreciated if the weather ever gets back to normal, we get the back-ordered rain, and the streams flow again.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Trails Day 2014 - Part 1

We had great weather for National Trails Day on Saturday, June 6th - clear, sunny, warm.  The Shelton Trails Committee & CFPA were hosting 2 local hikes; the 10:30 walk on the RecPath started at Pine Lake, and the 1:00 Hike of the Paugussett Trail started at Shelton Intermediate School.

Pine Lake on Rt. 108 was picturesque with a number of fishermen and other park users exploring the RecPath at the beginning of the hike.

Luis, Sherri & Bill above were enjoying a chat prior to the start. 

Standing in for the mayor (not to worry...it was only for this event!), Terry skillfully read the Mayor's Proclamation regarding Shelton Trails Day. We then moved off quickly into the pine-scented pathway on the back side of the lake.

We had a lower than usual turn-out for Trails Day - about a dozen walkers.  But the public is defiantly enjoying the RecPath more; we passed a number of bikers, runners, dog walkers, and others out taking advantage of the fine weather Saturday morning.  We might have worked ourselves out of a job trying to sell Shelton's Open Spaces.

Here's some families out with younger kids and strollers out exploring the RecPath near the ballfields by the High School.  Having the RecPath and ballfields right next to each other can work well for families. 

There were several spots where shrubs, such as this Maple-leafed viburnum were in peak bloom.

Terry and Bill bring up the rear, protecting the rest of us from potential dangers, as in grizzlies and marauding chipmunks.

The mountain laurel were just starting to blossom.  There were a number of buds on some shrubs that will start to pop in the next week.

The areas along the power lines near Oak Valley Road were in a more colorful condition due to all the sun.

All in all we had a fine time, and no hikers were lost to bears, mountain lions, or heat stroke.  The portion of the RecPath along Basil Brook looked pretty, the hayfield at Lane St. looked ripe for mowing, and Huntington Street Cafe had plenty of cold beverages and hearty sandwiches at the end of the trail.  I can hardly wait to see the other photos of the hikes.  Another successful Trails Day.



Thursday, June 5, 2014

Wellington Weed Whacking

A short crew of trail volunteers cleared brush and briars along the Paugussett Trail last Saturday.  We worked on the stretch between Wellington Court and Independence Drive where it's mostly hand labor.  A more lengthy blog post with more photos is coming, but I did ask Jim to show me an action photo cutting brush & this is what I got:

Thankfully Steve and Matt from Shelton High School were a little more pro-active in the actual working department and we got a lot of thick stuff cleared out.  You may see Rich and Jim out with the mower this week along the RecPath getting ready for Trails Day on Saturday - watch out for them depending on who's driving.