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.



 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Mountain Laurel along the RecPath

We had not one but two very successful hikes in Shelton for National Trails Day.  The first one lead by Lynn had about 18 people hiking along the Paugussett Trail from Buddington Road down to Indian Well State Park.  There was a little shuttling back and forth, but from the sound of it they had a great walk.


A second group of 8 hikers met at Pine Lake on Rt. 108 and had an easier walk along the RecPath.



The view along Pine Lake from the bridge was pretty.  The is the eastern end of the Shelton Lakes Greenway and a lot of people were out enjoying the open spaces.



We kept passing many people out walking their dogs, bike riding, strolling, running, fishing or just enjoying a pleasant day outdoors.
  

One of the hi-lights of the hike were the mountain laurels just starting to bloom along the powerlines.  They are still in bloom for those who want to enjoy them.  We finished our hike with lunch at the Huntington Street Cafe - this year there was live music being performed - a First for one of our hikes.  The Trails Committee would like to thank everybody who came out to both events. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Birchbank Ramble

It was a wonderful day, perfect for a walk through the woods. Fifteen folks gathered at the trailhead of the Birchbank Trail, off Indian Well Road. This trail is noted, for one thing, for the variety and volume of spring flowers, and we arrived near the end of this Spring's cycle. 

Click on photos to enlarge

Starting out

Terry points out one of the native plants
The group heads uphill
Nature's overpass
"Whew!"

Terry highlights some of the landscape
Checking the brook for water critters

"Where's the rest of the house?"

Resting at the old former fishing/hunting cabin


The picturesque stream that led us back down the hill
A quiet pool to explore


A fun hike, an educational experience, and a chance to get away and enjoy nature at her finest.