After the storm: Fixing Wilton’s trails
WILTON — Tropical Storm Isaias may be long gone, but efforts are still underway to clean up debris its violent and windy gusts left behind.
Armed with chainsaws and other equipment, various crews are now busy clearing Wilton’s nature and walking trails which are littered with strewn tree trunks, leaves and branches.
After the Aug. 4 storm, Zen Herter, environmental analyst for the town’s Environmental Affairs Department, visited several areas in the town’s parks to assess trails that needed clearing. “The Town Forest was hit pretty hard,” he said.
Located off Boas Lane and Branch Brook Road, the Town Forest is a popular 190-acre tract of open space sporting a number of hiking trails, streams, and a waterfall known as Sheep Falls.
Herter cleared branches from trails in the Town Forest, along with trails in Bradley Park off Oak Edge Lane, and Cherry Lane Park off Cherry Lane and Banks Drive.
“Slowly and surely, we will work on other parks to make sure they are secure and safe,” he said.
Wilton’s numerous trails and parks cover many acres and are rather expansive, so Herter found it useful to hear about downed trees on hiking trails from residents via the SeeClickFix mobile app. The app allows Wilton citizens to report non-emergency problems to the town.
“I responded to a tree problem in Cherry Lane Park that a resident reported through SeeClickFix,” he said. “It’s a helpful app because people can leave pictures and identify where on the trail the problem is so we can find it and fix it quicker.”
For safety purposes, he urges the public not to take things into their own hands or bring saws into town parks to clear trees and other blockages.
“If you come across something, be careful and turn back. Keep an eye out for things hanging in trees and stay observant of your surroundings,” he cautioned. “Use the SeeClickFix app to report problems to the town.”
Herter expects the parks will be cleared in the next couple of weeks.
Members of the Wilton Land Conservation Trust are also assessing tree damage to their hiking trails. The trust owns or has easements on 110 parcels in town, with popular walking trails on about a dozen of them.
“We are going onto the trails and scouting for hazards to clear,” said David McCarthy, the land trust’s executive director.
Before the storm hit, he said, a couple of trees along the trails had been marked for clearing, so they will be cleared in addition to others damaged by Isaias.
Because the land trust’s properties are substantial in size, like the town’s, McCarthy encourages residents to let him know where along the trails they are spotting downed trees and other issues.
“The community is our eyes and ears, if you spot a hazard that needs clearing please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org,” he said.
On the Wilton Loop of the Norwalk River Valley Trail, a dozen volunteers led by Rob McWilliams, head trail steward, with the assistance of Charlie Taney, are clearing downed trees, according to Beth Merrill, NRVT executive director.
Their cleanup efforts started on the day after the storm. “Immediately afterwards, NRVT put out a request for volunteers to help clear the trail and a number of people offered to help right away,” Merrill said.
The group started by picking up leaves, small limbs and debris. They discovered three major trees that had fallen along the east portion of the Wilton loop. The trees required cutting in order to remove them safely, and three leaning trees they found will be removed in the next few days, according to Merrill.
“We are in pretty good shape. We have a wonderful group of volunteers that recognize the value of the trails. We have marked the trees and there is no danger to anyone. Everything’s passable and open,” she said.