Sunday, November 16, 2008

Loss of a Landmark

There she goes! The Derby/Shelton dam gatehouse is collapsing and will likely be replaced with the egress for a new fish ladder. The gatehouse is a landmark for boaters and has been the feature of many prominant landscape paintings, including a large depression-era painting in the Post Office, and another painting in Plumb Libary.

The gatehouse is owned by the Stratford-based McCallum Enterprises, who also owns the dam, canal and hydroelectric facilities. Under their federal license, McCallum was required to maintain the gatehouse, which was probably a hassle. But McCallum's engineers and the DEP fisheries unit decided the gatehouse was just the place for the fish ladder, so maintenance requirement has been waived. Sheltonites were given no opportunity to comment on this idea and it appears the people designing the fish ladder were not even aware that people around here think it's important. So, there goes our landmark.

McCallum also has plans to fill in the canal and replace it with high-density housing, and has recently installed an obnoxious fence (see photo below) to close 1000 feet of riverfront that had been public under their federal license to operate the hydroelectric facility. Local residents and officials had no idea these actions were proposed and missed the comment periods because the legal public notices were made in the Waterbury Republican, Fairfield Citizen News, and New Haven Advocate, the first two of which are not local and the latter is a left-wing freebie for college students that many older people find offensive.

The property is regulated by the 5-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which supercedes all local regulations. The City of Shelton and local residents were given no opportunity to provide input before FERC decided to allow the collapse of the gatehouse, the filling of the canal, and the closure of the canal to the public. However, the US Corps of Army Engineers has not approved a required wetlands permit so far, so the canal might yet be saved (the application was temporarily withdrawn).

Here's a video (be sure to click "watch in high quality" to the lower right of the video) of the Canal Street Riverfront Development zone and the canal and locks, along with the fence that was erected, and here's a page with more information about the canal. I put the video together since many residents are not familiar with that area and aren't quite sure where the locks are.

Update 11/20/2008: FERC responded to DEP and the City of Shelton by a strong reversal of their original approval to close the canal to the public. The Mayor had asked for US Representative Rosa DeLauro for assistance, and that seems to have paid off. Yay!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Feels like there's a bug crawling across my skin...

I think I'm averaging about one of these every week since October. Adult deer ticks - the ones you find in cool weather - are more likely to be infected with Lyme Disease than the summer nymph stages. Fortunately, most people either feel the tick walk across their skin or they will feel an irritation after the tick bites. I usually find the adults walking down my arm, often while driving back from a hike through heavy brush. Or they might be on my neck, behind my ear, or on my back. And I always pick the adults up in the brush, so it's easy enough to do a tick check after letterboxing or working in the woods.

I've heard a lot of stupid things about ticks. Some come from medical professionals. For example, a friend of mine pulled an engorged tick off of herself in the winter (surely an adult deer tick) and called the doctor. She was told that if she could see it, the tick couldn't be a deer tick. I've also seen on the Internet pages that say it is all but impossible to see the nymph ticks. Hello? Ticks are not invisible nor are they microscopic. I can see the adults and nymphs just fine, and I occasionally even see the larvae, which are way smaller than even the nymphs (larvae can't carry Lyme Disease). The point is you need to LOOK very carefully and use mirrors and/or partners to check the areas you can't normally see. And I suppose if you are very hairy or have darker skin you're going to have a harder time.

The nymphs are a summer thing (May-June-July), and that's how most people get Lyme Disease. I think this is only partially because nymphs are smaller and more difficult to see. I think it is also because nymphs prefer low vegetation and grassy areas rather than brush, and people pick them up just by going out to their BBQ or mowing the lawn. They don't think to do a tick check just for stepping out onto the lawn.

Outdoorsy people, however, check for ticks constantly, and investigate every little tickle that might prove to be a tick. As long as the tick is pulled off within 24-48 hours after a bite, you won't get Lyme Disease, even if the tick is infected (and chances are good that it is not). Knock on wood, I've pulled hundreds of deer tick off of me over the years but never got Lyme Disease.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Zoar Trail, Newtown

"Who knew??" my husband and I kept saying. Who knew this trail, so close to home, would be so scenic? Our destination was Prydden Falls and a solitary letterbox that no one had logged for over 3 years, 1.6 miles from the trailhead at Great Quarter Road. The trail followed the shoreline of Lake Zoar the entire route, sometimes right along the shoreline and at other times 50 or 100 feet up. We could see the lake through the trees almost all the way to the falls. The trail was not difficult other than some tricky footing here and there posed by roots and rocks.

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Prydden Falls were dramatic - the photo only captures a portion of it. At the foot of the falls there is a nice rock on the shoreline with an unobstructed view of the river. A great place for a picnic. After finding the letterbox and a nearby geocache, we returned the way we came. You can make a loop of the trail, but it's much longer and rugged.

Zoar Trail is one of CFPA's Blue-Blazed trails and we found it well-maintained. A trail volunteer somewhere deserves a pat on the back. It is also classifed as scenic by the DEP. Here are some more photos.