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West Rock Wish List

A fall view of the road just inside the main entrance.

As a park user and a trails volunteer, I have a long wish list of park improvements that I would like to see, improvements that I have grouped into categories. Some situations I hope to improve myself some day, while others would require heavy equipment. The General Assembly has been underfunding the DEEP for years, forcing parks to operate on skeleton staff with little money for upkeep.

Red Trail (starting from the South Overlook and heading north)

  • Restoration of the stone slabs that descend the steep slope down to street level. Some steps are still present, while others have slid out of place, and can be found atop other steps, or in the woods. Still others have broken into pieces.
  • Extensive drainage work to head off even further erosion on the slope descending from the overlook.
  • Restoration of the four sets of staircases along the Red Trail, one of which is nearly intact, and three of which have multiple broken steps (see pictures). 
This staircase is mostly intact and providers users (although not those on bikes or horses) with a way to climb a steep slope and not cause erosion.
This staircase is barely recognizable and would require much effort to restore the stairs to their original position.
  • Clearing out of culverts and replacement of washed out trails at several sharp turns on the Red Trail in the area of these staircases. The trail in this area is generally very well engineered and stable. There is one section near the Red Diamond Trail where the trail collapsed down the slope, prompting a relocation where the Red and Red Diamond Trail share a section of trail.
  • Removal of invasive species along the Red Trail between Lake Wintergreen and Mountain Road, including multi-flora rose, autumn olive, and Asiatic bittersweet. Near Lake Wintergreen there is a section of phragmites.
  • Removal of all the junk in the "junkyard" along the Red Trail north of Mountain Road. My guess is that this was once private property and the items were left by the former owner.
  • Regrade the Red Trail from Lake Wintergreen to the first crossing of Mountain Road. This area continues to wash out with low spots that collect standing water. Too much of the sediments are ending up in Wintergreen Brook, partially blocking the water flow. A particularly eroded section is at the junction with the Purple Trail. The area needs a fresh coating of stone dust with rocks along the side in certain areas, particularly this Purple Trail crossing, to keep the surface from washing away again. As part of this process, the trail could use a drainage ditch in certain areas to collect water as it flows down the ridge and then direct that water into a culvert under the trail and then into Wintergreen Brook. This is a project for heavy equipment, well beyond the capabilities of volunteers with hand tools.
This old junkyard is an unsightly view off the gravel portion of the Red Trail.

Green Trail
The Green Trail was poorly designed because it climbs the ridge steeply from the Red Trail and is heavily eroded as a result. The trail needs extensive work with regard to erosion control to keep it from further washing away.

Orange Trail
The Orange Trail is generally in good shape. It could use a few waterbars, plus a couple of switchbacks, to keep erosion to a minimum.

Gold Trail
Where the Gold Trail narrows at the water tank, there are a couple of soft sections that need firming up with rocks. There is a cluster of invasive autumn olive shrubs next to the water tank, plus some young ones along the road up to the tank. The fence surrounding the tank is covered with invasive bittersweet vines. A contractor for the water company, which owns the property by the tank, cut the autumn olive in fall 2016 and spring 2017, but is resprouting, along with the bittersweet vines. Repeated trips to the area have cut some of the resprouts, but the area requires continued attention.

Purple Trail
The Purple Trail needs some water bars to prevent further erosion, particularly near its junction with the Red Trail.

Yellow Trail
The Yellow Trail is generally in good shape. It could use a few waterbars to keep erosion to a minimum. I looked at the possibility of making a direction connection between Yellow and Red, but it would involve an extensive boardwalk through a swamp.
The better approach is to simply walk Mountain Road, which I blazed Yellow in 2015 to guide people between the Yellow Trail up the ridge and the Red Trail. Mountain Road is a quiet street; you might have one car pass by you in the 0.3 mile walk from the woods to the Red Trail.
I hope to relocate the portion of the Yellow Trail along Mountain Road, so that it is closer to the Red Trail. The terrain is suitable enough to move perhaps 0.1 miles of the trail before it would have to exit to the road.

Red-White Trail near Farm Brook Reservoir
The Red-White Trail near Farm Brook Reservoir has a major problem with invasive plant species. The invasives seem to outnumber the natives with bittersweet vines, autumn olive, and multi-flora rose in abundance, along with Japanese stiltgrass. I heavily targeted the invasives in 2015, while working on a relocation of the Red Trail by the pond. I was there on a weekly basis in summer 2015 and when I walked along, I was constantly plucking newly sprouted bittersweet vines, cutting multi-flora rose that regrew, and lopping off the new growth from the autumn olive shrubs along the edge of the field. Since 2015, I have continued to cut down many more autumn olive shrubs and vines.

Regicides Trail
My wish list for the Regicides Trail includes removal of the loose trap rock that makes footing tricky along parts of the trail.

Sanford Feeder Trail
I have requested permission from the South Central Regional Water Authority to connect the Sanford Feeder to the Quinnipiac Trail. Otherwise, hikers have to walk about half a mile along Brooks Road, which has no shoulder, to make the connection. The water company has said an environmental study to move this initiative forward. Such a study would cost more than $1,000, so it is unknown if this project will take place.
My position is that the trail extension would follow existing woods roads, so no clearing would take place. Also, the trail is not located near any reservoirs and is a sufficient distance from the streams that feed the watercourse that there should be no negative effect from hikers.

White Trail
This is a low spot on the White Trail that gathers water too often and users have created a bypass to keep themselves dry. The long-term solution would be to relocate the trail up the ridge to a location that is dry year-round.

The White Trail has many water concerns. Near the junction of the Orange Trail, the White Trail could use a drainage ditch on the upslope side of the trail to collect water as it drains off the ridge. This drainage ditch could be connected to a culvert to keep water off the trail (and freezing up in the winter). Currently water runs across the trail and is eroding it.
Between Lake Wintergreen and the White Trail terminus at the Red Trail there are numerous water issues. The White Trail was poorly designed (and was probably not designed at all) because the trail is located at the bottom of the steep part of the ridge where it levels off. As a result, water ponds in many places along the trail. Users have created some bypasses of these low areas. Unfortunately the bypasses were not thought out and they have their own erosion issues. Solving the problem includes hardening some sections of the trail with rocks, placing rocks along seasonal waterflows that cross the trail to keep the water flowing across the trail and not down it, and relocating portions of the trail further up the slope. This is a huge undertaking and will take many years to accomplish.

This is relatively easy fix on the White Trail to add stones along the water flow to channel it across the trail. Hikers could easy step from one set of stones to the other. Bikers would have a bit of challenge that they often enjoy.

Park-Wide Removal of Invasive Species
Particular concerns include the following:
  • Asiatic bittersweet, especially along Main Street, near the Lake Wintergreen parking area, along portions of Baldwin Drive, by Farm Brook Reservoir, and near any of the meadows in the park.
  • Autumn olive, particularly along the Red Trail by the canal, by Farm Brook Reservoir, and near the northern part of Mountain Road, and along the Gold Trail by the water tank.
  • Multi-flora rose, especially along the Red Trail between Lake Wintergreen and the tall pines area near the southern crossing of Mountain Road.
  • Japanese barberry, which is scattered at various locations through the park.
  • Winged euonymus, better known as burning bush, is found in various locations, particularly along the Westville Feeder.
  • Phragmites, especially along the Red Trail between Lake Wintergreen and the Purple Trail.
  • Japanese knotweed is sprouting along Wintergreen Avenue near Brookside Avenue, and is spreading rapidly toward the main entrance. There is another large patch near the parking lot on Mountain Road. This plant has rightfully been labeled "Godzilla weed" because it is so hard to eradicate. There is a patch on Baldwin Drive I have been fighting since 2014 and plan to win that battle. There is also a patch of knotweed on Mountain Road that I attacked for the first time in 2016, pulling it out by the roots.
  • There are sampling of all these invasive plant species running the length of Baldwin Drive.
Miscellaneous Projects
The stone walls at the South Overlook and by Judges Cave are crumbling. They need extensive work to restore the mortar. The state has done some work on these walls, and plans to hire a contractor to address the problem.
There are areas along Baldwin Drive that have litter from when the road was open to traffic, litter that needs removal.
The turn-off by the North Summit Trail needs to have extensive glass swept up. I did a partial sweeping when I worked for the state in summer 2008, but never had time to finish the job.

“People” Wish List
My wish list for park users includes the following:
  • Don't litter.
  • Don't create new trails (and add to the erosion that already exists).
  • Don't unblock illegal trails (that I block off to let the area grow over).
  • Don't cut across switchbacks because that creates erosion.
  • Don't block stream flows with rocks or sticks in an attempt to create a pseudo-bridge: the water just flows down the trail instead.
  • Don't graffiti.
  • Pick up and take away dog poop.
  • Do enjoy the beauty of the park.

This "collection" shows a sampling of litter found along Baldwin Drive and the Regicides Trail north of the Yellow Trail. Judging by the age and and condition of the bottles and cans, they date from a time in the 1970s when Baldwin Drive was open to vehicle traffic. Based on where they are found, people clearly tossed them out their windows as they were driving. I have easily filled two of these buckets while walking along a 1/4 mile section of the road. I made two similar-sized piles on the Regicides Trail and removed the litter at a later time. Plastic buckets are the best way to remove litter: they don't leak in my trunk, broken glass doesn't cut through as it would a plastic bag, and the handle makes it comfortable for carrying long distances.

1 comment:

  1. I would also love for those staircases on the red trail to be restored!