Shelton regained six miles of Connecticut Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail in December 2013 with a vote by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA).
The action officially restores the Paugussett Trail from Indian Well State Park south through the Shelton Lakes area to Buddington Road, and increases the total length of the trail to about 15 miles.
The new trail terminus is located near Buck Hill Road, a quarter mile from the original Buddington Road crossing at Old Town Road.
Blue-Blazed system started in 1920s
CFPA established the Blue-Blazed Trail system in 1929 and continues to maintain an 825-mile long network of hiking trails throughout the state.
Many of these trails, including the Paugussett Trail, were created during the Great Depression with the assistance of unemployed young men who signed up with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
The character of a Blue-Blazed Trails is often challenging, with many trails climbing Connecticut’s most prominent ridges, such as the Quinnipiac Trail on Sleeping Giant in Hamden, and the Mattabesett Trail on Mt. Higby in Middlefield.
People who have hiked all the major trails are eligible to become a member of the “Connecticut 400 Club.”
Restoration of a lost trail
The Paugussett Trail (pronounced “Puh-GUSS-ett”) once extended from Lake Zoar in Monroe south to Roosevelt Forest in Stratford. However, most of the trail was located on private property and vulnerable to development, and by 1971 the trail was abandoned south of Indian Well State Park.
Through the years, hikers maintained hope that the trail could be restored, and when Shelton’s first open space plan was drafted in 1993, a potential greenway corridor was included through which the trail could be extended.
Two reservoirs and a wildflower garden
Properties along this corridor soon became available for open space preservation, including several hundred acres of surplus watershed land at Shelton Lakes in 1998. That purchase included Hope Lake and Silent Waters, two scenic reservoirs that have become attractions for Paugussett Trail hikers.
Shelton Lakes is now a very popular destination, with more than 10 miles of trails, a dog park, fishing, and canoeing. Another attraction is Eklund Garden, a native wildflower refuge through which the Paugussett Trail passes.
Of the 20 separate properties that the new trail cross between Indian Well State Park and Buddington Road, all but two have been acquired since the 1990s (those two properties were already owned by the city of Shelton).
Volunteers constructed the new trail
Volunteers with the Shelton Trails Committee constructed the trail over many years, starting with sections at Shelton Lakes that have been used by residents since the mid-1990s.
Several major Eagle Scout projects were involved, including the construction of bridges, sign kiosks, and a bypass.
The new trail extension is located entirely on City and State property.
How to get there
The new trail section can be accessed at Indian Well State Park by parking in the first lot after turning onto Indian Well Road, opposite a brown sign for the access trail to the falls that instructs people not to climb on the rocks.
From there, hikers follow blue blazes marked on trees (or other objects if there are no trees) south to stay on the trail as it crosses Route 110 and slowly rises up the slopes of the Housatonic River to come out onto Mayflower Lane.
Hikers must then walk along the road for about 1,000 feet, cross Meadow Street, and enter the Wiacek meadows north of the High School. The trail continues south along the powerline corridor, crossing Constitution Boulevard North and Independence Drive, before joining the trail system at Shelton Lakes.
The Buddington Road trailhead is located near Buck Hill Road under the high-tension powerlines.
Maps for the Shelton Lakes trail system, which includes the Paugussett from Meadow Street to Buddington Road, can be downloaded at sheltonconservation.org and also are available at the Shelton Community Center and City Hall.
CFPA publishes detailed maps and descriptions of the Blue-Blazed Trails in the Connecticut Walk Book, available in most bookstores and online, with updates posted on its website.
The older sections of the Paugussett Trail are included in current edition of the Connecticut Walk Book, and the new sections will be included in the next edition of the Walk Book. A Google map for the entire Paugussett Trail can be accessed online at sheltonconservation.org.
Teresa Gallagher is the conservation agent for the city of Shelton.