SHELTON — For those people walking trails in Shelton, Lisette Garcia has a challenge for you.

Garcia has walked 44 miles of the city’s trails since the coronavirus pandemic made social distancing a rule statewide in early March. Walking trails is one of the few outdoor activities left for residents, but Garcia said that can be tedious at times, especially alone.

“Some days are gloomy,” said the Shelton resident, “so I decided to line the paths with painted rocks. Daily I have been placing rocks along the trail and noticed others have, too.”

Once she saw the other rocks beside hers, Garcia said she came up with the Shelton Rock Challenge, which she said could become a way to enjoy a trail walk while bringing people together while they must still remain apart.

“I think it is a nice way to show we are a community even though we can’t be together,” said Garcia.

Garcia, a longtime Shelton resident, is a graduate student at Sacred Heart University, studying to be a social worker, and works at the Lakewood Trumbull YMCA. With restrictions in place to deal with the pandemic, both are closed, and Garcia is home.

“With all this extra free time that I have because of graduate school and my job (being closed), I have been exploring all the trails here in Shelton,” said Garcia.

She said the first few weeks were exciting as she learned the extensive trail system, but after “visiting the same trails over and over it started to feel dull.

“While on the trails, I remembered a time, I believe it was after Sandy Hook, when people started leaving rocks around town, calling it the Kindness Rock Project,” said Garcia. “I thought that this was a great idea to bounce off of, and I came up with ‘Shelton Rocks.’”

Garcia has since been decorating rocks and leaving them along the main path for people to find.

“Since I have been leaving the rocks, people have found them and shared them on social media,” said Garcia. “I posted a challenge for others to decorate rocks and leave them on the trails. On these gloomy days, these bright rocks give a sense of comfort and home.”

She has also encouraged families to take their children on scavenger hunts to get them outside and get them excited about doing something different.

“It put a smile on my face when I saw my rocks posted on social media,” said Garcia. “It gave me that sense of community that I have been missing during these days of social isolation. When I was placing rocks today, someone asked if they could see them so they would know that they were mine when they found them.”

She said she also mentioned the Shelton Rocks challenge in passing to a hiking couple, and they thanked her for pointing it out to them.

“As I watched them walk away, I saw them pointing at rocks along the path and smiling,” said Garcia. “It was a rewarding feeling. My goal is to send the city of Shelton some sunshine on these dark days as a day reminder that we are in this together and better days are coming.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com