Trails are now open!

Please NO bikes. April 18th update: Trails are open to bikes. Voldemort, Carriage Trails and lower loop on the Redfield trails are still closed. PLEASE RESPECT TRAIL CLOSURES. The rut in this pic was from the past weekend. We just repaired all those drainage’s last week and someone just had to ride through them.


April 14th update: Trails are open to all bikes. Trails that are closed-Underdog, Voldemort, Carriage Trail and Redfield trails. Please respect those trail closures. Thank you for your patience.


April 7th update: Trails are closed to all bikes. We are monitoring the trails daily and they are soft from 3″ of snow last Monday and an 1″ of rain today. Please be patient.


We are closing the trails for a few days with the cold night temps moving in the frost has come in with those temps. Hopefully by the end of the week we will be able to open the trails to mountain bikes.


April 2nd update: Most trails are open today and tomorrow April 2nd and 3rd. Trails will close Sunday at 5pm due to cold weather moving back in. The freeze thaw cycles raise havoc with the trail tread with frost issues. Underdog, part of Droopy, Lichen Rock, Exit Strategy, Voldemort are closed in Pine Hill Park. The Carriage Trail and Redfield trails are closed and will remain closed until we get some significant drying weather.


April 1st update: We are going to open the trails for Saturday and Sunday, April 2nd and 3rd. They will close Sunday late afternoon. The weather is going to get really cold with some snow and we’re trying to protect the trails the best we can. Underdog will be closed to bikes this weekend. Please set Pine Hill Park as a favorite on TrailHUB for up to date information on the trails.


March 31st update: The freeze/thaw cycles are wreaking havoc on the trails.  Please DO NOT ride any type of bike in the park.

Our weather gods do not appear to be cooperating next week to be able to open trails up either.

Here is a very good explanation on why not to ride during freeze/thaw cycles.

Reasons why trails are closed right now

First community work day is Saturday, April 30th at 9AM.


Saturday, March 25th at 10AM there will be a volunteer work day to clean drainage’s and repair ruts left from the bikes last weekend. Meet at front entrance.


Unfortunately we have had to close our trails due to the freeze/thaw cycles we are experiencing. Please be patient while trails dry out and firm back up. No bikes-this includes fat bikes.


 

We opened most of the trail system Thursday, March 17th. Redfield, Carriage Trail and Voldemort are closed to all users(pedestrian, bikes, fat bikes, etc) due to very soft conditions. We would greatly appreciate all your cooperation on staying off these trails.

We have had some vandalism in the park. Pulling ‘you are here’ signs down, cutting small sapling trees along the edge of the trails, plus pulling down trail blazes. If you see vandalism occurring please report the activity to the Rutland Police Dept at  802 773 1820.  If the destruction has already occurred please report it to Rutland Recreation at 773-1822. If you see someone trying to start a fire please call 911 and report it to the police and fire dept. Spring is a nasty time for wildfires. Pine Hill Park is a Rutland City Park, means no fires, no smoking, no camping and pets on a leash.

Exciting Plans for 2016 Outlined

We had great Annual meeting on Monday, March 28th. A group of 30+ members heard first hand about some of our plans for 2016, but more importantly a discussion session led to lots of great ideas. Hopefully we can move forward with some of the great suggestions and enthusiasm that was present in the room!

This yeIMG_2625ar, the board tried a different approach with the meeting. Keith Wight gave a quick presentation of last year’s accomplishments:

Volunteer Days and Hours:
2015 Volunteer Days 57 days
2015 Volunteer Hours 2390 hours
Groups providing volunteer hours: Community Work Days, Fair Haven Girls on the Run,  Youth Mountain Bike Group; RHS Cross Country Team; RHS YES Plan-6 Days; Youth Works-13 days; PHP individuals

2015-php-completed
Projects completed in Pine Hill Park in 2015 highlighted in blue.
Redfield trails opened and blazed in 2015 highlighted in red.

The meeting  then moved on to an open discussion of 2016 plans.

Upcoming programs in 2016:

  • Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic
  • Youth Mountain Bike Group
  • Intermediate/Advanced Mountain Bike Clinic(new this year)
  • Summer Sunset 5K Race
  • Droopy Pedal Mountain Bike Race
  • Senior Olympics Mountain Bike Race
  • 10K Leaf Chase
  • Nature Hikes with Tom Estill
  • Full Moon 5K race

2016 Goals:

  • Expand Redfield Trails
  • Broken Handlebar Extension
  • New Pine Hill Park map
  • Potential RRMC trail project
  • Webpage
  • Maintain and expand membership
  • Sponsorship Ideas
  • Tyvek maps
  • Coasters with logos

The current PHP board has been working on redefining the goals for the organization and President Andy Shinn shared some of their thoughts. The board reached out to those present and to the overall membership for help in steering the group forward. In addition to the usual annual tasks like trail maintenance, the board is hoping to recruit folks to help with some new projects.

The partnership has developed a new logo and designs for coasters, t-shirts and plans to produce tyvek maps for next year.  Much of the discussion centered around how we could increase awareness and enthusiasm for the work we do, and how we could translate that enthusiasm into more paid memberships and volunteers to help the board accomplish our goals.

Discussion Topics and Ideas:

  • Ask if member? Do you want to be a member?  At activities have a table or something to sign people up.
  • Set up a membership table at the trail head on busy weekends
  • Maps – good idea to make some money – Thanks to private landowners with permission
  • Get coasters to local pubs and restaurants
  • 59 paid members this year; where do we want to be next year? Membership drive?
  • Get list from Cindi of 600+ emails to get them to sign up for Pine Hill Partnership.
  • Think about Lower membership cost to increase numbers
  • “Trails brought to you by Pine Hill Partnership” signs in park
  • Does everyone know that Pine Hill Partnership exists? Most people think it is the City, but do not realize that Pine Hill Partnership actually maintains the park, Carriage and Redfield Trails
  • Start promoting activities on Front porch forum – City, Rutland Town…
  • Business card or similar item to hand out to visitors with Pine Hill Partnership info (hand out coasters?)
  • Web site eventually will become pinehillpartnership.org – phasing out pinehillpark.org
  • We need more social media presence – Instagram, Facebook, Front Porch Forum
  • Partner with a store similar to EMS to bind together to provide discount to someone who pays a membership; example, Alpine Bike Shop
  • Might need membership card ?
  • List of local discounts available to members with a card (similar to Perk card)
  • Trails are all the same and some users want a variation on trails – more difficult terrain. Make Broken Handlebar Extension be something more than just a roller.  Optional routes giving the chance to take a more technical or rocky trail.  Something different.  Broaden the trail system.
  • Raise ridership through the broadening of the trail system
  • Mailing list on maintenance? People find out a week after the items happen.
  • Post a list of tasks that need to be done; bring you own tools; Pick up and sign out tools somewhere
  • Expectations for volunteer efforts, duties, time span – clear expectations will make people more likely to step up
  • How things are presented is important – make it fun or at least sound fun; add something like a barbecue or ride or similar. Need someone to organize B-B-Que for a work day.
  • Evening work times? Get more people for a shorter time. Need someone to step up and lead these groups.
  • Put it out that we need X many people, leader, etc.
  • Trail building 101? Teach some leaders how to do trail maintenance and lead a group.
  • Short videos of how to clean a drainage ditch (or similar)
  • Make the park more inviting – more important things that reporting dogs in park; make it fun and exciting
  • Need help for what? Need more members, more people involved, not just trail work, but membership drive, marketing, social director
  • Why are the trails closed? Educate as to why the trails are closed because people may not understand this especially given the mild winter.

After the discussion the final piece of business was to elect next year’s board of directors. Our board of directors for 2016 are: Joel Blumenthal, Andy Shinn, Keith Wight, Shelley Lutz, Claus Bartenstein, and Dave Jenne.

If you would like to help the board with any of our upcoming projects, or have some new ideas of your own, let us know about them! Email us at pinehillpark@gmail.com

If you shop online and use Amazon please consider using www.smile.amazon.com. Amazon will make quarterly contributions to Pine Hill Partnership if you enter us as the non-profit.

Big thanks for your support this year in our continued efforts to make these area trails so special.

Sincerely,

Keith Wight, Andrew Shinn, Joel Blumenthal, Dave Jenne, Claus Bartenstein, and Shelley Lutz

Board of Directors

Wild Times at Pine Hill Park

Winter 2015/16 Summary

By Tom Estill

In general, the winter of 2015/16 was relatively mild.  While both Rocky and Muddy Ponds were beginning to ice over by mid-November in 2014, it wasn’t until the very end of December 2015, that the ponds were just starting to ice over.  By the end of Jan. 2016, the ponds had finally completely frozen over.  The first major winter storm didn’t occur until the last day of 2015.

Typical birds commonly seen towards the beginning of winter included white-breasted nuthatches, black-capped chickadees, crows and hairy woodpeckers.  By the second week of Jan., only a few inches of snow covered the ground.  I was surprised to see so many deer and small rodent tracks throughout the whole park.  While walking along the Carriage Trail on Jan. 17th, I came across beaver tracks leading from Muddy Pond to Rocky Pond.  It got me wondering?  More on that later in this summary.

© Copyright 2009,David S. Jenne, All Rights Reserved.

Pileated woodpeckers were heard and seen throughout the forest on a regular basis all winter long.  So glad to see their population is holding strong.  Only occasionally would I hear or see the tufted titmouse, and dark-eyed juncos.  During the third week of Jan., I heard hairy woodpeckers “drumming” for the first time in many months, signaling a change in their territorial behavior.  About the same time I followed some coyote tracks up to a small den which I know in the past was occupied by porcupines.  Didn’t want to peek inside for fear of disturbing any occupants.  By the end of January, warm temperatures had melted so much snow that patches of bare ground could be found throughout the whole park.  On Jan. 31st, a golden-crowned kinglet landed on a branch close to where I was sitting, and a tufted titmouse could be heard singing its “peter, peter” song, another bird establishing its breeding territory.  One week later, a cardinal was heard singing its territorial/courtship song, a titmouse was heard singing its “Jway” call, and a barred owl could be heard “hooting” deep in the forest west of trail marker #24.

By Feb. 6th, snow was pretty much gone from the park, except for a few isolated and sun-protected spots.  Signs of recent beaver chewing activity along the shores of Rocky Pond could be seen from the Shimmer Trail.  I also watched three male gray squirrels chasing a female up and down numerous trees until finally, the lead male seemed to get the attention of the female by making various calls to the female, while the other two males sat quietly on nearby branches.

Feb. 14th saw a record cold temp. for that day of -17F, with a -40F wind chill temp. recorded near midnight.  While walking through the forest that day, I was amazed at the amount of cracking, snapping, and popping sounds I heard as the sap and trapped water in the trees would freeze, expand and then snap the branches and tree trunks.  The second week of Feb. also found me being enchanted by the haunting rumblings emanating from beneath the ice at Rocky Pond, as the ice was shifting and moving with changes in water level, and movement of the water below the ice.  Record low temperatures were once again recorded on Feb. 14, while record high temperatures were recorded two days later on 2/16.  By 2/17, all signs of snow were virtually gone from the park.  On 2/17, I was surprised to easily see from the Shimmer Trail a large, recently built, active beaver den on the West side of Rocky Pond.  That explained the beaver footprints leading to Rocky Pond from Muddy Pond I had seen weeks earlier, and all the recent beaver chewing activity seen along the shores of Rocky Pond.  Many tree branches were seen poking out of the ice near the den where the beaver had been storing food for the winter months.

Morning Cloak butterfly
First robin was seen at the park on Feb. 20th.  And a week later, I received a report of a bald eagle flying near the power lines on the Carriage Trail near Rocky Pond.  During the first week of March, mourning doves were heard “cooing” near the trailhead, streams were running ice free, a large beaver was seen for the first time feeding on a downed tree at Rocky Pond, and chipmunks were seen scurrying among the downed trees along the middle Giorgetti Trail.  March 13th saw the first butterfly of the season, a Mourning Cloak, one of the first butterflies to emerge from their winter hibernation under the bark of trees, and the first Eastern Newts swimming in large numbers along the shores of Rocky Pond.  Both ponds were free of any ice, and moss plants were beginning to grow reproductive stalks.  During Feb. and March, I had noticed the water level of Rocky Pond slowing creeping upwards so was not surprised when, walking along the Carriage Trail; I saw a new beaver dam being built at the outlet of Rocky Pond. I’ve been wondering just how big that dam will become in the future?

By mid-March, Canada geese, common mergansers, mallards, wood ducks and kingfishers could be easily seen from the Carriage Trail on Muddy Pond.  The last day of winter, I went on a hike through the forest and for the first time in three and a half years, I didn’t see or hear a single bird in the forest, but I did see painted turtle sunning themselves at Rocky Pond, and received a report of a pair of barred owls seen near the intersection of the Carriage Trail and the Redfield Farm trail.

The forest is still relatively quiet, and I wait with great anticipation for the arrival of our spring migrant birds, and the first spring wildflowers.

As a reminder, please respect the No Trespassing/Private Property signs and stay on the trails.  Now, go enjoy the arrival of spring at Pine Hill Park.

Night hike for night critters

Join local naturalist Tom Estill on a night stroll along the Carriage Trail as we search for the “night critters” of Pine Hill Park.  We’ll especially be listening to the call of owls, foxes, coyotes, and frogs, and observing the night work of beavers at Rocky Pond.  Wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather.  Bring along water, a small snack and a flashlight, also.
Difficulty:  Easy to Moderate Walk
Ages 11+ – Giorgetti Pine Hill Park

April 16th, 7-9pm

All trails are closed

Update: as of March 24th trails are still closed and will continue to be closed through next week.

As of Sunday March 20, all trails are closed to mountain bikes, including fat bikes. The heavy freezes at night and warm, sunny days are wreaking havoc on the trail tread. PLEASE BE PATIENT and do not ride. We will keep a close eye on the trail conditions during the week.

2017 Annual dinner

Dear Pine Hill Partnership Members,

We had great 2016 year on the trails. Please join us at our annual meeting to enjoy light dinner fare, a short recap of 2016 and an introduction for 2017.

The meeting will start at 6pm, Monday, April 10th, at the Godnick Center at 1 Deer St. Rutland, VT.

We will have some excellent food including vegetarian fare to be consumed before the presentation. The meeting will begin with a short, required, business meeting. There will be a quick review of the 2016 accomplishments in the park and surrounding trails. Afterwards, we plan to have an extended question and answer period and hope you will contribute ideas and suggestions that can be incorporated into the future Pine Hill Park trail projects, the Pine Hill Partnership organization itself, and surrounding trail networks.

As our organization grows, we are looking for a more diversified group to serve on a couple of committees. In particular, we have a fundraising project for 2017 and would like to make a concerted effort to increase our paid membership rolls. We are hoping some folks can join us on this project.

We are also looking for additional board members. The board generally meets six to eight times a year and we are looking for people with a range of interests. Some people might have a passion for trail work while others might have a focus on growing Pine Hill Partnership membership or on strategic planning. If you are interested in being a board member, please send us a letter or email, of no more than 200 words by March 20th, 2017. Please include your qualifications and reasons why you would like to become actively involved in the Partnership and the park so that we may share it with the membership before the annual meeting.

If you shop online and use Amazon please consider using www.smile.amazon.com. Amazon will make quarterly contributions to Pine Hill Partnership if you enter us as the non-profit.

Hope to see you there and big thanks for your support this year in our continued efforts to make these area trails so special.

Sincerely,

Keith Wight, Andrew Shinn, Joel Blumenthal, Dave Jenne, Claus Bartenstein and Shelley Lutz

Board of Directors

Nature Of the Park – Fall 2015

Thank you to Tom Estill who is doing the live reporting from Pine Hill Park and surrounding trails. 

Pine Hill Park Fall, 2015 •  Natural History Summary

The first official day of fall, 2015 saw a cold front move through the area bringing with it the first noticeably cool weather since spring and beautiful dark blue skies.  During an evening walk on 9/21, crickets could be heard, and many birds were seen including blue jays, robins, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, slate-colored juncos, and pileated and hairy woodpeckers.  Warblers were migrating through the forest, the most impressive to me being the black-throated blue warbler.  Small flocks of migrating waterfowl could be seen at Muddy Pond including mallards and Canada geese.

At the end of Sept. I saw a yellow-bellied sapsucker flying from its perch catching insects passing by, a behavior I hadn’t seen before in sapsuckers.  Though grey squirrels and chipmunks are commonly seen in the park, I was surprised to see a red squirrel near Muddy Pond.  They’re not near as common as the grey squirrel.

It was this time of year that I also saw my first loose association of birds.  Birds of different species associate with one another during the harsh winter season for protection and help in obtaining food.   An association of brown creepers, tufted titmouse, hairy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, pine warbler, and black-capped chickadees was seen slowly flying through the forest together.  In other parts of the forest were seen blue jays, white-throated sparrows, catbirds, many flying insects and butterflies, including mating half-banded tapers.

Only a few flowers remained including New England Aster, Queen Anne’s Lace, goldenrod, and blue wood aster.  All of which were being pollinated by bumble bees, yellow jackets, and bald-faced hornets.

IMG_0572

By the end of Sept., Muddy Pond now had a few hundred Canada Geese resting there, along with a few wood ducks, mallards, and a great blue heron.  Also at Muddy Pond could be seen painted turtles, hermit thrushes, American goldfinches, and a belted kingfisher.  The well known Wooly Bear caterpillar was also seen for the first time.

The first week of October found the forest very quiet.  Asters were about the only flowers left to be found and milkweed seed pods were getting ready to open to release their hundreds of seeds.  Birds typically found in winter were now the most common birds seen including blue jays, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, crows, and hairy woodpeckders.  Hermit thrushes and American redstarts were almost gone, but the population of Canada Geese at Muddy Pond has increased to around 300.  A winter wren and yellow-rumped warbler were also seen.

Oct. 10th brought cool temperatures and a gorgeous fall day.  Fall foliage was at, or near, its maximum. Warblers continued to migrate through the area, with pine warblers, yellow-rumped warblers and golden-crowned kinglets being the most commonly seen migrants.  For the first time, I saw a solitary OTTER feeding on a fish at Muddy Pond.  Haven’t seen it again since then.  Lots of grey squirrels and chipmunks continue to be seen.

On Oct. 12th, I experienced a most enchanting phenomenon.  Fall foliage was at its maximum.  As the sun was setting, its light was filtering through the colored leaves, and  bathed the woods in a most pleasant light.  A truly beautiful, magical, and serene experience.  A pileated woodpecker was the only bird I saw in the forest that day, along with one grey squirrel, but lots of chipmunks.  So many chipmunks were seen this year, that I was wondering if maybe they were at the apex of their population growth cycle, and maybe we’ll see a decline in their numbers in the next few years, along with a corresponding increase in the number of predators.  Also on this day, I observed an interesting behavior of the Canada Geese at Muddy Pond.  As I was watching the geese, a period of relative quietness would be interrupted by a dramatic increase in “chatter” among the geese, followed by a flock of geese flying off in a southerly direction.  This happened over and over again.  Don’t want to get anthropomorphic here, but I had the feeling that the geese were saying goodbye to some of their fellow geese before they took off to continue their trip south.

The first light precipitation of freezing rain occurred on Oct. 17th.  The only plant in flower was witch hazel, giving the forest areas of easily visible yellow.  With the relatively dry August and Sept., I was sure the fall foliage season would suffer, but that was not the case.  We had an absolutely beautiful fall foliage season this year.

Fluffy, the elusive albino porcupine living in the park. Photo by Jen Hogan.
Fluffy, the elusive albino porcupine living in the park. Photo by Jen Hogan.

On the third week of Oct., I received an email from our Parks and Rec. Director Cindi Wight.  She forwarded an email she had received from Jen Hogan.  Jen had come across an ALBINO porcupine on one of the trails and sent a picture of the rare animal to Cindi.  I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to see that picture.  But as hard as I’ve tried to find that porcupine, I haven’t been able to find it for the last 2 months.  As soon as we get some appreciable snowfall I’m hoping to find some tracks of the porcupine and follow it to its den.

Snowliage - West Rutland Vermont-56
Snowliage, October 18. Photo by David Jenne

On Oct. 20th, I was surprised to see flocks of migrating yellow-rumped warblers flying through the forest, and a very plump, healthy looking garter snake.  Swarms of unidentified small brown insects found along a number of trails, also.(No, they weren’t ants).  Had two different pairs of pileated woodpeckers fly within a few feet of me after calling them in with my bird caller.  Tiny white-colored insects, called wooly aphids were seen in large numbers today.

During the last week of Oct., I was surprised to see a yellow throat bird, and the shoreline of Muddy Pond covered in Goose feathers and down, so much so that it looked like the shorline was covered in snow.  Loose bird associations are a common sight, and so are flocks of migrating robins.  Turkeys heard under the powerlines on the Carriage Trail.  The only ferns with green leaves left in the park are Christmas ferns, spinulosa and marginal wood ferns and rock polypody.  Most leaves are off the trees with the exception of oak and beech trees.  Ruffed grouse seen at Rocky Pond.  Hermit thrushes seen migrating through the forest to my surprise.

The first week of November had Jen Hogan showing me where she saw the albino porcupine, but again, we had no luck in seeing the animal.  Temperatures that week reached 65 degrees F.  The second week of Nov., I received a second report of a sighting of an albino porcupine.  Some hikers seen in SHORTS!!  This was the week most of the oaks trees finally dropped their leaves, leaving the forest floor covered with a thick layer of oak leaves.

By Nov. 15th, temperatures were finally low enough for ice to cover my birdbath, but Rocky and Muddy Ponds were still ice free.  The ponds were completely frozen over for the first time on Nov. 16th of last year.  A migrating red-tailed hawk was seen this week, along with a few loose bird associations, so common this time of year.  I was also surprised to find a Tamarack tree on droopy muffin trail between trail markers #22 and #22A.  They’re usually found in more moist environments.  I haven’t seen any tamaracks around rocky or muddy ponds.  The tamarack was easy to see in the forest with its bright yellow leaves.  Muddy Pond was covered with so many Canada geese, I couldn’t count them.

The last week of Nov. found Rocky Pond with a few shoreline areas iced over, with Muddy Pond almost completely iced over.  The number of Canada geese at Muddy Pond had dramatically decreased.  For the first time, I also noticed a marked increase in the number of trees being chewed on by beavers at Rocky Pond.  I believe beaver are beginning to build a den on the East side of the pond.  As strange as it seems, Nov. 27th saw hikers in shorts once again, but by Nov. 29th, cold temperatures had returned.  Temperatures had climbed so high, that both ponds were once again open water.

The first week of Dec. found Muddy Pond covered with hundreds of Canada geese as I watch flock after flock, after flock fly into the pond one afternoon.  Most of the pond was frozen over, and Rocky Pond was completely frozen over with a thin sheet of ice.

By Dec. 12th, hikers were once again in their shorts, and both ponds were free of any ice.

On Dec. 19th, I took my last hike of the season.   Though there was a dusting of snow on the ground, both ponds were still free of ice, there were about 100 Canada geese at Muddy Pond, and the forest was very quiet with me seeing only crows, and white-breasted nuthatches.  Two deer seen near the ledges.

 

See Related:

Summer 2015