Notes From the Brambles- End of Summer

Notes From the Brambles:

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Shel Silverstein

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Welcome back to the brambles. As we come to the end of summer (meteorological summer ends on September 1st) the solstice is on September 21st and Labor Day weekend is the social end to summer. Wow, it’s been a busy month already. As you can probably surmise, this edition of the Brambles is about one of my favorite features of
Deep River, the almost universal presence of sidewalks. It just so happens the end of the sidewalk is the opportunity for most of us to explore the many green spaces in our fair town. Deep River Land Trust cares for 280 acres of land in the town and several of the properties have easily accessible trails. Some of my favorites are Rattling Valley
Ridge, Evelyn and Hawthorne Smyth Sanctuary and the Union St. Property.

Fortunately for all of us the town has made accessibility a priority which in turn dovetails with the Surgeon General’s strategies for making communities more walkable.

The Surgeon General’s report lists a number of steps towns and cities can take to support and encourage walking. The following are a few of the suggestions found in this report:

Design and maintain streets and sidewalks so that walking is safe and easy.

  • Design streets, sidewalks, and crosswalks that encourage walking for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Improve traffic safety on streets and sidewalks.
  • Keep existing sidewalks and other places to walk free from hazards.
  • Adopt community planning, land use, development, and zoning policies and plans that support walking for people of all ages and abilities.

Deep River has worked to make our sidewalks accessible whether it is through repairing sidewalks or accepting state funding to install ramps at all crosswalks. Our town still struggles to keep sidewalks free from parked cars. Parking a vehicle on the sidewalk is illegal and forces pedestrians into the street or onto private property and discourages individuals with mobility challenges from accessing all parts of town.

A few interesting facts about sidewalks:

  • Sidewalks date back 4,000 years. They were first installed in the Greek city of Corinth and the Romans built sidewalks and called them semitae.
  • The Middle Ages saw a change back to narrow roads being used by pedestrians and vehicles. This resulted in a dramatic increase in accidents.
  • Ironically sidewalks became front and center after the great fire of London. The Paving Act which required all cities to be adequately paved with roads was passed in 1776. The Paving/Lighting act updated this to include sidewalks.
  • People who live in neighborhoods with sidewalks are 47 percent more likely to be active at least 39 minutes a day.
  • Communities that are set up in a grid-like street pattern combined with a mix of retail, commercial and residential areas lead to more walking.

Deep River is one of the municipalities in Ct. which takes fiscal responsibility for the maintenance of our sidewalks.

Having a sidewalk in front of my house has introduced me to innumerable people from Deep River and all points beyond. In a quest to find the origins of the extensive network of sidewalks in our town I talked with Steve Hnatuk, CZEO from the zoning department in Deep River and he said the following, “I reached out to Tony Buldoc the Planning and Zoning Chair as well as John Guszkowski our senior zoning officer and gathered that Dick Smith received funding from a series of STEAP grants (Small Town Economic Assistance Program) for the sidewalks a few years before he passed.” This is another positive legacy from Mr. Dick Smith our former first selectman. Mr. Smith was prescient in his ability to garner the funding for the brick sidewalks which run the length of main st. When I talked with Mr. Smith years ago he explained that during the fiscal crisis of 2,009 he applied for a grant through the federal government and the town was awarded the money to replace all the sidewalks in the downtown area and install the lovely lighting which now graces our town. So, for all of us who regularly traverse the Main Street of our fair town for groceries, clothes, cuisine and beverages give a shout out to Mr. Dick Smith. The one area of town Dick had still wanted to finish installing sidewalks was the area leading to the town landing. It just so happens that there are hopes to use another STEAP grant to finish installing sidewalks in this area of town. I want to express my thanks to Steve Hnatuk and the other members of the zoning board for their assistance in tracking down the history of our sidewalks.

When we want confirmation of our biases the following research will support all of us who believe the time we spend outside provides benefits for our mental and physical health. To put a twist on the quote “The best thing for the inside of a person is the outside of a horse” I think we could safely say the best thing for the inside of a person is the outside of a house. Now, if you choose to ride a horse while outside there may be added benefits but the research doesn’t give a specific activity, just a few easily achieved parameters. The following article from Science Daily is another example of how helpful even a few minutes of time spent outdoors can be for our physical and mental health. Once again, our sidewalks can be an invaluable resource.

“We know that spending time in nature reduces stress, but until now it was unclear how much is enough, how often to do it, or even what kind of nature experience will benefit us,” says Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of this research. “Our study shows that for the greatest payoff, in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature.”
There is research from the American Cancer Society which indicates even low levels of walking have positive health outcomes. This research was quoted in the Blue Zones website.

The study from the American Cancer Society followed 140,000 older adults and reported that those who walked six hours per week had a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and cancer than those who were not active, but that walking even as little as two hours per week could begin to reduce the risk of disease and help you live a longer, healthier life.

A few more links to support the framework of having a walkable community are as follows:

I am including a piece by John Cunningham who is a Land Trust board member and well known birder. He has spent his life observing and advocating for our bird friends. John presently works for Audubon leading bird walks and has an extensive knowledge base as he has led bird expeditions all over the world.

Fall is a time of change; the hours of daylight wane, the average temperature lowers and plants and animals need to make adjustments to survive. Deciduous trees drop their leaves, turtles burrow in the mud and chipmunks hibernate. For a birder in New England we say farewell to many summer residents that leave for warmer southern latitudes; the exodus of over a hundred species and millions of individuals includes Barn Swallows, Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted
Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, Eastern Kingbirds, Red-eyed Vireos, and Yellow Warblers. In the lower Connecticut River Valley, Red-winged Blackbirds mass in the wild rice of our creeks and
coves and a spectacular half million Tree Swallows congregate every evening to roost at Goose Island before migrating to warmer climes. We also welcome brief visits from numerous other migrants that arrive from more northerly locations on their way south, including many species of raptors, shorebirds and songbirds. Hungry flycatchers, warblers and vireos feed on remaining late season insects and invertebrates allowing them to sustain their energy demanding migration, while many other migrants gorge on the fall fruit of trees and shrubs. Birders are on the alert for thrushes, Cedar Waxwings and even Tree Swallows and Yellow-rumped Warblers feeding on the fruit woody plants such as black cherry, elderberry and spicebush. As leaves fall, year round avian residents such as Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice and Downy Woodpeckers become especially conspicuous; they often form noisy mixed flocks and feed on insects that reside in and under the bark of both living and dead trees. The crow sized Pileated Woodpecker is more easily seen too. On the lower Connecticut River in late fall, a changing of the “cormorant guard” takes place with most Double-crested Cormorants
heading south while Great Cormorants arrive from the North Atlantic replacing them. Also in late fall, numerous species of waterfowl appear in our wetlands, including divers such as bufflehead, merganser (hooded, common, red-breasted), goldeneyes (common, barrows), and scaups (greater and lesser). Black Duck, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal and other “dabblers” also make migration stops and some individuals take up residence. While most species of herons and egrets head south by late fall, a few Great Blue Herons remain and even stay throughout the winter months. Depending on the year to year environmental conditions, fall can also bring surprise visitors from the north such as Goshawks, Pine Grosbeaks, crossbills and redpolls – maybe even an Iceland Gull or a Snowy Owl. Fall is certainly an exciting time to observe how birds react and respond to the transition from summer to winter.

John Cunningham

My thanks to John for penning this informative addition to The Brambles.
Until next time
From The Brambles
Patrick Liddle

One Reply to “Notes From the Brambles- End of Summer”

  1. Patrick, another fine ramblings from the brambles. Seasons do come and go. And so much so here in New England, Connecticut, Deep River along the Long, Tidal River. The rhythms of the last of the singing insects are still echoing from the woods. The cool days have tinged the leaves, oh the color as they are illuminated by the slanting light of the Sun is quite spectacular. Take a hike!


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