Sleeping Giant State Park set to reopen in spring

By on January 22, 2019

Morgan Tencza | The Quinnipiac Chronicle
Almost a year after a tornado struck a staple of both the Hamden and Quinnipiac community, Sleeping Giant State Park is expected to wake from its slumber. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) announced Monday, Jan. 14 that the Sleeping Giant State Park is projected to reopen sometime this spring, according to their press release.

Just in time for graduation and the end of the semester, the news comes as a happy surprise to students and locals alike following months of conversation discussing an unforeseen future for the park.

“I’m excited for it to reopen, it was definitely something missing in the fall,” public relations graduate student Kelcey Connors said. “I know I’ll definitely hike it when it reopens assuming I’m still here.”

The 32 miles of land and trails faced significant damage last May following an EF1 classified storm that left a disastrous path of numerous uprooted trees in its path, according to the National Weather Service. While the town worked to rebuild in the following months, the impending state of the park was met only with continuous efforts to clean up the mess and work to restore what once was.

In September 2018, Hamden Mayor Curt Balzano Leng put out a press release after months of uncertainty announcing that the tornado debris collection would resume Sept. 24 until Oct. 5 at Sleeping Giant State Park. Since then, the Sleeping Giant State Park Association (SGPA) and members of the community have worked tirelessly towards revitalizing the mountain and surrounding areas.

After countless fundraisers and volunteer help from locals and members of the SGPA, eight months later there is now a foreseen end to the park’s indefinite closure.

Wharton Brook State Park in Wallingford, another park that has been closed since May’s severe storms has officially reopened to the public following the press release. Sleeping Giant is expected to follow in the coming months.

DEEP is currently working closely with the SGPA to reopen the park in Hamden, which suffered extensive damage as a result of the May 15 storms and remains closed at this time, DEEP stated in the release.

“Thanks to help from the Sleeping Giant Park Association, we have made significant inroads in clearing the damage along many miles of trails, however much of the park remains unsafe,” DEEP Commissioner-designate Katie Dykes said in the release. “Once the work of clearing and repairing the trails is substantially complete, DEEP looks forward to reopening Sleeping Giant for visitors.”

Members of the SGPA have remained active throughout the parks closure through their Facebook page, constantly reminding Hamden residents of fond memories of the park and their endless fight to restore it to its original glory. The organization also suggests various other local hikes to their followers while also reliving and sharing park history, constantly remaining active within the community.

Following the press release announcing the parks expected reopening, SGPA members spoke at WQUN about the storm, cleanup and ‘promoting local interest’ as well, according to their Facebook page.

For Quinnipiac students, the Giant represents a landmark of the campus, but also a rite of passage in what it means to be a bobcat. When the Giant closed last spring, many were disappointed that they’d never be able to hike it again.

“It’s a big thing for a lot of seniors to hike it and at that point they couldn’t,” Connors said. “We were all here for Senior Week when it happened, so we were all shocked to drive up and see all the trees down and all that devastation.”

For junior mechanical engineering major Madeline Chiapperino, the park’s closure seemed like an end all be all to her fulfilling her QU experience.

“I’ve never gone up the Sleeping Giant and when I found out that it was basically destroyed I was really upset and I thought that I’d never be able to climb it,” Chiapperino said. “Now that it will be open again, I’m so excited to have my chance to finally be basically initiated into Quinnipiac culture.”

Although many of the current students at QU have had their fair share of campus aerial panoramas and artsy nature pictures prior to the May tornado, current freshmen have never known a Giant they could conquer both on foot and through social postings. The news of a potential reopening in the spring serves as a new beginning for many students and a positive turn for incoming freshmen of the class of 2023.

“I’m really excited for Sleeping Giant to open so that my friends and I can take time away from assignments to de-stress and be outside,” freshman health science major Sarah Viele said.

While there is much to look forward to for the future of the Giant, Governor Ned Lamont wants everyone to remember that although there is promise, they’re still not quite there yet.

“Wharton Brook and Sleeping Giant are among Connecticut’s most popular state parks and we know that people have been anxious for them to re-open,” Lamont said according to the release. “Our first priority is to ensure the safety of all visitors to our state parks, and I want to thank everyone for their patience during these ongoing efforts and for heeding the closure warnings.”

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