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Hillside Environmental Education Park (HEEP)

The Hillside Environmental Education Park (HEEP)  is a recreation area, nature preserve, and outdoor classroom for UConn and the general public.
Trail Activity
Hiking Mountain biking
Length
2.3 miles, Network
Difficulty
Easy, Moderate
Town
Mansfield
Surface
Packed Earth/Dirt, Gravel/Crushed Stone, Boardwalk
Pets
Permitted on leash
Fees
No

Description

The Hillside Environmental Education Park (HEEP) is a 165-acre preservation area located on UConn’s North Campus. It is situated alongside Discovery Drive, which opened in 2016 and is the northern-most gateway entrance to the main campus. The preserve consists of uplands, meadows, woodlands, wetlands (including vernal pools) and riparian zones around Cedar Swamp Brook, which runs through the HEEP to Mansfield’s Pink Ravine. The park includes a network of hiking trails extending north from a trailhead near the C-Lot to Hunting Lodge Road and Discovery Drive. The trails feature interpretive signs, many of which were added in 2018, a wildlife observational platform, and a viewing platform overlooking the HEEP from the back of C-Lot.

The HEEP is a great complement to the Town of Mansfield’s open space network, which includes several parks, hiking trails and conservation lands. The HEEP trail entrance on Hunting Lodge Road inter-connects with a side entrance to the Town’s Shelter Falls Park across the street. The 165-acre HEEP is the result of two significant UConn projects: (i) remediation and closure of the former UConn Landfill, which operated into the early-1980s, and (ii) the North Hillside Road Extension (later re-named Discovery Drive), which enabled the future development of the UConn Tech Park on this section of the North Campus.

Other Information

Background:

On June 26, 1998, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection issued a consent order requiring the University to thoroughly evaluate the nature and extent of soil, surface water, and groundwater pollution emanating from the university landfill, former chemical pits, and an ash disposal site. The consent order also required UConn to propose and implement the remedial actions necessary to abate the pollution.

In response, the University developed a Wetland Mitigation Plan and Closure Plan which outlined strategies for remediating the landfill and former chemical pits. These strategies included the installation of a final cover over the landfill and chemical pits and the implementation of a long-term monitoring program for groundwater and surface water and a plan for post-closure maintenance of the cap and remediation systems. Additionally, parking facilities and habitat conservation areas were created for educational and recreational use.

The landfill remediation process resulted in the preservation of ~31 acres of wetlands and ~33 acres of uplands. Other notable activities include:

  • Removal of ~40,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and sediment
  • Restoration of ~3 acres and creation of ~2 acres of wetlands and a created vernal pool
  • Installation of impervious cap and a parking lot
  • Installation of a leachate collection system
  • Commitment to ground water monitoring for 30 years and wetland inspections for 10 years

Detailed project reports from the closure and remediation process are available at the the UConn Landfill Project website.

Remediation of the landfill and construction of the Hillside Environmental Education Park (HEEP) was completed during the summer of 2008. Extensive wetland monitoring continues throughout the project site which includes keeping a careful eye on types of vegetation, soil moisture levels, and wildlife.

Trail Manager

The UConn Office of Sustainability maintains and manages the HEEP trails, visit the UConn OS website and social media pages to learn more and keep up to date on activities. 

University of Connecticut - Office of Sustainability

University of Connecticut - Office of Sustainability
3107 Horsebarn Hill Rd.
Room 151
Storrs, CT 06269
(860) 486-5773
sustainability@uconn.edu
View website

Trail Tips

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Stick to established trails and campsites. If there's no trail, try to walk on rock, gravel, or snow and spread out so that your group doesn't create a trail.
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Trailhead Information

A small gravel lot is available at the trailhead off of Hunting Lodge Rd.

Those with parking permits for UConn Parking Lot C, can access the adjacent trailhead off of the access road for Lot C.  

Click on a parking icon to get custom directions
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