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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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