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:
- 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.
The HEEP provides numerous research and study opportunities in topics such as invasive species management, wildlife management and habitat enhancement, wetlands mitigation, vernal pool creation and management, to name a few! We encourage student groups and faculty members who may be interested in the Hillside Environmental Education Park site and its remediation plan to use the site for these research and educational
Please contact the Office of Sustainability at (860) 486-5773 if you would like to arrange a tour of the HEEP for your class or organization. Here you can find more information on the ecological value of wetlands.pdf, the importance of preserving connected open space.pdf, the 2005 amphibian study.pdf, Kristin Schwab's Design Project.pdf, and the Landfill Project.pdf.
In the News
Swallowed up by the natural world near the bustling UConn campus - By Peter Marteka, Hartford Courant
Nature Park an Opportunity for Quiet on Busy Campus - By Mike Enright '88 (CLAS), University Communications, UConn Today
Thank you to UCTV for the video coverage of the 2021 Haunted HEEP.
The OS has hosted annual Haunted HEEP Trail Walks since October 2020. Groups of students are led on a spooky tour of the North Woods Trail, creating a terrifying experience of this treasured campus natural area!