The Hillside Environmental Education Park (HEEP) is a preservation of about 33 acres of wetlands and 31 acres of uplands, however following the construction of the new UConn main entrance, an additional 101 acres have been added, resulting in 165 acres of vernal pools, wetlands, riparian zones, and uplands. The park includes a network of trails running from North Hillside Road to Hunting Lodge Road and features two wildlife observational platforms and an additional viewing platform overlooking HEEP from the back of C-Lot.
HEEP is a great contribution to the Mansfield Open Space Network, which includes parks and conserved lands from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the Town of Mansfield, and the University. HEEP is the result of the Landfill Project, which is an environmental remediation project the University undertook from the 1990's to the 2000's, that culminated in the creation of C-Lot, which caps the old landfill, and HEEP.
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 opportunities.
Please contact the Office of Environmental Policy 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, the importance of preserving connected open space, the 2005 amphibian study, Kristin Schwab's Design Project, and the Landfill Project.