Sleeping Giant State Park, devastated by tornado, reopens after rebuild

New Haven

A popular park devastated by a tornado last year has reopened on Friday. The state has finished cleaning up and rebuilding Sleeping Giant State Park.

The chain link fence that has kept the public out of Sleeping Giant State Park for 13 months is now gone. The park is officially open. It is also full of open, grassy spaces, which a big change from what the park supervisor saw on May 15th of 2018.

“Wow, where’d the park go?” remembered Park Supervisor Jill Scheibenpflug. “I mean you literally couldn’t move.”
 

Hundreds and hundreds of trees came down when what was left of a tornado blew through Hamden. 

“So I spent 17 minutes in my basement just listening to the devastation,” recalled Paula Schneider. She is still cleaning up her own property from the storm, and she lined up early to be among the first through gates at Sleeping Giant.

“I’ve missed it terribly, because I live right up the street, and I come here a couple times a week for year, my whole life,” Scheider said.

Related: Gov. Lamont announces Sleeping Giant State Park will reopen Friday

It looks very different now. Visitors may remember the parking and picnic areas used to be densely forested.

“I think they’re going to go, ‘Wow it will never look the same again,’ especially this area right here where there were so many trees,” said Dean Hetric od the Sleeping Giant Park Association. He was part of the crew working to clear the debris. The hardest part was the system of miles-long trails going up the mountain.

“We worked for several hours and only cleared 10 or 20 feet,” Hetric said.

WEB EXTRA: Drone footage of Sleeping Giant State Park during repairs 

The cleanup cost around $735,000, and the state thinks three quarters of that will be picked up by the federal government. It’s not done, either. 

News8 went up the mountain in late March for a look with one of our drones. There were still plenty of broken trees, but all those trails are now clear. A good sign for a neighborhood still recovering from the storm 13 months later. 

“We’re still working on repairing, but it’s coming along, bit by bit, and we’re really, really, really excited about getting it done, but even more excited about the Giant,” Schneider said.

There is till work that needs to be done. Yellow tape marks places where newly planted grass still needs to take root. The state plans more improvements, mostly to the part you can now see from the entrance. There will be public meetings to discuss that in the coming months.

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