Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden is once again open to visitors following a series of storms last spring that saw tornadoes touching down just outside the park’s border.
The storm’s wind sheared trees in half, snapping them like twigs and littering debris throughout the park’s 1,400 acres.
Picnic areas were destroyed, many trails were wiped out, and the park’s main “Tower Trail,” which provides scenic views of Long Island Sound and New Haven, was rendered inaccessible for months.
Volunteers and state officials worked since then to get the park up and running.
The park officially reopened to the public at 8 am on Friday, June 14.
“It’s amazingly different. And for the first couple of months, we kind of cried every time when we came in and saw the damage,” said Julie Hulten, a volunteer with the Sleeping Giant Park Association, who was greeting visitors returning to the park of Friday.
“It has been a long process,” Hulten said, but “all the trails are open.”
Over more than a year, Hulten said volunteers removed and cleaned up about 2,000 damaged trees at the park.
Hulten told Connecticut Public Radio in February work to restore the park’s more than 30 miles of trail was slow going.
“They would work three hours and move maybe ten feet. Because of the complexity. Everything had fallen down on top of other things,” Hulten said.
On Thursday, Governor Ned Lamont praised the work of volunteers in a news release.
“I want to thank all of the DEEP staff, contractors, and most especially the Sleeping Giant Park Association and their volunteers whose generous work over these many months helped get us to this point,” Lamont said in the release.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection estimates restoration work at the park ultimately totaled around $735,000 – down from a previous estimate of $745,000.
About 75% of those funds are expected to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.