Hikers Flock to Sleeping Giant as State Park Reopens

After months of work by state employees and volunteers, Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden is finally back open to the public in time for Father’s Day weekend.

Hiking up the main Tower Trail, scars from the destructive storm ago are still noticeable.

“It looked like a desert when they finally cleared it off,” said Regina Banos, owner of nearby Wentworth’s Homemade Ice Cream.

This Saturday marks 13 months since the Hamden tornado on May 15, 2018 turned into a microburst with more than 100 mile per hour winds that forever changed the landscape of Sleeping Giant State Park.

“It was a little sad at the beginning because there’s so much decimation of the trees,” Maria Piscionieri told NBC Connecticut on Friday afternoon, “but once we got going, yeah it was all the good feelings came back.”

The park is a symbol of Hamden, appearing on the town seal. But its many visitors come from near and far.

“This is a destination,” Hamden Mayor Curt Leng (D-Hamden) said. “People come here from all over the state so it's going to have an absolute positive impact on small businesses that are surrounding the area.”

Banos said her business took a hit the past 13 months, so she is thrilled Sleeping Giant is back open for the summer season.

“This whole community was fractured. It affected everybody, be it the person who lost their roof, the people who lose their business,” Banos said, “but we’re whole again and that’s the best feeling, period.”

Since the gate was unlocked Friday morning, hikers have been taking advantage of the weather and returned to the trails.

“I was elated this is one of my favorite places in the state to come hiking,” Piscioneri said.

State officials said 75 percent of the $735,000 spent to restore the park should be reimbursed by FEMA.

Volunteers from the Sleeping Giant Park Association (SGPA) also worked for months to render the trails safe.

“It’s our first day of summer break, so it was the perfect way to spend it,” said Lisa Lamonico, who brought her daughters to the park.

Mayor Leng said he thought the park might not open until the Fourth of July.

"My plan is to come and spend Father’s Day and get up to the castle and check it out,” he said.

The SGPA put out a PSA on Facebook to “respect the taped off areas in order to let the grass grow.”

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