iking Sleeping Giant Mountain has been a pastime enjoyed — even taken for granted — by many members of the Quinnipiac community for decades. However, in May 2018, everything changed when a tornado ravaged the park and rendered the trails impassable and the park closed.
“It’s a major aspect of life at Quinnipiac that’s just been missing,” said Ben Lanza ’19, a finance major and member of the men’s cross country team. He and three fellow teammates participated in a trail scouting expedition on March 30, along with community volunteers. It was organized by Luis Arata, professor and chair of Quinnipiac’s Modern Languages Department and a member of the Sleeping Giant Park Association. The following day, 13 members from the women’s cross country team joined the effort.
An avid trail runner himself, Arata could sense the students’ eagerness to tackle the mountain once again on this warm spring day. For each of them, the Giant, as the mountain is affectionately known, is a place to practice, test their skills or just unwind.
The Tower Trail, a winding 1.6-mile route, meanders its way to the four-story stone observation tower. It’s been a popular hiking destination for the public and a rite of passage for Quinnipiac students, some of whom practice yoga at the summit or simply take in the views of the Mount Carmel Campus below and the surrounding valleys.
The SGPA had hoped the park would open for Memorial Day Weekend, but ongoing work made a late June reopening more likely.
“We rely on these trails,” said Jeff Venter ’21, a physical therapy major and one of Lanza’s teammates. “We use them all the time, and it just feels nice to give back.” They especially like the Diamond and Violet trails near the back.
Before they set out, Arata told the assembled volunteers, “Remember, this isn’t a race today — it’s a service to a park that means so much to so many people.”
Runners from across Connecticut joined members of the SGPA and students, faculty and staff from Quinnipiac during the two-day effort. They broke off into groups using AllTrails, an outdoor mobile app that uses GPS tracking to pinpoint the locations of “leaners” — fallen trees resting against other trees — and other dangerous objects and debris still obstructing parts of the seven trails.