A little known fact at UConn is that C-Lot is actually located on top of what was previously a landfill. The landfill was in operation between the years 1966 and 1989. It was primarily used for paper disposal (85%) but it was also the collection site of chemicals and trash (15%). Chemicals were disposed 1-2 times per semester and included organic solvents, chlorinated hydrocarbons, pump oils and aromatic hydrocarbons, and herbicides and pesticides. It was soon found that public health was at risk from contaminants seeping into domestic wells. After landfill operations ceased, the university took necessary action to protect the underground aquifers and adjacent wetlands that were affected by leachate discharge to surface waters. The waste was excavated and the landfill was capped to reduce infiltration. Overtop the landfill a parking lot was built, which we now call C-Lot.
Federal law requires that wetland area lost must be restored and compensated for. UConn worked with the United States Army Corps and agreed to restore 3.0 acres of marsh and swamp and create an additional 2.8 acres. They also completed 1200 feet of stream restoration and created a vernal pool. Thus we now have what we call the Hillside Environmental Education Park, or shortened to HEEP.
The HEEP is a great place for students to hike and enjoy the outdoors but it is also one still recovering from anthropogenic impact. Volunteers from EcoHusky helped remove invasive plants on Sunday, September 22nd, to protect native species and increase the biodiversity of the park. The target plant was Japanese stiltgrass. By removing the plant’s flowering tops before the seeds mature, the amount of seed available for the following year’s growing season is reduced because it is an annual plant.
Through several years of weeding, the stiltgrass population will be effectively suppressed. Chris Mason, who works for Mason & Associates—the firm that has overseen the HEEP restoration project—supervised the volunteer efforts and provided an orientation session where he walked volunteers through the HEEP and explained the history of the restoration project and future plans. EcoHusky plans to continue providing trail maintenance, invasive species removal, and other volunteer work at the HEEP.