The University of Connecticut Office of Sustainability will be sponsoring the second annual Haunted HEEP Trail Event this Thursday, Oct. 28, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. It will feature a 25-minute-long Halloween trail tour as well as cider, doughnuts and other refreshments for attendees per the Office of Sustainability Instagram.
The event is free and open to all students who wish to register. There is a suggested donation of $5 to be entered in a raffle to support the Campus Sustainability Fund, which helps fund the maintenance of the Hillside Environmental Education Park via the Office of Sustainability Instagram.
Patrick McKee, the Office of Sustainability Program Manager, reflected on the success of last year’s Haunted HEEP despite the challenges of the pandemic and the reduced number of on-campus students.
“It was very successful in my opinion, especially given that it was conducted in the peak of the pandemic when most students were living off campus. We had over 200 students participate. This year we capped registration at 500 students and are already at capacity!” McKee said via email.
McKee also reflected on why he created the Haunted HEEP event with the goal of exposing more students to the Hillside Environmental Education Park, a 165-acre preservation area open to students on UConn’s North Campus.
“I developed the idea for the Haunted HEEP event when brainstorming ways to expose more students to the 165-acre nature preserve and 3 miles of hiking trails. The purpose of this event is to showcase the HEEP as one of UConn’s many natural areas worth visiting to students who have not yet discovered the 165 acre nature preserve and it’s 3 mile trail network. Whether it be for a quick hike, bike ride, meditation or for research, the HEEP is open to anyone,” McKee said via email.
McKee also explained how students should expect to arrive and leave the Haunted HEEP event if they are registered.
“We will be convening at the parking area behind the Innovation Partnership Building. Parking for registrants is available in the K lot for the event and buses will be running every 15 minutes to the HEEP from the Student Union starting at 6:45 PM and the last bus returning at 10:00 PM,” McKee said via email.
McKee also expanded upon what students should expect to experience at this year’s Haunted HEEP.
“Students last year were led through the haunted trail in small groups, this year will be different as they will be left to navigate the trail without a guide. This year, students can expect bigger and better scares. The haunted tour of the Red Trail of the HEEP will take approximately 25 minutes covering about 3/4 mile of winding hiking trail behind the Innovation Partnership Building and ending at the Water Line trail,” McKee said via email.
Chase Mack is an intern with the Office of Sustainability and a fifth-semester environmental science and political science major. He also worked directly on the planning for this year’s Haunted HEEP.
“Working on the event has been great! Our team has done trail maintenance (bridge building), getting volunteers from several student organizations like Husky Horror, Ecohouse, and more, and organizing the design. I have been more on the design front, which involved ordering props, helping placing volunteers with their costumes, and whatnot,” Mack said via email.
Mack also described his expectations for this year’s Haunted HEEP.
“My expectations for Thursday are better than last year, since I volunteered I considered it a success keeping in my mind covid. This year the catering from UConn Dining will be great, and with 500 sign ups, participation shows great excitement from the student body,” Mack said via email.
Mack said that a large part of the success of this year’s Haunted HEEP was because of the work of the intern team, coordination with other UConn departments and the work of last year’s interns on the Haunted HEEP event.
“But for bringing this about, we divided it among our group, where specific interns on teams spread the info among the student body, organized the logistics with UConn facilities, fire marshal, safety, and dining, and found organizations that would have volunteers along with the group of creative design. We were also lucky to have a lot of previous interns work to base it off from last year” Mack said. “This was a big group effort from all the interns and it was not possible without everyone’s dedication and hard work.”
McKee added that interns have been working to get the trail ready for this year’s event but added that students should still expect to need outdoor footwear in case of muddy conditions.
“We have been hard at work with interns, EcoCaptains, and volunteers over the last few weeks to get the trail on top-top condition for the event. We’ve added three new pedestrian bridges over seasonal streams to make the trail safer and more accessible. That said, the weather is going to influence trail conditions. Participants should wear proper footwear and expect muddy conditions,” McKee said via email.
The Hillside Environmental Education Park (HEEP) is a 165-acre preservation area consisting of uplands, meadows, woodlands, wetlands (including vernal pools) and riparian zones. The park has a network of trails from C-Lot to Hunting Lodge Road and Discovery Drive. There is also a wildlife observation platform and a viewing platform overlooking the HEEP in C-Lot according to McKee via email. The park is a product of the remediation and closure of the former UConn Landfill and the creation of Discovery Drive in North Campus according to McKee.
“Remediation of the landfill and construction of the Hillside Environmental Education Park (HEEP) was completed during the summer of 2008. Extensive wetland monitoring continues throughout the project site which includes keeping a careful eye on types of vegetation, soil moisture levels, and wildlife,” McKee said via email.
More can be learned about the Hillside Environmental Education Park at the Office of Sustainability website (https://sustainability.uconn.edu/hillside-environmental-education-park/).