P&Z – April 26, 2016

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I am speaking tonight on behalf of the Board of Directors of The Sleeping Giant Park Association (SGPA) in opposition to Quinnipiac’s application to build a stadia complex of significant size and complexity directly across the street and in close proximity to a significant portion of Sleeping Giant State Park.

The SGPA is an all-volunteer friends group formed in 1924 to facilitate the transfer to the State of 200 acres of land donated by a local man, John Heaton for the purpose of creating a public park. This acreage has since increased to over 1600 acres due to the efforts of the Association to secure donations of land and funds with which to purchase land. All lands thus acquired are turned over to the State and have become the Sleeping Giant State Park that we know today. This Park is visited annually by over 100,000 individuals from Connecticut, neighboring states, and the country. They come to enjoy the unique qualities of this park, namely that in the midst of a highly urbanized area, the Giant provides a place of quiet and calm, unspoiled by the disruptions of modern life. While the State technically “owns” the Park, it is, in a very real sense, the possession not only of the Association’s 1,700+ members, but also of all of Hamden and of those far beyond – the possession of  all those who care deeply about this particular piece of land, the totem of Hamden, the “land of the Sleeping Giant.”

The purposes of the Association are, “To perpetuate the tradition of Mt. Carmel as an historic landmark, and to save it from destruction” and “to preserve or develop for the public an exceptional field for geological, botanical and scientific study as well as advantages of an especially health-giving recreation ground…” not only physical but also for the more intangible peace and quiet to re-create.  Our efforts and activities over the years have earned the Park and the Town of Hamden an excellent reputation as a desirable destination. The Park is held in high regard on both the local and the state level, and has been awarded a place on the roster of the National Trails System. The proposed construction, situated in such close proximity to the Park, would negatively and unalterably change the tone and quality of this place that has been held in reverence since long before written records were kept. Quinnipiac University acknowledged the Sleeping Giant as a “sacred place” when, in 2013, it hosted a delegation of the International Council of Thirteen Grandmothers, an international alliance of indigenous elders who focus on environmental issues and human rights. The women came to the Park, accompanied by representatives of Quinnipiac University and the public, to perform a sacred ceremony in honor of Hobomock. In their panthology, Hobomock, the Sleeping Giant, is an entity who taught all creatures to speak the same language, to work together, and to live in peaceful harmony.

 

Given our long affiliation with the Park and our continuing work to maintain its integrity, both physical and intangible, we have some very specific concerns.

  1. Parking: As regular visitors, we often witness individuals parking in the Sleeping Giant lot and crossing the street onto the Quinnipiac campus. It appears to us that there is currently insufficient parking for Quinnipiac visitors. It seems certain that adding a venue for over 1,500 individuals will surely exacerbate parking issues.
  2. Traffic: While Mt. Carmel Avenue, as far as Hogan Road, is fairly wide and well paved, just beyond the location of the proposed stadia, the road becomes narrow, winding, and more poorly paved. We are concerned that there will be a significant increase in both automobile and bus traffic, increasing pollution and posing a significant safety risk.
  3. Noise: Any sporting/athletic venue of this size and scope will substantially exacerbate already existing noise pollution currently emanating from events held on campus. This will compromise the special offerings of the Sleeping Giant trails as a place of nature appreciation and quiet contemplation. Recent studies* indicate that urban noise is disruptive, constantly demanding our attention and preventing us from focusing. Spending time in nature decreases obsessive, negative thoughts, reduces mental fatigue, soothes the mind, and boosts creative problem solving. These are advantages of benefit to all and contribute to the general public welfare.
  4. Trash and litter: A monumental increase of trash and litter is inevitable and it is unlikely to infest only the south side of Mt. Carmel Avenue. While the Association and its Trails Crew of volunteers work regularly and assiduously to control trash and litter, the inevitable increase will be not only a burden, but will also be unsightly and compromise the natural beauty of the area.
  5. Light: While Quinnipiac representatives at a recent Inland Wetlands Commission meeting stated that they have removed the lighting from the proposed plans, close questioning by Commission members resulted in an admission that Quinnipiac plans to install footings for lighting “just in case”. Should this occur, we are concerned about the deleterious effect this may have on both the flora and fauna of the Giant..
  6. Destruction of property: Wins and/or losses at large sporting events have been documented to generate that can be destructive. While authorities respond appropriately and urge better conduct following such incidents, the damage is done. We are concerned for the park land directly across the street from the proposed stadia.
  7. Additional use: While testimony given in Inland Wetland Commission meetings over the course of the past two years has stated that the fields will only be used at certain times during the year, it is difficult to imagine that having built such facilities at such a cost that the area will not be used for other outside events..

 

We sympathize with the limitations of Quinnipiac University’s location, nestled as it is between four trap-rock ridges. We acknowledge the school’s need to meet Title IX mandates providing equal opportunities for women’s sports. Should the solutions to these situations be at the expense of local concerns for health, welfare, safety, and quality of life? Our opposition to this application is NOT against Quinnipiac University, but rather it stems from our concern for the benefits afforded by this Hamden treasure to all who visit here, namely, the much sought after opportunities for quiet contemplation in a very natural setting; the very thing that the Park provides. We cannot understate our dismay over the submitted plans for construction of these stadia. In the public interest, that the SGPA Board of Directors urges you to deny this application.

 

*

Atchley R. A., Strayer, D. L., and P. Atchley (2012) Creativity in the wild: Improving creative reasoning through immersion in natural settings. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51474. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051474

Bratman, G. N., Hamilton, J. P., Hahn, K. S., Daily, G. C., and J. J. Gross (2015). Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112(28): http://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567.full

Kuo. F. E. and A. F. Taylor (2004). A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health. 94(9): 1580. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448497/