Editorial: Preserve Giuffrida Park, Chauncey Peak

Editorial: Preserve Giuffrida Park, Chauncey Peak

Two hundred million years ago, volcanic activity filled what is now the Connecticut River Valley with basalt, which later fractured and was pushed upward to form the trap rock ridges that now characterize the region. Over the ages, layers of softer rock were deposited atop the hard basalt, but those layers were eroded by water. So, from East Rock and West Rock in New Haven, to the Sleeping Giant, to the Hanging Hills of Meriden and points north, trap rock ridges dominate the landscape.

They make central Connecticut look the way it does. They also provide recreation for people and critical habitat for several species of plants and animals.

But trap rock is also very useful for building roads, highways, for the aggregate inside concrete overpasses and buildings. That’s why, by 1898, what is now the Suzio York Hill Trap Rock Quarry Co. was mining the trap rock off Westfield Road.

During the 1960s, the city bought 551 acres in that area, which became Giuffrida Park, and York Hill bought another 36 acres, including Chauncey Peak, the part of Lamentation Mountain that frames the park visually and forms part of the watershed for the reservoir in the park, Crescent Lake.

During the 1990s, in order to preserve as much of that natural beauty as possible, the Meriden City Council enacted ordinances to protect the ridge tops from development. However, that law doesn’t apply to the quarrying operation, just to the east of the park, because it was already an approved use long before the ordinance was enacted.

Now it appears that the only thing protecting Chauncey Peak from possible destruction to provide more valuable trap rock is a covenant in the 1963 deed, stipulating that York Hill is not to excavate rock within 50 feet of the top of the peak. And conservationists worry that the covenant is not enough.

So far, York Hill officials have said their intention is “unknown at this point”; that it’s “a big, complicated thing”; that “no decisions” have been made about quarrying into Chauncey Peak; that they’ll be happy to keep the trail that runs along the ridge open “as long as we can”; and that they “would consider” a protective clause for the peak.

While we have no reason to doubt the company’s good intentions, we also understand where such a situation can lead. That’s why some concerned residents have mobilized on Facebook (“Save Giuffrida Park, Meriden CT”). Harmony Scaglione, one of the original members of the group, said that members are working with the city Conservation Commission to draft a petition as a show of support for protecting the peak.

The Meriden Land Trust is engaged in “ongoing discussions” with the company about the parcels near Giuffrida Park, but Vice President Phil Ashton has made it clear that the Land Trust understands York Hill’s need, as a business, to make money, and that it is a major local employer as well.

York Hill President Leonardo Suzio has said that there are no current plans to quarry farther into the peak — “At some point it’s going to run out no matter what we do with Chauncey Peak and the trail” — and that, either way, the peak won’t be coming down anytime soon.

While we understand that York Hill has a business to run, we also dread the idea that Chauncey Peak and Giuffrida Park could be irrevocably harmed in the process. We hope that the company will be able to expand its quarrying operation to the north rather than to the west. Perhaps this splendid and peaceful park can be preserved without anyone having to go to court.


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