The story of the Sleeping Giant Park Association (SGPA) begins in 1912 when Judge Willis Cook who owned the first ridge or the Giant’s Head decided to lease the Head to the Mount Carmel Traprock Company. Perhaps to ease the objections of his neighbors, Judge Cook included a clause in the lease that no quarrying should be visible from Mount Carmel Avenue. The continuous blasting and the increasing size of the cut into the Giant’s head raised a public furor, well reported by the local newspapers. The stories roused Yale Forestry School Professor James W. Toumey, a hearty advocate of public parks. Toumey decided the Sleeping Giant should be made into a public park and got some of the Giant’s owners together to do just that.
World War I intervened and then Judge Cook died. With no complaint from his widow, the quarrying continued to cut away the Giant’s scalp. In 1924, Toumey officially organized the Sleeping Giant Park Association which immediately began to raise money and take gifts of land. By 1930, Arnold Dana had become President of the Association. Since he survived a childhood fall from the Giant’s chin, he had a special affinity for the Giant, believing the Giant had spared his life. At this time, the Association had acquired 845 acres and had raised enough money to buy the head from Mrs. Cook. The quarry operation, then run by Blakeslee Associates still held the lease however and they continued to remove rock. Arnold Dana took the company to court on the basis of the clause that the cut should not show to the south. The company argued that the clause meant the the whole quarry face should not be visible from the south. Superior Court Judge Carl Foster found for the Sleeping Giant Park Association. Although quarrying at the existing cut had to stop, the company still held the lease and refused Dana’s offer of $25,000 to buy it out. The company wanted $655,000 to terminate the lease. The negotiations dragged on into 1933. The company started to cut a road to the north side of the head and did test blasting there, threatening to open a new cut. In the meantime the company was beset by falling demand for traprock due to the the Depression and public sentiment against the quarrying was heightened by a serious accident at the quarry.
In the summer of 1933, while Dana was on vacation in Europe, SGPA Secretary Helen Porter tried one more offer of $30,000 to secure the lease. The company accepted the offer, provided the money was paid within six months. In only three months, at the height of the Depression, the resourceful Miss Porter raised the required amount and finally protected the Giant’s head for future generations. SGPA has been in continuous existance since its founding in 1924. Today 1500 acres are permanently protected as part of the park. The Association continues to protect the park and acquire more land. A wonderful trail system designed by former SGPA president Norman Greist and Richard Elliott is maintained by SGPA volunteers. SGPA prints trail maps and nature trail guides and provides them free of charge to park visitors. Today, the quarry has long been silent, but other intrusions still arise. Proposals for communications towers on the Giant, logging, and an effort to close the park have all been defeated thanks to the hard work of SGPA volunteers and the support of a large membership.
For more information about the history of the Giant, you can find Nancy Davis Sachse’s book Born Among the Hills – The Sleeping Giant Story at many local book stores and libraries or purchase it from the SGPA Trading Post.