The Trustees and Mass Department of Fish & Game Protect Iconic Areas of Monument Mountain

Contact Information

Mark Wamsley
PR Coordinator, West Region
413.427.8228
mwamsley@ttor.org

Great Barrington, MA – June 27, 2014 – The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) and the Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game, with the critical help of community members, have protected important additional land and expanded public access on Monument Mountain, one of the most recognizable and culturally significant mountains in the Berkshires. The coordinated acquisition of the privately-owned Flag and Swann Trust properties includes the mountain’s highest peak (North Peak) as well as the popular Flag Rock overlook, and expands The Trustees’ existing Monument Mountain Reservation while also enhancing scenic viewsheds, recreational opportunities and supporting the long-term ecological integrity of conserved land on the mountain.

Though Monument Mountain stands sentinel as an iconic landmark in the southern Berkshires, and as a center for hiking and recreation for visitors from local communities and beyond, land ownership on the mountain is fragmented. Furthermore, only the eastern half of the current Reservation is accessible, and popular destinations like Flag Rock have required crossing private land. Without the protection of critical lands surrounding the property, they face the prospect of development or other land management decisions which could fundamentally alter the character of the mountain.

Working over the course of nineteen months, The Trustees reached an agreement and purchased the 45-acre Flag Rock property and the 280-acre Swann Trust properties, both of which provide critical habitat for wildlife and rare species and offer significant, expanded scenic and recreational opportunities. The namesake feature of the Flag Rock property is an overlook known for its spectacular views of the nearby river valley and Taconic Mountain range, and has been cherished as a community icon for generations.  The lower portion of the property extends into Housatonic village, and has the potential to formally link the village and the mountain, helping realize the community’s vision of using natural beauty of the river and outdoor recreation as a basis for revitalizing the village’s mill district.

“Our hope is to harness the energy and excitement around this important protection effort for many reasons,” says Joanna Ballantine, Trustees’ Western Regional Director. “The first is to raise awareness of the mountain as a treasured resource and destination worthy of protecting,” she adds. “The second is to work with local partners and citizens to fully integrate the property into the community. Our final mission is to engage community members and visitors in the importance of conserving land for clean air and water, biodiversity, human health and well-being, and in preserving the integrity of our cultural lands and overall quality of life in the Commonwealth.”

The Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game and its Division of Fisheries and Wildlife—who have actively been protecting land on and around the mountain for decades – subsequently purchased property interests in the Swann and Flag Rock properties, thus sharing acquisition costs, becoming a partner in the long-term stewardship of natural resources, and ensuring that recreational access will continue into the future. Moving forward, The Trustees have committed to building and stewarding over two miles of new hiking trails on the expanded property, as well as developing a new public access point on the west side of Monument Mountain, near the village of Housatonic to welcome more visitors and engage a next generation in the outdoors.

“The Flag Rock and Swann Trust properties, along with the Trustees’ Monument Mountain Reservation and our Agawam Lake Wildlife Management Area, contain a rich diversity of forested, mountainous, and lowland habitats home to many wildlife species including white-tailed deer, black bear, bobcat, moose, great blue heron, woodcock, wild turkey and rare species,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin. “We are pleased to partner with The Trustees of Reservations in the conservation of the natural, cultural and recreational resources in the region.”

 “The Trustees hold strongly that the quality of life of a community correlates directly with that community’s access to nature and beauty, as well as to preserved places that celebrate our collective heritage,” says Barbara Erickson, President of The Trustees of Reservations. “The importance of securing and expanding access to such cultural icons like Monument Mountain while preserving it for current and future generations has never been more critical than in today’s rapidly developing world.”

The Trustees are grateful to the owners of Flag Rock and the neighboring Swann Trust property, the Mass Department of Fish & Game, and local community supporters who have made this important conservation milestone possible. Funds are still needed for the start-up and other operational actions required to realize the full vision of expanding Monument Mountain, so increasing community support for the project remains crucial. In addition to State funds and other generous donations, two individuals have committed up to $100,000 for matching all private donations made, dollar-for-dollar. With total project costs close to $600,000, The Trustees are still seeking $160,00 to complete the project funding.

For more information or to make a donation contact: Joanna Ballantine, Regional Director, 1 Sergeant Street,
PO Box 792, Stockbridge, MA 01262, jballantine@ttor.org, 413.531.4029

More background on Monument Mountain
Monument Mountain has long held a special place in the history and culture of the Berkshires, and for The Trustees. It was at this location in 1850, when farming began to wane and the Berkshires began to attract writers and artists, that Herman Melville had a chance encounter with Nathaniel Hawthorne on top of the mountain during a storm. That encounter, which ultimately turned into a lasting friendship, would ultimately transform an unfinished manuscript into the classic work, Moby Dick. In 1899, Helen Butler gifted the current 260 acres of Monument Mountain Reservation to The Trustees to preserve and protect for public use and enjoyment and the benefit of future generations. Being one of only four properties acquired by The Trustees in the 19th century, Monument Mountain stands as a tribute to the foresight of Massachusetts conservation pioneers.

Rising from the middle of the Housatonic River valley, the mountain is also a scenic landmark of geological, recreational and ecological significance. The property is centrally located in the Southern Berkshires, a premier recreational and touring destination for visitors from New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Equally important, the mountain is a regular hiking, walking, and trail-running destination for thousands of Berkshires residents. Recognizing this importance, The Trustees have committed to building and stewarding over two miles of new hiking trails on the expanded property, as well as developing a new public access point on the west side of Monument Mountain, near the village of Housatonic, featuring a parking area, bicycle racks, a kiosk with map and signs, and programs to welcome more visitors and engage a next generation in the outdoors.

More background about The Trustees of Reservations
The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) “hold in trust” and care for properties, or “reservations,” of irreplaceable scenic, cultural, and natural significance for the general public to enjoy. Founded by open space visionary Charles Eliot in 1891, The Trustees is the world’s oldest land trust and one of Massachusetts’ largest conservation and preservation non profits. Supported by more than 100,000 members and donors and thousands of volunteers, The Trustees own and manage 112 spectacular reservations including working farms, historic homesteads and landscaped gardens, community parks, barrier beaches, mountain vistas and woodland trials located on more than 26,000 acres throughout the Commonwealth. An established leader in the conservation and preservation movement and worldwide, The Trustees have also worked with community partners to protect an additional 34,000 acres. With hundreds of outreach programs, workshops, camps, concerts and events annually designed to engage all ages in its mission, The Trustees invite you to Find Your Place and get out and experience the natural beauty and culture our state has to offer. For more information, visit: www.thetrustees.org.