By Jeanne O'Rourke
Denis Duquette, a founding member of the Peaked Mountain Property Committee and current co-chair, is the go-to guy to get things done in Monson.
His profession? Project Coordinator for Chicopee’s Titan Roofing. His passion? Volunteering for people and places in need. “From helping organize our signature Peaked Mountain Birthday Run, to fundraising, to clearing trails, he’s unbelievable,” says Josh Knox, Trustees Superintendent for Holyoke & the Quaboag Valley. “In any way you could imagine him going above and beyond with his time and talent, he does it.” We talked with Denis, our 2012 Volunteer of the Year, about trails, trash, and The Trustees.
What brought you to Peaked Mountain?
I hiked Peaked way back before I even knew it was Peaked. I had no idea then that it was owned by folks in town, before The Trustees made it an official reservation. My kids and I stumbled on it when we were hiking some nearby trails, and we went to the top the steep way, on the other side of the mountain. We didn’t know there were easy trails on the side where the reservation is now!
How did you get involved with The Trustees?
When The Trustees were fundraising for the reservation, I gave a donation. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from The Trustees to join the Property Committee. I love the outdoors, and I sit at a desk for work, so this lets me spend time outdoors, making it a perfect match for me.
Who are the Property Committee, and what do you do?
When I started out, we only had six or seven people on our committee. Today, we haveabout 24, including committee members and trail stewards. We meet to discuss key projects — our annual Birthday Trail Run, installing trail signage, trail maintenance, etc. — then we organize workdays to get it all done. Often, several stewards simply show up unannounced and clear fallen trees, mow grass, or pull invasives. We have a very committed group.
Did you always feel a strong pull to the land?
My father instilled that in me — he was an avid outdoorsman. Every Sunday, we’d always go for a family hike — sometimes to New Hampshire, or the Quabbin, or to the Highland Hills, somewhere different every week. I still love to hike and camp and visit State Forests and National Parks.
Is Peaked your only volunteer gig?
You could say I’m a volunteer-a-holic. I’m on the board and the membership chair at the Monson Historical Society, Treasurer of the Monson Garden Club, and I help out at the Senior Center and Monson Library whenever they have a small problem. This past year, I have been busy helping people affected by the June 2011 tornado that struck Monson. Oh, and in my spare time, a fellow Monson resident and I joined forces against litter in town. We choose a day and a street, and just start picking up trash until it’s clean. It gives me much satisfaction to get something done, even if it’s the simplest thing.
I have three big goals. One, to visit all The Trustees’ reservations. I’ve started doing that with my wife — we take a photo by the entrance sign to document it officially. I’ve visited about 15 so far, so I have a long way to go! Second, to visit as many National Parks as possible. And third, my wife and I have been updating our house to turn it into a bed and breakfast. But, the tornado that hit Monson a year ago in June and the freak snowstorm in western Massachusetts last October put a hold on a lot of things.
Published September 2012
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Jeanne O’Rourke is Associate Director for Marketing & Communications for The Trustees.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2012 Annual Report issue of Special Places, The Trustees' member magazine. To subscribe, join The Trustees today.