Mt. Everett is named for the 19th century Massachusetts Governor and orator whose monologue preceded Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Everett is remembered not for his speech, but for recognizing afterward that Lincoln had said more in two minutes than he had said in two hours. The highest mountain on the Taconic Plateau, Mt. Everett used to be known simply as "The Dome" and its east facing profile has the soft curves that glacial scour gives to New England's rough edges.
There used to be a fire tower on the summit, long disused and protruding above from the ridgeline. Even dormant fire towers have their followings, but these advocates were largely silent a few years ago when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts entertained allowing a local school to place some weather forecasting equipment on the tower. Always wary of the intentions of Boston, and of state agencies with questionable motives, a strong citizen resistance arose in the tiny community of Mt. Washington, a village that perches atop the Taconic Plateau and contains Mt. Everett Reservation among the more than 67% of Town lands classified as protected open space. The specter of cellular towers, of the industrialization of the mountain, and of impacts to the unique and fragile ecology of the summit drove most of the residents of Mt. Washington to oppose the state, and further, to lobby for the tower to be removed entirely so that it would no longer be an attractive nuisance.
More than NIMBY was at work, here. Citizen science also played an important role. Green Berkshires raised private funds to evaluate everything from the lichen communities on the summit to near 1,000 of previously undocumented old growth on the steep eastern flank of the mountain. After a couple of years of fierce opposition, the Commonwealth changed its plans for the summit and instead adopted a summit plan that recognized the importance of the natural communities on Mt. Everett and planned to remove the tower by air.
As so often happens following public comment periods, the resistance to the fire tower removal got organized after the plans had been vetted and approved. Friends of Mt. Everett, including recreational enthusiasts who appreciated the views afforded by (illegally) climbing the tower, public safety advocates who felt the tower still had the potential to help detect wildfires if it were put back in commission, and a few folks who just felt the public hearing process hadn't been public enough, organized a campaign to save the tower. Many, but not all of these constituents for the fire tower lived off-mountain, and the local weekly paper made hay out of the controversy for many months.
It was a sad, frustrating dispute, and it fractured both the environmental community and the community of Mt. Washington. Supporters of tower removal were branded elitists and those opposing it were labeled outside interests insensitive to the desires of the majority of Mt. Washington residents. When the tower was cut from its foundations and airlifted from the summit, a Mt. Washington resident bought it on eBay for $400.
After the splendid solitude of Mt. Race, I found Mt. Everett a bit of a letdown. Certainly, the novelty has worn off for me, since I get up here several times a year. There was a crew of foul-mouthed teenagers on a three day camping trip hanging out near the summit, and the partially repaired but still closed road up the mountain promises to bring many more people to the top once it reopens. To each their own. There are many, less visited peaks on the Plateau, and only a small part of Mt. Everett sees heavy visitation. Still, I cannot help but wish that the mountain were more gently used. With so many constituents, it deserves better stewardship.