Tuesday May 4, 2010

After an $11 million investment in the roads to the summit of Mount Greylock, it is fitting that the Department of Conservation and Recreation is developing a plan to maintain those roads and to tell the various stories of the state’s highest peak through an extensive interpretative plan (Transcript story, Saturday, May 1).

The state agency has made a good start in soliciting public input about the latter plan and by including Western Gateway Heritage State Park in the mix, as well as the Lanesborough Visitors Center and the summit. Certainly the DCR should extol and make exciting the extensive history of Mount Greylock as well as its bountiful natural resources, recreational opportunities and geologic features.

This new plan should indeed recount the work by the Civilian Conservation Corps in forging the roads and building Bascomb Lodge, as well as provide links to other CCC work in the region and beyond. It should vaunt the views, the trails, the waterfalls and wildlife and relate the inspiring tales of the Thunderbolt Trail.

On the practical side, we’d like to see more that tells visitors what they are seeing as they look out from the summit in the various directions. We’d also like to see the DCR provide more information about the landslides that have left their mark on the mountain -- most notably "The Chief" or "Chief Greylock," the major distinctive feature of the eastern face since the slide of May 1990.

For years we have editorialized that the state and regional tourism officials have virtually ignored this massive impression of a Native American face, so clearly visible for miles around, when it should be heralded as an attraction rivaling or surpassing New Hampshire’s former "Old Man of the Mountain." Adams and North Adams could certainly use the boost.

Amazingly, The Chief gets no mention at all in the information about Mount Greylock on Wikipedia, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism or DCR websites. The landslides (including the 1901 slides that sent boulders tumbling all the way down to Gould Farm) are barely discussed.

Some state officials have said they and others just don’t see the face in the landslide, which indicates either blindness or lack of imagination. But who cares if some people don’t see it? How much like a man in the mountain did the Old Man of the Mountain look like, even before it started crumbling? Yet it remained a must-see among New Hampshire attractions for decades.

For an idea of how much our state and regional tourism officials have missed the boat, we point you (and them) to Cheshire photographer Rolf Hansen’s "The Legend of Chief Greylock," a nicely spun, short tale of the real Chief Graylock and his connections to our region -- and one of the best photographs illustrating the Native American visage that we’ve ever come across (even state officials might see the resemblance).

Check out www.surfwiz.com/mount-greylock.html to see what our leaders might have tried doing for the past 20 years -- and what they should incorporate into future planning to make Mount Greylock even more of a destination than it already is. Hail to The Chief. It’s long past time to give him his due.