Vermont Places: Mount Tom in Woodstock | Happy Vermont

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Mount Tom Woodstock

Vermont Places: Mount Tom in Woodstock

Mount Tom in Woodstock is a small but mighty mountain. The mountain’s environmental legacy, easy public access and central location in the community make it a special place in Vermont.

Mount Tom is where you’ll find miles of trails, beautiful views, a shining mountaintop star, old carriage roads, a 1950s cabin built by the Girl Scouts, and the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, the only national park in Vermont.

Mount Tom is also where the American environmental movement was born 160 years ago. 

Mount Tom view of Woodstock
-A view of Woodstock from Mount Tom.

Man, Nature and a Vision

Today, the mountain is a forested, treasured, and protected place. It was a different story in the 19th century.

In the 1800s, Vermont retained little of the forestland that once covered the state. Sheep farming had led to clear-cutting that produced soil-depleted slopes and silt-choked streams. One of the keenest observers of man’s misuse of this landscape was George Perkins Marsh, born in Woodstock in 1801. Marsh became a lawyer, a congressman, and, eventually, a diplomat. 

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller

-The Billings Mansion at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Historic National Park.

Marsh noticed how the clearcut slopes of Mount Tom in his hometown changed shape every time a hard rain fell because of erosion. 

In 1864, Marsh wrote “Man and Nature,”widely considered the first book of the American environmental movement.

Frederick Billings, another environmental visionary deeply influenced by Marsh’s book, later purchased Marsh’s boyhood home on Mount Tom. Billings was determined to return his home state of Vermont to its natural, forested beauty. Billings restored much of his new Woodstock property to forestland, using progressive methods and planting primarily European tree species.

The property became a national park in 1992 after being given to the public by its most recent owners, Billings granddaughter Mary Rockefeller and her husband, Laurance. 

“It’s a unique place where the ownership of a significant portion of Mount Tom was by people who all had a vision and understanding of conservation and the importance of caring for the land,” says Randy Richardson, who lives at the base of the mountain and chairs the town’s Billings Park Commission for Mount Tom and Mount Peg.

Many Trails, Different Owners

Mount Tom trails

-The Faulker Trail off Mountain Avenue leads to the South Peak of Mount Tom.

Mount Tom has multiple landowners, with different parcels each having a bit of their own feel and identity. The owners include the National Park Service, the Town of Woodstock, and the Faulker Trust. The Vermont Land Trust also owns King Farm on the southwestern part of the mountain. Each landowner offers trail access.

From the heart of Woodstock village, visitors can easily walk to the Mount Tom trailheads by Faulker Park from Mountain Avenue, the Billings Park trails from River Street, or the entrance of nearby the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park.

Happy Vermont Podcast

Randy Richardson Mount Tom

-Randy Richardson in Mount Tom’s Billings Park, accessible from River Street. 

In this podcast episode of Happy Vermont, Randy Richardson talks about Mount Tom’s legacy, trails and importance to the community. You’ll also hear from Norm Frates about plans to replace the iconic Mount Tom star in 2024.

You can find Happy Vermont’s podcast on Spotify, Apple, iHeartRadio, or wherever you find podcasts.

To learn about Woodstock, visit woodstockvt.com.

*Main image courtesy of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce

 

Categories:
Outdoors, Vermont Podcast, Windsor County, Woodstock
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