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Remembering John Olver

Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2023
— News

Many words have already been said honoring the passing of retired Congressman and community leader John Olver. He was an honorable statesman and a humble public servant.  To many of us here at Mount Grace, he was a dedicated conservationist and avid hiker. 

Just a few weeks ago, as over a hundred Mount Grace members gathered to celebrate the $3.5 million success of our first major capital campaign, we all raised a glass in honor of Olver. John was the honorary chair of The Land Forever committee, charged with the task of raising these funds over the last few years. 

John and his wife Rose first joined Mount Grace in 2008. A year later, Olver introduced and secured passage of the New England Scenic Trail Act which designated the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail System as part of the New England National Scenic Trail (NET). This designation as a National Scenic Trail is a rare and prestigious achievement that has been awarded only 11 times since 1966.

Dedicated trail-maintainers Sam and Barbara Richardson bought a 38-acre lot on Northfield’s Stratton Mountain in 2001 and later relocated a section of the Metacomet-Monadnock (M&M) Trail onto the property. In 2011, Sam and Barbara donated a conservation restriction on their land to the Town of Northfield and built the Richardson-Zlogar Cabin with volunteers from the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) Western Massachusetts Chapter. John Olver stayed involved in this early development of the NET infrastructure and was ready with scissors in hand for the cabin’s ribbon cutting. 

Early in 2021 when Sam and Barbara asked Mount Grace to help ensure the continued stewardship of their land, we began a campaign to purchase the 38 acres, which was completed in late 2022. Mount Grace and AMC now partner to steward the land, trails, and cabin, and ensure the legacy of the Richardson’s and John Olver’s vision for the NET can keep shining from the mountaintop. 

“We worked with Mount Grace to conserve our beloved property in 2011 as part of Mount Grace’s Metacomet Monadnock Forest Legacy Project,” said Barbara Richardson. “Since then, it’s been a labor of love to build a network of hiking and skiing trails, create this beautiful 180-degree lookout point, and construct a cabin and tent platforms on the summit with our friend Bob Zlogar.”

Olver championed land conservation funding while in office, including the US Forest Service Forest Legacy program. Of 119 tracts conserved in Massachusetts under the program, Mount Grace conserved 82. In fact, Massachusetts has protected more tracts of land via the Forest Legacy Program than any state.

Throughout his tenure in Congress, Olver fought for legislation to protect endangered wildlife and critical wildlife habitat, to preserve public lands, and to promote sustainable, science-based management of the country’s natural resources. Olver’s legacy is far reaching, with many and diverse stories of his kind and generous spirit.  For his contributions to the land, we’ll be forever grateful.