Vermont board rejects mountain name change proposal

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont state board on Tuesday unanimously rejected a man's petition to change the name of Mount Ascutney to what he said was the original Abenaki name due to local and state opposition.

Hartland resident Rob Hutchins said the name Ascutney was formed by settlers to reflect the name of a tribe that once lived in the area in the Connecticut River Valley near the New Hampshire border. The original name of the summit was Kaskadenak, which means "wide mountain" in the Abenaki language, he said.

The State of Vermont Board of Libraries, which is responsible for geographic naming in Vermont, received numerous comments from area towns and residents opposed to changing the mountain's name.

"I think the town of West Windsor put it best by saying that at this time they don't favor it because they feel like there has to be more public support for a change of this magnitude and it's just not there," said board member John Fitzhugh of Berlin, before the board voted 5-0 against the proposal.

Hutchins, who was not at the public hearing in Barre, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

One of the opponents was longtime hiker Rick White of Springfield, who can see the 3,100-foot (945-meter) mountain from his home.

"Mt. Ascutney has special meaning and significance to the people who live near it, hike its steep slopes, and enjoy the panoramic vistas from its summit," he said in a letter to the board. "People living in the region surrounding Mt. Ascutney feel a connection to the mountain and the name that it has been called for over 200 years."

Not to mention, the name has been used in branding, such as the Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center, and the Ascutney Mountain ski resort, which closed in 2010.

Ives Goddard, a senior linguist emeritus in the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution, also weighed in. He said Ascutney, derived from the western Abenaki word kskatena, and Cascadnac, derived from the western Abenaki word kaskadenak, are both authentic names meaning "wide mountain."

"Both names reflect variable features of the local Native American language and of English from different times," he wrote.

If the board had approved the petition, it would then have been considered by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. In the last 10 years, that federal board has taken up about 87 proposals to change the names of mountains and approved 69, according to executive secretary Lou Yost.

Three years ago, the name of America's tallest mountain was changed from Mount McKinley to Denali in a symbolic gesture to Alaskan natives.


This story has been corrected to show the board approved naming a mountain in Johnson Emery Mountain, not Emergy Mountain.

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