TICONDEROGA - Mount Defiance makes up part of the ring of hills that surrounds the town of Ticonderoga.
It has played a strategic role in the history of the region and the country during both the French & Indian War and the American Revolution. Long used as a lookout position by native and opposition forces, it was here that British cannon appeared a morning in 1777 forcing the American troops to abandon the fort for the Vermont shore.
"Mount Defiance is also a beloved spot for residents and tourists to enjoy the panoramic view of Lake Champlain, Vermont and Fort Ticonderoga," said Marci Hall, Fort Ticonderoga spokeswoman. "The picnic shelter, the paved access road and the groomed site invite vacationers and picnicking families to spend a relaxing time there. None of this would be possible without a small army of volunteers who have taken on 99 percent of the responsibility for maintaining the mountain."
Mount Defiance is owned by Fort Ticonderoga Association whose not-for-profit status makes it hard to find funding for all the upkeep required.
"But, happily, townsfolk from all walks of life and of all ages make it their job to open the gate, raise the flag, mow the roadside, patch the pavement, take out the trash, repair any damage, and even put up holiday lights," Hall said.
In addition to all the visitor amenities there are antennae and high voltage electric equipment that need regular maintenance and that's the responsibility of the volunteer coordinator, Anthony "A.T." Morette.
"A.T. oversees the regiment of volunteers and is very resourceful at finding the appropriate help when the mountain needs special attention," Hall said.
The elaborate daily schedule for opening and closing the gate is handled by Ron Drinkwine, Homer Swan, Bob Dedrick Jr., Willa Ryan, Mark and Cindy Karkoski, Frances Malaney, Randy Bevins, Mike Bartmon and Ray and Wendy Burroughs.
"Of course, the closing duty also includes rounding up late visitors that may still be at the top," Hall said.
Weather takes its toll on the mountain and especially the roadway. Various groups have stepped forward with patching materials when they're needed and for general upkeep.
"International Paper's Jim O'Bryan is very generous in authorizing the use of some of its equipment including mowers," Hall said. "Mike Austin, Chris Bazon and Dave Iuliano keep everything looking trim and tidy."
Recently Mount Defiance received two hand-made picnic tables donated by the Cold Creek Club, whose members include Walt Mahar, Andy Carroll and several others.
"These friends continue to make sure the mountain top is always ready for enjoyment," Hall said. "Owned by Fort Ticonderoga as part of the acreage held in preservation, Mount Defiance is a significant historic site and an asset to the community who enjoys it. All this is due to A.T. Morette and his dedicated crew."