Although you may not know it, your experience of the Blue Hills has been influenced by David Hodgdon, the Friends’ first president who passed away this February at the age of 78.
Those numbers on the intersections of trails that help you find your way… Dave designed the numbering system and hammered the first signs onto trees at trail intersections. Have you noticed the steel gates on every trailhead that prevent unauthorized motor vehicles from entering and illegal dumping? Dave successfully advocated for those gates to protect the park and its visitors.
His dogged work to improve the Blue Hills began in the early 1970s. In the mid-1970s, Dave, MDC Associate Commissioner John Cronin, and others founded the Friends of the Blue Hills, in part because of Dave’s relentless efforts to improve the park.
“He loved the Blue Hills. No question about that,” John Cronin affirms. And Dave’s love for the Blue Hills motivated his numerous efforts for decades.
One of Dave’s priorities was to protect the historic structures in the park. He not only advocated for funding to repair historic landmarks like Eliot Tower, but he was also instrumental in registering over a dozen Blue Hill sites in the National Register of Historic Places.
His love of history led him to collect artifacts from various historic granite quarries. He later founded a small museum that the Friends operated for several years.
He also founded the local Blue Hills chapter of the Nordic Ski Patrol and incorporated it into the activities of the Friends. Participants in the patrol were trained in first aid and basic rescue techniques to aid skiers in the park. Board members of the Friends at the time still remember their time serving on the patrol with pride and a sense of accomplishment.
Dave’s unyielding perseverance might have been difficult for some, but he had the patience and persistence to fight for what he thought was right. Steve Olanoff, a long-time Board member while Dave was president, summed up Dave’s devotion to the Blue Hills: “He dedicated his whole life to the Blue Hills Reservation.”
Photo: David Hodgdon (left) and John Cronin, two of the founders of the Friends of the Blue Hills.