Mount Tom lookout remains closed
NEW LONDON -- Ever since the 2015 camping season started in May, the popular upper level of the Mount Tom observatory at Sibley State Park has been boarded up and closed off.
NEW LONDON - Ever since the 2015 camping season started in May, the popular upper level of the Mount Tom observatory at Sibley State Park has been boarded up and closed off.
It will remain closed until a structural engineer determines if the stairs can be repaired to ensure public safety.
“It’s unsafe at this point,” said Jack Nelson, manager of Sibley State Park.
The stairs are in “imminent danger of coming loose and even of falling under a load,” he said.
The problem was discovered May 27 when a routine inspection of facilities revealed loose joints on the stair stringers, Nelson said.
“I could tell it was a serious safety issue and that’s when we boarded it off,” he said.
Barricading the observation deck has resulted in disappointed park users.
“It’s a big part of family outings. It’s pretty traditional to go up there,” Nelson said.
The park is waiting for a report from a structural engineer before taking action, which could mean repairing the stairs and opening the deck up for public use, or possibly removing the upper deck altogether.
The original historic Mount Tom structure - like most of the facilities at Sibley State Park - was built in 1938 by the Civilillian Conservation Corps.
In 1992 community groups, including Lions organizations from area communities and other volunteers and businesses, raised money to install the observation deck on top of the original structure.
The added height was seen as a way to provide a view of area lakes above the tall, thick trees that had grown throughout the park and on Mount Tom.
Although Mount Tom has had thick vegetative cover in recent history, a family photo Nelson said was taken around 1954 on Mount Tom shows a bare hill with hardly any trees.
Historic photos tell the story of what Mount Tom - a geological highpoint in the region - looked like years ago.
“It was a big, bald knob that could be seen for miles around,” he said.
The park’s long-term plan indicates there is a focus on restoring segments of the park and its facilities to its original state.
That has started to happen by removing some of the vegetative growth on Mount Tom.
It’s possible that that if the stairs and observatory need extensive repairs, a decision could be made to remove it and restore the monument to its original condition, Nelson said.
Engineers have taken measurements and calculations based on the original blueprint design of the stairs and observation deck to determine the capacity load of the upper structure and the stairs.
Once the analysis is completed a decision will be made.
Nelson said the Mount Tom monument has been an icon in the community since the area was first settled and it “remains an icon in the community and we recognize the importance of that.”