The biggest boulder in New England — a spot used for dirt-bike riding and Boy Scout camping trips — may soon return to its ages-old function as the site of Indian tribal councils.
The Boy Scouts’ governing council in Connecticut wants to give Cochegan Rock back to the Mohegans more than 350 years after it was claimed by European settlers.
All that is needed to transfer the 50-foot-high rock, plus 92 acres, is approval from Connecticut’s attorney general, who is reviewing the paperwork.
Harry Pokorny, executive director of the Scouts’ Connecticut Council, said tribal officials expressed interest a year ago in regaining ownership of the land and offered its continued use to the Boy Scouts. The Scouts use the land only occasionally and were eager to relieve themselves of the liability, since the property is frequented by ATV and dirt-bike riders and rock climbers.
The tribe agreed to pay $50,000, though the Scouts were willing to sign it away for free.
Tribal officials consider the rock an important piece of their heritage and sought to include it when the 700-acre reservation was formed in 1994. The 17th-century chief Uncas, who founded the Mohegan tribe and made peace with the colonists, may have held tribal councils there.
Mark Brown, former Mohegan Tribal Council chairman, said the tribe plans to keep the land in its current state and would help the Scouts maintain its trail.
The agreement also has been approved by the family who gave control of the land to the Scouts in 1963. The family includes Sidney Frank, who sold his Grey Goose Vodka to Bacardi & Co. for $2 billion in 2004.
Cochegan Rock was proclaimed New England’s largest boulder after it was measured in the 1870s by Harvard University scientists, who calculated it at 176,000 cubic feet. The most recent measurement, in 1986, showed the rock is 54 feet long, 50 feet high and 58 feet wide, and weighs 7,000 tons.
Cochegan Rock is set back in the hills and trees a few hundred feet west of Interstate 395, a mile from Norwich. A path is lined by rows of ancient mountain laurel, and 18th-century gravestones dot the area.