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Hard times for N.H. memorial

Fund-raising slow for Old Man plans

By Kathy McCormack
Associated Press / December 29, 2009

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CONCORD, N.H. - A planned memorial to New Hampshire’s state symbol, the Old Man of the Mountain, has fallen on hard times - much as the rocks that formed the famed face fell off a mountain cliff in Franconia Notch State Park and crumbled to bits in May 2003.

The rock outcropping, which appeared to be the profile of a man, was 1,200 feet above Profile Lake before it disintegrated. The profile has been memorialized on New Hampshire driver’s licenses and on the state’s commemorative quarter.

A three-part, $5 million memorial was scheduled to have been completed in 2010, but only about $650,000 has been raised in donations and pledges and ground hasn’t been broken yet. Dick Hamilton, a board member of the group in charge of the project, said donations “dried up because of the economy.’’

The Old Man memorial design calls for five granite monoliths to be placed in such a way that when they are viewed in sequence from a raised platform, they appear to merge into one form evoking the outline of the rock profile.

Designed by sculptor Shelly Bradbury and designer Ron Magers of Essex, Mass., the stones represent the five major slabs of granite that formed the Old Man. The largest one, about 20 feet in height and weighing nearly 120 tons, would be the largest ever cut in a North American quarry.

The Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund, which is directing the project, recently changed its name to the Friends of the Old Man of the Mountain/Franconia Notch, to reflect a proposed partnership with the state parks system.

The group wants to change a perception that the park’s other attractions have diminished because the Old Man is gone. Those include the Flume Gorge nature walk, the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, rock climbing, and fly fishing.

“Franconia Notch State Park is one of the ‘jewels in the crown’ of the parks system,’’ said Brian Fowler, a geologist and group chairman. He said the group wants to remake the project’s website to emphasize the park’s attractions through all the seasons - everything from extreme skiing to family picnics, he said.

Besides the stone monoliths, a gateway consisting of stones held in place by cables and turnbuckles will be constructed to honor the Old Man’s caretakers, who used such equipment for decades to secure its uppermost rocks.

The third element of the memorial will be a new park at the water’s edge featuring steel cannon-like “profilers’’ that will allow viewers to line up the sculptures’ irregular edges and “see’’ the outline of the Old Man on the cliff where it once appeared.

The group also envisions expanding a small museum at the tramway building to include more information and artwork on the Old Man.