Concord – June 18, 2009 – Madison Boulder, a well-known local attraction, is one of 27 state-owned properties that may be sold or leased, according to a report in today’s N.H. Union Leader. DRED Parks and Recreation official Johanna Lyons says the 27 sites don’t meet the intent of the state parks system because they don’t generate any income.
Lyons told the newspaper that New Hampshire is the only state whose parks are totally dependent on admission revenue for funding, a decision made by the state in 1991 that has led to deficit budgets and deferred maintenance.
Madison Boulder, a huge granite rock 83 ft. long, 37 ft. wide and 23 ft. high, is the largest known “glacial erratic” in New England and one of the largest in the world. Experts believe it weighs 5,000 tons and another 10 to 12 feet of rock lies buried beneath it.
The state acquired the 17-acre site in 1946 and in 1970 it was designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. At the time of its National Landmark designation, it was described as “an outstanding illustration of the power of an ice sheet to pluck out very large blocks of fractured bedrock and move them substantial distances.”
The park site, on Boulder Road off Route 113 in Madison, has picnic tables and is open to the public year-round at no charge but is unstaffed, according to a state website.
The Nature Conservancy owns a 228-acre mixed woodland of hemlock and beech, called Madison Boulder Woods, which surrounds the state-owned site on three sides.
I’ve been visiting Madison Boulder since I was a little kid and really is one of the coolest attractions we have in the state. It doesn’t generate revenue because it doesn’t have a big walkway and markers all over it, it’s the way the glacier left it! If the state stops maintaining it, will the town keep an eye on it to keep vandals from writing on it and to keep it a safe place for families?
Odd that NH has substituted their forefather’s notion of stewardship with a twisted dependence on admission revenue. The few free natural attractions tourists travel to visit help balance out the otherwise metered cost of time spent in NH. We use to wait to cross the boarder to by gas & groceries. We’d treat ourselves to dinner out and shop the NH malls & outlets. For sometime now the NH gas advantage has been pennies on the tank, groceries and goods seem competitively cheaper in MA often even with the State sales tax. With few exceptions dinning out in NH has become an overpriced disappointment. When the incurred costs no longer deliver the desired escape to NH experience… everyone looses.
I’m not sure who authorized the 1991 change in policy (certainly not DRED) but this is the end result of the “Live Free or Die” philosophy that took hold in the late 1960s. If you were around then, you will recall the motto on state license plates was “Scenic” until that very moment. Think about it. That’s what NH was all about — “Scenic.” As in unlike anywhere else in beauty, stewardship of the land, environmental protection, admiration for the environment, unique residents, etc. etc. – you can fill in the blanks. The license plate motto change was in response to the Vietnam war – a petty push-back by petty politicians against anti-war protests – but it turned out to be the result of larger forces at work in the state. So, in the end, NH turns out to be like everywhere else. If it doesn’t generate income, dump it. It’s just a big rock, after all. Maybe the Nature Conservancy will save it, or the town of Madison. This isn’t meant to be a knock on DRED. It’s just the way things turned out in NH. A pity for those of us who remember how things used to be.