There is a tremendous amount of mis-information regarding the issues surrounding rebuilding the Old Man Of the Mountain, as can be seen by the reaction to a recent article in the Manchester Union Leader. This article will attempt to dispell some of the misconceptions and misunderstandings being floated about.
First, while Rep. Gidge does has a specific plan in mind, and has made some calulations, and he does know roughly what it would cost to place a monument of a specific type on the mountain, his estimate seems to be a best guess estimate. He isn’t proposing hanging anything on the cliff face, though he doesn’t leave out the possibility.
The driving factors in any estimate of this kind are the mass of the fascia to be supported, the mass of the support structure, and the anchorage for the overall structure. When the surface area of the fascia is known, the supporting structure and the extent of anchorage is determined, then the cost can be derived. A rough, estimate of the projected cost of restoring the Old Man, as proposed by Edge Ascension, is in the range of $800K to $3M.
There is no need to use government money for such an endeavor. There are private interests who would put up the money for any proposal that is worthy of the investment. If private money isn’t forthcoming, then any investment is simply unworthy.
The reason the memorial isn’t being funded isn’t the economy, it’s that either the committees approach to fund raising is unimaginative, or their proposed memorial is unworthy of funding. If the private sector is unwilling to buy into an uninspiring plan, or is uninspired by a marketing program for a plan, there’s a very weak case for state funding. Why should taxpayers be forced to pay for something that private donors or investors find ill-advised?
Do to the anticipated catastrophic collapse of the economy, times ahead look very dismal, and the root cause of this eventuality lies squarely at the feet of governance for spending recklessly and interfering in the market. One of the main features of the ongoing collapse is government spending of taxpayers’ money to subsidize everything under the sun, or worse still, the outright theft of that moneys value by means of inflation.
We are all familiar with the old saying, “Don’t steal, the government hates competition.” Well, the emphasis is on hating competition. And here is a perfect example of that in progress. The action of poor governance is to dictate solutions, not to allow them to compete, and invariably the proposed solutions lead to taxes being spent on the solutions. If we allow these two ideas to compete one will win out and the best solution will prevail in the free market of ideas.
We don’t need government stimulus (tax payers money) to get private money involved, we need competition. Whichever approach is most worthy of funding will achieve it. The others will either succeed slowly, languish, or fail of their own accord. We don’t need government limiting the possibilities either. Either building the memorial at the base, rebuilding the Old Man on the cliff, or building a monument to it on the mountain top have merit. But, the market must determine the value of each — that is, what people are willing freely to spend.
Dr. Brian Fowler, as mentioned in the Manchester Union Leader article, is an eminent geologist with much experience on the Old Man site. However, his pending evaluation is derived from historical data, and conversations with climbers who have visited the site of the Old Man. It is not based on an actual current geological survey of the Old Man site. So, it appears in some respects to be anecdotal.
Dr. Fowler’s claim, as reported in the Manchester Union Leader, that “new memorial designs that would physically replace the profile on the cliff in its original size and configuration make the assumption that all unstable parts of that area fell away with the collapse, and ignore the reality that substantial portions of the various rock slabs remain unstable and unsuitable for founding such structures” is debatable.
For one thing, it neglects the fact that there has been no comprehensive survey of the mountain since the fall to ascertain the exact condition of its geology. Any effort to replace the Old Man profile would necessitate such a survey to validate the conception and elucidate feasibility of any proposal — to consider rebuilding mandates such a survey as a first step.
On another point, Dr. Fowler is a member of the Legacy Committee overseeing the memorial, and as such is guided and informed by its society. In other words, he is not completely an objective and independent third party speaking on the issue. Prior to joining the committee, he reportedly shared the author’s view. How could his science account for this change of perspective?
Rebuilding the Old Man would necessarily entail scalers removing any loose debris from the site, and possibly having to forcefully remove some unstable elements of the existing rock structure. The point of conducting a proper survey would be to clarify what would have to be stabilized or removed, and whether it is worthwhile to do so. Clearly, if it were necessary to blast half of the mountain away, it would not be a worthwhile undertaking.
Within the last year it is reported that there was a group of interested individuals who were ready to help with privately funding a survey of the Old Man site and were committed to helping with acquiring additional funding for the memorial, but they were turned away when they sought cooperation from those associated with the committee. Such a survey would have determined once and for all whether the existing geology of the Old Man site would in fact sustain physically replacing the profile. Dr. Fowler had expressed interest in being the geologist for this undertaking prior to joining the committee. And he knew that the intention of the undertaking was to get at the question of feasibility of reconstruction. Therefore, his claim as given in the Manchester Union Leader is false.
Just the same, one should be informed by Dr. Fowlers’ work in comprehending the risk of constructing on the cliff face. But, the question to ask first isn’t whether or not the Old Man should be rebuilt — as this is primarily an ethical question asked in balancing the risks. Rather, one should ask, if it could be rebuilt, what would it take to do so, and how would it best be undertaken? When these questions (questions which get at the risk) have been answered, then one can objectively answer the question as to whether it should be done or not.
A second bill appears to have been hastily put forward to supersede HB 192 — while Rep. Gidge is, no doubt, being quietly presured to drop his bill. This second bill, a clear response to the first, put forward by “rep. Kathleen Taylor, D-Franconia, … seeks partial state funding for the memorial design.” As the committee already has on record that they have collected almost $500K that are for the most part not yet spent, why would they need additional funds for design at this juncture? Especially considering that they’ve already published designs — just look at their website. If they are seeking funding for implementing their designs, why have they shunned offers of assistance to achieve their goals privately. The difficulty here is that once the committee has a small amount of state money, they will have set a precedent, and will feel encouraged to seek more funding later. So, if taxpayers are going to say no, now is the time to do so.
While Rep. Gidge’s idea has merit, the notion of making an actual face out of it is not a very pleasing idea to many. For one thing, it doesn’t honor the history of the formation. Nor does it inform the public as to what the formation consisted of. Clearly, a more preferable tack to take would be to do a near photographic replication of the Old Man, either on the cliff, or if not feasible, then on some structure nearby, and if this is not possible, then something at the base of the mountain.
Edge Ascension LLC proposes rebuilding the Old Man in just this way. It could be done by possibly building it in conjuntion with some money making venture that is associated with the park and possibly resides within the park. One idea being floated is to build a whitewater course on the edge of Echo Lake at the base of the ski runs. Such a facility could be operated year round, and could be done so as to minimally impact the environment. The local commmunity would benefit by having a broader venue of attractions to the area, and there would be an increase in local employment. Having the Old Man rebuilt as part of the funding for such a project would create a synergistic draw for tourism, where each would complement and build on the other.
The materials and the means to accomplish rebuilding the Old Man have for the most part already been worked out. What is most needed is to conduct a survey as part of a feasibility study. When feasibility is understood, then seeking funding or dropping the pursuit based on science and economics.
Another idea being floated is to place cameras on the Old Man stump (or on the fascia of the rebuilt Old Man) and to build a replica at the base of the mountain so as to be the side of a theater which would have the realtime display of the Old Man’s view played in high definition. Viewers on the ground, who could not normally make it to the top of the mountain, could than experience the thrill of standing at the cliff and taking in the expanse, including seeing the structure of the Old Man up close. Additionally, similar theaters could be setup elsewhere at remote locations as special attractions. This would be a great way to drive interest and revenue into Franconia State Park.
On the question of private funding… Private funding is the most efficient means of achieving any human endeavor. With private funding, the source of the funding makes a first hand judgement as to the risk and desirability of an expenditure. The person who judges not to expend their resources on such an undertaking or can’t afford to, while it has no cost to them, still has the benefit that results from those who do. When there are more minds making independent decisions, you get better decision making.
Ask yourself this, would you force your neighbors, your family members, all of your friends and acquaintances, even strangers to agree with you at the point of a gun? Would you have them arrested and thrown in jail, or possibly shot for arguing against you or for refusing to support you? If your answer is yes, you have precluded any possibility of agreement. If your answer is no, then you must see that taxing others as a means to funding such projects is the same thing — no matter how good your intentions or what the supposed benefits of the proposed project might be.
Truly, the Old Man is gone. But to forsake the image of the Old Man watching over the expanse of the valley, and by extension the state, is a small way to live. To have it that rebuilding the Old Man is in some way fakey, but to make cardboard cut outs for sale to tourists to hold up to their eyes while standing at the observation station next to the cliff, so as to see what the Old Man used to look like as a worthy tourist attraction is simple minded at best.
The prospect of rebuilding the Old Man is a challenge. It requires having a vision of restoration and rejuvenation where there was previously a sense of loss and helplessness. It requires the determination to achieve beauty and elegance in an enduring iconic structure, where previously there was ruin and deformity of nature. It is not fake to construct a masterful creation that all can enjoy and relate to for generations. It is fake to be altruistic in the face of matters of science and economics.
The real problem the state has right now is that its main industry, tourism, has reportedly fallen 60 % year to year since the Old Man’s collapse. Building an artistic memorial to the Old Man at the base of the cliff, and an expensive museum won’t change that, as it doesn’t make the state a destination for the lost tourists. Tastefully replacing the Old Man however would make the state once again a destination. And yes, once people come here to see the Old Man, they might enjoy visiting a museum as well.
The most important thing to understand is that in order for the people of New Hampshire to have jobs, the area needs to be someplace to go to. Representative Gidge has put forward a proposal that doesn’t require state funding, will provide jobs, increases the image of the State of New Hampshire so positively as to make it a destination, and is completely funded voluntarily. Having it that the money would be well spent otherwise makes no sense — it’s no one else’s to spend, but those who donate or invest it, and they would be the best judge of that. Mr. Gidge deserves our admiration, and respect for what he is trying to accomplish — not to mention our support.
admin @ January 17, 2009