CONCORD, N.H. – A huge granite boulder in northeastern New Hampshire that was declared a National Natural Landmark more than 40 years ago has received some money for a face-lift.

The Madison Boulder Natural Area, which is close to the Maine state line, is home to the largest-known glacial “erratic” rock in New England. The term refers to a rock that differs from the size and type of rock native to the area.

The rock was transported during the last ice age over hills and mountains before breaking off and settling in the area. The rock is 83 feet long, 23 feet high, 37 feet wide and weighs about 5,000 tons. Part of it is buried perhaps 10 feet to 12 feet beneath the surface.

The boulder was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1970 by the U.S. Department of the Interior, which said it “is an outstanding illustration of the power of an ice sheet to pluck out very large blocks of fractured bedrock and move them substantial distances.”

Residents in Madison have been worrying about the neglected access road, which holds deep puddles after it rains, and graffiti on the boulder.

“A lot of school teachers interested in bringing groups in there were turned off, in part, by the graffiti,” said Brian Fowler, a geologist and Madison resident who chaired a town advisory commission on the boulder.

Residents learned there was little to no money available to maintain the area. New Hampshire developed a self-funding model for its parks in 1991, expecting annual profits from the parks and ski operations to pay for operation and maintenance. The parks system has done that only twice over the years.

Thanks to private fundraising efforts and a grant from the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s parks, the commission has about $7,000 and plans to seek at least another several thousand dollars. It wants to start work on the access road, improve trails for walking and for access for the disabled, upgrade security and install signs and kiosks explaining the boulder’s geologic and natural history.

“These improvements will enhance the experience of visiting the site and will help visitors better understand how unique the boulder is,” Fowler said.

The 17-acre site was acquired by the state in 1946, but deeds to the property were vague, and questions came up in recent years over ownership of different land parcels. That was resolved recently.

Officials hope to start work on the project later this year as the commission transitions from a town group to a private one to oversee maintenance. The project would be completed in cooperation with the Geological Society of New Hampshire and the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation.

The National Park Foundation has awarded $500,000 in impact grants to 62 national parks and other sites across the country.


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