CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – It won’t be the same, but a computer-enhanced image soon might be chosen to keep alive the view and memory of the Old Man of the Mountain for tourists and state residents who visit Franconia Notch.

The task force appointed to recommend some way to preserve the stone profile that had become a prominent and beloved part of the state’s landscape will recommend viewfinders at the base of Cannon Mountain to recreate the Old Man’s image.

The viewfinder would show what is there now and superimpose the natural rock outcropping onto the place where it stood for decades until it collapsed and crumbled to the ground in May.

“You would look into the viewfinder and see what’s there, but also what’s not there but used to be,” said former Gov. Steve Merrill, who chairs the task force.

The computers also would incorporate the day’s weather into the image of the rocks to make the scene as realistic as possible.

“Walking up to the viewfinder and seeing that would be a dramatic experience,” said David Nielsen, a task force member who had been the Old Man’s caretaker for many years. “Just being able to feel the spirit of the Old Man is so essential.”

The task force received thousands of ideas on how the natural monument should be memorialized. People suggested the Old Man be rebuilt in plaster, rubber or fiberglass, or by way of a holographic image projected into the sky.

The idea of rebuilding prompted passionate debate: some argued a replica should be there for the benefit of future generations; others said the Old Man should be left to rest in peace.

Eventually, it was decided rebuilding would be too costly and physically impossible

The committee also is talking about a traveling program that could bring the Old Man’s legacy into classrooms or elsewhere.

And beginning Monday, the visitors center at the Statehouse will display photos, drawings and memorabilia of the Old Man. The display will contain material collected by the Nielsen family, which had been in charge of maintenance on the Old Man since 1960.

The profile itself is an unofficial state logo, seen on license plates to stationary. It had been an attraction for thousands of tourists from all over the world.

Local historian Stephen Winship, who wanted to see it rebuilt, said he liked the idea of the viewfinders, but still thought something needed to be built on the mountain itself. He had hoped for a metal outline of the former profile on the mountain so that people could still see what it had looked like from far away, so they could have something to look up to.

“We’re always, wherever we are in the world, looking up at the mountain,” he said. “And always, people will look up to this mountain. It just has that magic.”

AP-ES-10-11-03 1251EDT


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