Monday, May 3, 2010

Diners and Bridges

Today, the preservation plan brainstorming session travels to the Monadnock region to gather more ideas on where preservation should be heading in the next five years and beyond in New Hampshire. The region’s resources were showcased just this weekend on the New England Cable Network series “One Tank Trips” – see the diner in Peterborough and more here.

The Keene Stone Arch Bridge on the former Cheshire Railroad is another special place. Towering fifty feet above the Branch River, with a clear span of about ninety feet, the bridge was built in 1847 to carry trains; today it carries hikers and rock climbers. State Architectural Historian James L. Garvin writes about the bridge’s history and a local group’s efforts to preserve this monumental stone structure here.

The bridge and the ad hoc group working to maintain it have been given a huge hand up through two grant programs – New Hampshire’s Land and Community Heritage Investment Program and Preserve America, through the National Park Service. Grants from these programs will fund an evaluation of the bridge’s condition and needs, in preparation for actual conservation work. Additional funds are needed for this next step.

The Keene project is a terrific example of grassroots preservation – local people volunteering their time and abilities to care for a landmark that means a great deal to the community, and securing grant funding to do so. But both of the grant programs being used in Keene are now struggling as well. The federal government has announced that Preserve America may not be funded next year, and the NH Land and Community Heritage Investment Program has faced recent budget cuts, along with many other state agencies. In today’s economy, what is the best way to make the case that preservation protects infrastructure, creates jobs and keeps New Hampshire a place that future generations will recognize and cherish?

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