ROCKY ROAD FOR ROCK EXHIBIT FUNDS

DINA CAPPIELLO Staff writer
Section: CAPITAL REGION,  Page: B1

Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2001

The terrain of Lincoln Park is rockier than usual these days. For more than three years, the 58-acre park has served as a temporary geological warehouse for 50 boulders from across New York.


The rocks are in limbo, strewn upon a path next to the Geological Rock Park of the Thomas O'Brien Academy of Science and Technology, or TOAST.


They are waiting until the State Museum acquires the $1.86 million needed to arrange them in a permanent home, an outdoor rock exhibit that was the vision of the late state research geologist Yngvar Isachsen.


The problem is that no one knows when the money will come through. The museum's previous director and other geologists on staff wondered whether the idea was worth the expense, arguing that the study of rocks is best done in the field.


``We can't manage to get the money in place,'' said Will Rogers, a retired geologist for the museum who applied for a grant from the National Science Foundation. Previous requests for funding -- to cover the cost of preparing the site and transporting the one- to two-ton stones -- have been turned down.


And Rogers thinks that there are still some must-have specimens missing, such as rock created by volcanic eruptions and the pieces of stony earth trapped between two of the planet's colliding tectonic plates.


``We want to show all the major rock types on Earth,'' Rogers said.


Recently appointed museum Director Cliff Siegfried said he hopes the funding will come through to ``create the park and dedicate it to Yngvar.''


The idea for the New Millennium Rock Park came in 1996 along with the twin vision to build a Geological Rock Park at TOAST. School officials and Isachsen persuaded quarries from Yonkers to the Ausable Forks to donate specimens, which include 28 different rocks. But it wasn't until 1998 that the rocks arrived, with the hefty cost of transport paid for by $6,000 in donations.


The state's boulders piggy-backed on the school's ride.


``The truck was going anyway, so we might as well pick up the rocks for the museum,'' said principal Rachelle M. Salerno. ``We transported more for the museum than the school. But we hope that the Millennium Park comes to fruition.''


The school's geological rock park opened in June 2001, and the museum's rocks didn't budge.


But no one seems to mind, not even the city of Albany, which prepared the site and loaned a crane to lift the boulders.


``It's an enhancement to the park, just for the casual users,'' said Willard Bruce, the city's general services commissioner.


And the students aren't bothered by the geological monstrosities either. On a brisk morning recently, a half-dozen students bent over the boulders with microscopes looking for fossils. Two girls fancied the rocks that shimmered with garnets and other semi-precious stones. ``When I first came here it was in third grade, and I didn't know what it was -- until the grand opening,'' said Chanel Parson, 11, a sixth-grader. ``But now I walk through them to go to school.''


Close by, Shane Horan, 7, his eye enlarged to twice its size by the lens of his microscope, said, ``I like fossils, but I didn't think they were important.''


The school is still working on how to fit the boulders into the curriculum. There are plans to make them accessible to the public, providing each one with a plaque explaining what it is and where it came from.


``It would be nice for it to develop into a public attraction,'' said Art Flynn, TOAST's science resource teacher.


Even Isachsen, according to the teachers, had a backup plan.


``Yngvar always said `If this thing falls through, there are thousands of dollars of building material,' '' recalled Salerno, who recently gave her school a new slogan: TOAST rocks!