Since its inception 16 years ago, New Hampshire's "moose plate" vanity license plate program has benefited a variety of conversation and preservation causes around the state.
This week, the Conversation and Heritage License Plate program said it hit a milestone — $20 million in sales.
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Funds from moose plate sales are distributed to six designated state agencies, which award grants supporting hundreds of projects. Money has gone to planting wildflowers along state highways, studying threatened plant and animal species and preserving publicly owned historic properties.
Among the projects receiving grant funding recently were restoration of a stained glass window at a Windham chapel and renovating the hand-painted canvas grand drape of the Claremont Opera House.
The program started with a proposal from fourth-grade students at the Holderness Central School in 1993. Five years later, the Legislature approved the moose plate program to supplement existing state conservation and cultural heritage funding. The image of a bull moose beat out a purple finch, a covered bridge and a maple tree and sap bucket for the plate's design.
In addition to the moose, the standard issue plates include a "C'' for "Conservation and an "H'' for "Heritage," plus New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die" motto.
One grant of $10,000 went to the city of Rochester last year, part of a mix of funds to help restore the 1904 Romanesque Revival building that once housed its fire and police stations and turn it into an annex for city agencies. The building's been vacant for at least a decade. Plans are to reopen it this month.
Julian Long, Rochester's community development coordinator, said its facade was bricked over in the 1970s. The grant money has helped bring back its old look.
"We installed an arched window that replicates what was originally on the building when it was a fire station," Long said. "It's the first thing you see when you pass the building. I think it's made a world of difference."
About $200,000 a year has gone to the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, an organization with its own grant program for communities and nonprofits covering historic preservation and land conservation projects. Money has gone to pay for costs like rent, utilities and salaries, since the moose plate program started.
Dorothy Tripp Taylor, executive director for the investment program, said if moose plate money weren't available, they would have to draw funds from money dedicated to grants for the projects they help.