A flatbed truck is scheduled to deliver a five-ton hunk of granite from Jefferson to the foot of Allyn Street in Belfast Saturday, Nov. 13, at which point artist Douglas Coffin plans to crack it in half. The pieces will then be separated by a crane, leaving a gap wide enough for a person to walk or push a lawnmower through.

The bifurcated stone is to be the first of a proposed series of public art installations organized by Waterfall Arts for the city’s rangeways.

Coffin plans to use an ancient technique called “feather and wedge” to break the stone. As he told the Belfast City Council several weeks ago, he hopes that the telltale marks of the process — a series of half-cylinder notches around the rim of the fissure — will serve as a kind of logo that could be used to identify any or all of the city’s rangeways for as long as the stones remain in place.

He is also hoping that the presence of two halves of a massive stone that were once joined will evoke in visitors a sense of the passage of time and a connection with the past. Just as the stone halves were once joined, the Belfast of today is directly connected with the city as it was in 1768 when the rangeways, or “town ways” as they were then called, were established.

At the time, the comparatively few landowners in the city owned massive parcels stretching a mile inland from the water. Recognizing that many poorer residents relied on the waterfront for their livelihood, the city fathers in the original division of the town established the rangeways — 30-foot-wide corridors designed to ensure that there would always be public access to the water.

Over the years the number of rangeways and rights of way has increased and decreased. Some were added after the original division, some have disappeared, others have become overgrown or absorbed into the landscaping schemes of abutting property owners.

Recently the city surveyed the rangeways and, according to City Manager Joe Slocum, the City Council is preparing to take up the question of how to address any encroachments and what, if any, improvements to make to the access points.

Responding to the renewed interest in the public rights of way, Waterfall Arts put out a request for proposals for public art to be located at the rangeways. The organization was hoping for something simple and powerful — Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial was included among examples in the request for proposals — and according to Waterfall Arts Program Director Martha Piscuskas, Coffin’s proposal was met with a sigh of relief.

Coffin, who is a letter carver by trade — among other things, he hand-carves lettering on gravestones — said the idea was inspired in part by the growing number of what he called “micro-quarries” in the region, most of which deal in local variations of granite.

The stone to be used at Allyn Street, an 11-by-3-by-2-foot hunk of light gray granite, originated in York. Coffin got the stone from J.C. Stone of Jefferson.

Coffin had expected it would take some time to find the right stone, but was surprised when he came upon the piece. It was obviously the right one for the location and it was clear to him immediately where the break should occur — he qualified this by saying that anyone would have come to the same conclusion. The break wouldn’t be in the center, he said, because, to his mind, near-symmetry is more attractive than actual symmetry.

“A rhyme using the same word isn’t a rhyme. Words with similar sounds approach symmetry, but there’s something to discover,” he said. “It’s a little off. We’re a little off. Allyn Street is a little off. We like to approach symmetry, but to seize it and possess it is kind of boring.”

While public art often takes a beating in the court of public opinion, the simplicity of Coffin’s concept struck a chord not only with Waterfall Arts’ directors, but also with the Belfast Parks Commission and the City Council, from whom the Allyn Street proposal received unanimous support.

Waterfall Arts and Coffin also looked at the old Upper Bridge crossing, where a short bridge once spanned the Passagassawakeag River between Upper High Street and Robbins Road. There is no specific proposal for that location, but Coffin said the Allyn Street concept could be modified to be used at that site as well — maybe a tall menhir, or standing stone,  would work better, he said, in contrast to the low-profile rock slated for Allyn Street. Other sites might call for multiple stones, he said.

To help identify the sites, the current plan calls for a smaller stone “medallion,” sunk flush with the ground in the space between the halves of split boulder and sandblasted with the name of the rangeway location, the date the stones were installed and possibly a Web address linking to a history of the particular site. The logic of setting a Web address in stone has raised some eyebrows among decision makers, but according to Piscuskas of Waterfall Arts, a final decision as to what appears on the medallion has yet to be made.