Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Officials map out plan to promote historic shipwreck sites


October 23, 2005

KELLEYS ISLAND, Ohio — When Ohio officials tried to mark several Lake Erie shipwreck sites as preserves two years ago, they tousled with property owners over land rights.

Now the state, lake historians and underwater archeologists are hoping to mark four of the lake's zones as "underwater trailways." The routes would guide drivers to historic shipwrecks without parceling off properties.

"The trailways idea is to promote Lake Erie, hopefully without making people uncomfortable," said Constance Livchak, supervisor of the Division of Geologic Survey with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. "It's not a boundary, where there's a box. A trailway is more of a guide from one shipwreck to the next."

Lake Erie has at least 1,500 shipwrecks, many dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s when shipping traffic there was heavier. About 600 of those wrecks are in Ohio, said Chris Gillchrist, executive director of the Great Lakes Historical Society.

ODNR is vying for a three-year, $220,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to kick off the mapping plan. If the grant goes through, the state will add $63,000 to the project's budget.

The leader on the project is Dave Kelch, an associate professor and district specialist with Ohio State University's Sea Grant Extension program.

He said he hopes to publish a 16- to 20-page guide to shipwrecks in four Lake Erie zones. The brochure will include photographs, historical details and coordinates that will allow divers to locate the sites with global positioning equipment.

He also wants to set up a Web site with virtual dives for surfers who don't want to get their feet wet.

The plan is based on a Wisconsin program that maps out dozens of shipwrecks in lakes Michigan and Superior.

"There's a lot of support and a lot of interest in the maritime history of the Great Lakes," said Keith Meverden, a Wisconsin underwater archaeologist.

On The Net:
Wisconsin's Maritime Trails: http://www.maritimetrails.org


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