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Indiana Designates Its First Underwater Nature Preserve

The JD Marshall sunk

The Indiana Natural Resource Commission approved Indiana’s first underwater nature preserve Tuesday morning.

The J.D. Marshall, which sank in 1911, lies 28 feet under the waters of Lake Michigan just off shore of Indiana Dunes state park.  The ship and the 100 acres surrounding it will now officially be designated the J.D. Marshall Preserve.

“We had five different divisions come together and reach consensus as far as the management plan,” says Mike Molnar, Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources Lake Michigan Coastal Program Director. “Each one of those will be helping with the management going into the future.”

The preserve will have mooring buoys in place for ships to tie off on instead of dropping anchor, which was one of the main sources of damage to the shipwreck.

The site will be protected under the Nature Preserves Act, and Molnar says the preserve will elevate the understanding and awareness of shipwrecks in the state.

“The ships on the great lakes they were the 18 wheelers of their time hauling a lot of goods to and fro,” he says. “Our cultural heritage is really important to preserve. The coastal area wouldn’t be what it is today without that early commerce.”

The site is open for diving and will be used to educate on the history and conservation of Lake Michigan shipwrecks. The DNR plans to host a dedication ceremony at the Dunes State Park Sept. 30 at 11 a.m.

Molnar encourages those who visit the preserve to, “take only photos and leave only bubbles.”

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