WEAR) — In order to preserve the historic Blackwater River for future generations, conservationists are acting now to record the history of the river, which can be traced back hundreds of years.
The idea of the project – virtual visitors can take a tour from the air, from the water or even underwater to see shipwrecks which are hundreds of years old.
Maps of the Blackwater River allow people to find their location and find out the water’s place in history.
From the beginning of its use in recorded history, the Blackwater River became a highway to move goods like timber downriver for the Spanish crown.
“Just to see waterways and the use they get, this is almost unbelievable. We still had this and so few people use it,” said Doug Lasater with a conservation group committed to the Blackwater River.
He also hopes the threefold mapping will catch on in other areas and encourage preservation nationwide.
“This is the way we share what we have with the rest of the community in the surrounding area and out of state,” Lasater said.
On the surface of the water, Ryan Abrahamson coasts along the water. A tower with 360-degree cameras is taking pictures for the tour.
He believes the online tour encourages people who can’t make it out the river to protect it while giving them a history of the area.
“Underneath that dark surface is dozens of shipments and underwater structures that have been there from day one. so this allows you to actually see something of that so you can participate with something under the water,” Abrahamson said.
Covering the underwater portion are West Florida Marine Archaeology graduates and students. including local Kenyan Murell.
“I now appreciate it a whole lot more once you find out the history and you just find out the resources this area has culturally,” said Murell.
For the boy from Bagdad, the project opened his eyes to the sanctuary and hopes his work will do the same for others.
“I want to try to have my part and find out as much as I can and bring it for everyone to see,” said Murell.
The virtual tour project was made possible by grants from the Santa Rosa tourism development council, a state grant, and money from Florida Coastal Management.