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Lewes, Delaware
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January 17, 1997     Cape Gazette
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January 17, 1997

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Tracy Continued from page 1 remains of the Thomas Tracy," said Hughes. "I've talked to peo- ple in the department to determine whether they feel we could legiti- mately spend the state's money on this project. We feel that provid- ing recreational beach to the pub- lic wherever possible is part of our mission. The beach is no more in- tensely used than in Rehoboth. That 300 feet hunk of beach ought to be preserved and made avail- able and we think we could do that by cleaning up the remains of those two ships," said Hughes. Cooper said he's all for remov- ing the remains. "It's a hazard and it always has been," said Cooper this week. "We're very fortunate that nobody's been seri- ously hurt on the remains over the years. What you can see has di- minished considerably and in a thousand years would probably be gone on its own. But I think it ought to be taken out. "I know that some of the resi- dents of the Star Of The Sea con- dominium [which faces the beach closed by the ship remains] feel that the wrecks build the beach in that area. But I don't think that outweighs the safety hazard of those remains being there. Fol- lowing their logic, we'd sink ships all along the beach and nobody would be able to swim. We need to get up with John now and tell him we're interested in seeing what the project would involve. But we want to be part of the deci- sion-making process." Past efforts failed Hughes said that while his de- partment's made attempts over the years, during beach projects, to budge some of the remains with bulldozers and cranes, there's never been a real serious effort." "We hooked onto the Tracy's propeller shaft with a D8 bulldoz- er one day. At the time that was the biggest dozer going. It wouldn't touch it. This time how- ever I'm willing to put the force of all my intellect and everyone else's in this department behind seriously considering getting those few protrusions out of harm's way." Hughes said he's thought about building coffer dams around the remains and excavating or using small dynamite blasts to drive the remains deeper into the sand. Cooper however said he would be very leery of using the explosion method. "I think that method could come back to bite us sooner or later," said Cooper. "Excava- tion seems the better route. If it's gone, it's gone. But we also have to consider when it could be done and how much disruption there would be to the surrounding beaches." Hughes said the idea of remov- ing the decades' old wrecks arose during the discussion of replacing jetties along Rehoboth's beach that help keep sand in place. "We're favoring stone groins over bulkheaded wooden jetties because they're cheaper to install and easier to keep up," said Hugh- es. "However they can be as much as forty feet wide at the base and that takes up a lot more beach than the jetties. By taking out the remains of the Tracy we could give back a lot more beach to the public that we'll be taking out in the future by replacing the wood- en jetties." Cooper agreed that there is con- tern about beach lost with stone "I can see the merits of CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, January 17 - January 23, 1997- 11 stone," said Cooper, "but i still have to talk to the iifeguardscap- tain to understand the full effect of going with stone." Hughes also disputed the im- pact the shipwrecks have had on what is perceived to be a wider beach at the south end o the boardwalk. "The Star of the Sea people opposed this projedt the last time it was proposed and I was shocked," said Hughes, also a former mayor of Rehoboth. !"All those pilings and the beach valled off- the wrecks couldn't be in a worse place." Hughes said the reason why the beach appears wider at the south end of the boardwalk isn't be- cause the wrecks build the beach. "It's really a matter of perception. The boardwalk doesn't run paral- lel to the coast; it runs on a line from northeast to southwest and points inland at the south end. That's why the beach seems wider at that end." The wooden ribs of the Merri- mac are all that's left of two ves- sels that came ashore in 1918. Another vessel, the Severn, was refloated following the storm that drove the two ashore. It's be- lieved that the Merrimac's re- mains are what snagged the Thomas Tracy as it came blowing down the beach in the 1944 hurri- cane. Once snagged against the shore, her back broken and her hull split, the Tracy's breeches buoy was shot to shore and her crew low- ered to safety. Her metal work was cut apart and salvaged in the ensuing months however her shaft and huge bronze propeller and more of her metal bottom are still lodged in the sand. 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