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Published: Friday, 4/24/2009

Ohio getting $17.5M for national park upgrades; Perry's Victory Memorial gets $7.6 million


PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio One of Lake Erie's most recognizable monuments is getting much-needed repairs, three years after a 500-pound piece of granite fell 300 feet from the observation deck.

Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial on South Bass Island is getting about $7.6 million in federal stimulus money, marking the start of the first major restoration of the cracked and waterstained 94-year-old monument.

"The elements out here on Lake Erie are harsh," park Superintendent Blanca Alvarez Stransky said.

The towering column commemorates Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's victory over the British in the War of 1812. It attracts about 200,000 visitors a year.

The stimulus money is just a fraction of the money required for the 352-foot structure, which needs about $16 million more in repairs including fixing a 2-foot-wide hole in the plaza created by the falling piece of granite, Alvarez Stransky said.

But the stimulus money is a great start, Alvarez Stransky said. The money also will be used to make safety repairs to the monument's 1930's-era elevator. That work is to begin in August. Repairs to the observation deck, including waterproofing, will begin next spring.

The island monument in the village of Put-in-Bay is about 12 miles offshore of Port Clinton, in north-central Ohio.

About $750 million in stimulus money will go to restore and repair national parks nationwide, including the Perry monument and two other national parks in Ohio, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday.

About $7.8 million will be used for projects at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, including the removal of four abandoned gas and oil wells and upgrades to nine miles of railroad track used by a scenic rail line.

The funding helps cut into $43 million in deferred maintenance at the park, Superintendent John Debo said.

In southern Ohio, the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe will get $2 million for a new collection storage facility to house 150,000 prehistoric pottery and other artifacts.

Most of the artifacts are now in a storage basement, said Rick Perkins, acting superintendent and chief ranger.

The park, which attracts about 40,000 visitors annually, protects earthworks and other remnants of an ancient Native American culture that flourished in the Ohio River valley about 2,000 years ago.

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