Old Church Steeple Part Of Planned Reef Addition

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OCEAN CITY — The newest addition to the growing artificial reef system off the coast of Ocean City will include a structure with a large medal cross mounted atop of it, a contribution from a decades-old church in Selbyville damaged in Hurricane Sandy last fall.

For more than a decade, the Ocean City Reef Foundation has been steadily expanding the artificial reef system off the coast of the resort with eight sites ranging from as close to shore as one mile to as far as 20 miles. In that span, the foundation has submerged tons of material from old boats to retired military equipment to discarded construction material, enhancing habitat for fish and other sea creatures, which has, in turn, improved offshore fishing for recreational anglers and created new opportunities for diving enthusiasts.

The latest addition ready for deployment includes numerous concrete pipes and conduits and a complicated structure fashioned out of various pieces of scrap metal. What makes the newest addition unique, however, is a large metal cross affixed to the stop of the structure. For about 60 years, the cross sat on top of the steeple at the St. Martin’s in the Field Episcopal Church in Selbyville.

The church was damaged during the storm last fall and church officials contracted Mumford Sheet Metal to make a copper steeple to replace the old one. St. Martin’s pastor David Archibald said this week the church was built in 1952 and the steeple had never been replaced to his recollection, making the old cross now mounted to the artificial reef structure a little over 60 years old.

Stuart Mumford’s son Walter fashioned the new steeple for St. Martin’s out of copper, making the old cross available for a different purpose. Mumford then affixed the old cross to the structure he was preparing for the reef foundation. Ocean City Reef Foundation’s Greg Hall said the cross, metal structure and other materials could be sunk as early as this weekend.

“I thought it was something he had made, but as it turns out, it was the cross on top of a steeple from an old church in Selbyville,” he said. “Whenever we get a window of nice weather, we’re going to take that barge load out to the Jimmy Jackson Reef and send it down. It seems appropriate somehow.”

The Jimmy Jackson Memorial Reef is about 10 miles off the coast of the resort. Jackson, well known around the marinas in Ocean City and all over the sportfishing world, died in April 2010 in a diving accident in the Bahamas, but his memory and legacy live on with the growing artificial reef system in his name.

Captain Monty Hawkins of the Reef Foundation said this week the latest contribution that could go down this weekend continues a run of momentum for the organization. The last major addition was a 50-foot retired Baltimore water taxi that was sunk over Russell’s Reef in December.

“We’re really starting to get a breath of life here,” he said. “Donations are up, membership is up and there seems to be a renewed interest in what we’re doing.”

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