Reverse periscope to be installed along water trail will reveal river bottom

By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald

The Island Loop National Water Trail is a draw for Port Huron-area paddlers and tourists.

This summer, what’s underneath it may become the star attraction.

A “reverse periscope” will let people watch real-time video of the St. Clair River’s bottom from the Thomas Edison Parkway. A video screen will be installed inside a brass diver’s helmet and connected to an underwater camera aimed at underwater fish habitat and the Sidney Smith shipwreck.

“There is nothing like this device in the world,” Lori Eschenburg, a planner for the county’s Metropolitan Planning Commission, said.

“The reverse periscope is a high-quality diver’s helmet that allows users to see and hear what divers experience,” Eschenburg said. “It will also have a viewer that allows people in wheelchairs who cannot peer into the diver’s helmet to view the underwater scene on a computer screen.”

The helmet and viewer will be attached to the seaway along the Edison Parkway railings, she said.

The Friends of the Island Loop will also be installing interpretive signs along the Island Loop — the waterways that circle the north half of Port Huron: the Black River, Black River Canal, Lake Huron and St. Clair River. The signs will teach paddlers and other visitors about the history and natural resources along the route.

Planned signs would point out fish habitat, the 43rd parallel, the easternmost point in Michigan and more.

A $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation of St. Clair County, $6,000 from the Blue Water Sport Fishing Association and money from an anonymous donor are paying for the project.

Eschenburg said the goal is to have the 10 signs installed by June 1.

“We are going to shoot for June 1, but we will for sure have the reverse periscope installed by then,” she said. “The community foundation still has to approve the signs’ style and type. That’s just part of grant compliance.”

“The water trial is a huge honor to the area,” said Nancy Winzer, Port Huron’s recreation director. “I think we need to keep enhancing what we do along the trail. We’re lucky to have great groups working on a thing like this.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Feb. 26, 2015)

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