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Map will bring underwater magic to shore

The magic of La Jolla’s Underwater Park and Ecological Reserve will come ashore in the form of a one-of-a-kind map installation, but it looks like the project will have to wait until after summer.

“The Map” will be an approximately 30 by 75 foot map of the underwater reserve to be installed adjacent to the boardwalk at the south end of Kellogg Park. The map will be created out of lithocrete, an extremely durable mixture of colored crushed glass, sea shells and aggregates imbedded in a patented concrete mix. It will contain bronze, inlayed sculptures of about 200 species of sea life positioned on the map to reflect where they actually live off the coast of La Jolla. The map will include notations of significant dive sites and features, and will accurately reflect the depths of the underwater La Jolla Canyon and Scripps Canyon.

Project organizer Mary Coakley hoped to have the map installed before summer, but has decided to wait until fall to begin construction.

“After lengthy deliberation, in order to be assured that we don’t go into the summer moratorium (on construction projects) and that every detail is as it should be, we will start for sure in mid-September,” Coakley said. “In the meantime, we are still accepting donations.”

Coakley has raised about $180,000 for the project, and is seeking about $75,000 more. The largest donation was a $50,000 contribution from the office of County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price made in memory of “Blackie,” a protected black sea bass that was more than 50 yrs old and weighed more than 170 pounds when he was illegally speared in the reserve last year.

“It’s in memory of Blackie and to further mark this as a no-take zone,” Coakley said. “She also felt this would be a great field trip destination for children.”

The map’s designers envision it as a beautiful addition to Kellogg Park that will also be highly educational. Artists Richard Sparhawk and Lynn Reeves took great care in designing the individual bronze fish embeds to be completely accurate, even developing a new sculpture technique that makes the embeds flat enough to walk over but textured enough to create a “rubbing” with a pencil or crayon.

“Kids can come up and place a piece of butcher paper over the fish and come up with a rubbing,” Sparhawk said. “They’ll actually have a piece of artwork to take home.”

Birch Acquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography has been closely involved with the project, adivising the designers on which species should be represented and where. They recently added the soupfin shark to the list of must-haves, bringing the list of embeds to 200 from an original list of 35.

Two different types of bronze and an extensive patina process will be used to ensure that the fish embeds have coloration that reflects the actual fish. Fish with brownish tints such as rockfish and rays will be rendered using a traditional silica bronze, while silver fish such as sharks and bonitas will be sculpted out of a 40 percent nickel bronze mix. The embeds are created in the actual size of the fish, with the soupfin shark among the largest at about five feet across.

The map itself will feature even greater attention to detail. Fourteen different shades of blue will be used to illustrate the changing depths of the water off the coast of La Jolla Shores. The crushed glass featured in the lithocrete will also add to the effect, Sparhawk said.

“It sparkles like the ocean sparkles,” he said.

The kelp beds off La Jolla will also be represented, with crushed green glass as well as bronze kelp leaves creating a three-dimensional effect. The fish around the kelp and elsewhere on the map will be located according to their actual habitats.

“The locations are as accurate and informative as possible,” Sparhawk said. “The kelp bass are in the kelp and the grunion are near the shore.”

Some species that swim in schools will be featured in schools on the map. The designers envision the map as a valuable educational resource that will retain its beauty for years to come. The lithocrete is durable enough to be used in roadways, and the fish inlays should retain their beauty indefinitely.

“Worn bronze never loses its beauty,” Reeves said. “We feel age will make the bronze even more beautiful.”