Thursday, May 25, 2000

Hill holds fossil treasures

Developer has donated site for scientists, students, public

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Rich Krause, a UC grad student, blows dust off his finds..
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        SHARONVILLE — The scraped hillside at the end of Tramway Drive shows its age in layers. From bottom to top, “it might be up to 2 million years old,” said David Meyer, professor of geology at the University of Cincinnati.

        The hillside and woods above it have lured geologists from Europe, university students from as far as upstate New York and Illinois, and weekend fossil hunters.

        The 10 acres were donated by R.L. Trammel to the city for a park and education center. Mr. Trammel developed the industrial park that abuts the site to the south. It is north of Hauck Road.

        “I have letters from colleges and universities throughout the east and Midwest stating that this is one of the best fossil deposits east of the Mississippi River,” said Mr. Trammel of Evendale. “I have had Greyhound buses lined up out here from (out-of-state) schools on visits.”

        As he developed the industrial park, bulldozers cut into the hillside. Fossils sur faced in the cuts. Mr. Trammel said his donation will maintain this site for further exploration by scientists, students and the public. He said he will periodically scrape the hillside to bring more fossils to the surface.

        “You can walk up that cut hill, and pass through four geological formations all representing a period of the Ordovician Period some 440 million years old,” Mr. Meyer said.

        “There was not much land in North America. It was a shallow sea. The fossils are those of water creatures. There are no plants. They are animals — trilobites and brachiopods — many of the invertebrate marine animals that populated the sea. This site is a point in the evolution of life when these marine creatures were really developing and diversifying. This site really provides us with an important point to study the evolution of the Earth.”

        Mr. Meyer said geologists and paleontologists come from around the globe to study Cincinnati-area fossils. “There are species of rocks and fossils that are rare. Rocks in our area here are called the Cincinnatian series of rocks from the Ordovician Period because it is so distinct ... because there is such an abundance of fossils,” he said. Glaciers scraped the earth above the fossils, bringing them closer to the surface around Cincinnati.

        There are likely to be rare starfish fossils and those of creatures called Endrioasteroids — star-shaped creatures that hooked onto a shell and got buried together. “These are prized fossils,” Mr. Meyer said.

        Sharonville councilman Gene Martin, chairman of the recreation committee, said the city intends to honor Mr. Trammel's wishes to keep the site available for educational purposes and to then use the woods above it and some of the flat land below the cut for recreational purposes.

        Sixteen University of Cincinnati architecture students are prepar ing individual ideas to create the new park and geological education center. The architecture students will present their ideas to City Council at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. The public is encouraged to comment.

        A planned park shelter or building will contain fossil exhibits. The woods provide the city with an opportunity to develop hiking trails, picnic areas and overlooks of the industrial valley.


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