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Duluth marks its place on continental divide

DULUTH -- Today, the city of Duluth is paying tribute to its history. Its ancient, ancient history.

Officials plan to mark a geographic feature of the area that they say is responsible for the very foundation of the city.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, the city of Duluth plans to pay tribute to its founding heritage by unveiling a monument that marks the path of the Eastern Continental Divide.

According to officials, the city of Duluth owes its location to the railroads. The placement of railroads generally follows the route of divides, because streams do not cross the boundaries. Building bridges over the streams means more costly construction.

The Eastern Continental Divide runs through the center of downtown, where it crosses both the old city hall and the new city hall. A crack in the steps of old city hall sits on the divide.

Thursday's dedication ceremony is three years in the making, said Chris McGahee with the Duluth Downtown Development Authority.

"This is the first marker for the Eastern Continental Divide certainly in Georgia and maybe beyond," McGahee said. "We're hoping to create a trend that other cities will consider as well."

The ceremony will take place on the Duluth Town Green, where officials plan to unveil a nine-foot-tall, 3,500 pound granite marker alerting those who pass it that they are "standing on the Eastern Continental Divide."

Marker architect and downtown development authority member Rob Ponder described the divide location as having "a safe pedestrian area in the form of the Town Green. We are just pointing out where it is and hope that children and adults alike will get excited about watershed protection."

A divide is a feature that separates the flow of water. In the case of the Eastern Continental Divide, it is the point where water drains into the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.

The divide begins in Pennsylvania and runs through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida to the watershed of the Kissimmee River, which drains via Lake Okeechobee and the Okeechobee Waterway to both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris is pleased that the marker will be added.

"I had always heard of the divide growing up in Duluth but did not realize it split our downtown," Harris said.

Duluth resident Kathryn Willis said she hopes the idea of marking the divide "spreads to other communities."

Added Willis: "But we wanted to be the first to mark it in a significant way."