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Celebrations Over for 50th Anniversary Of Underwater Preserve

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Katherine Wieland snorkels by the the "Christ of the Abyss" statue, an underwater icon for John Pennekamp Coral Reef State park, off Key Largo, Fla. Named after a former Miami newspaper editor, Pennekamp is the nation's first underwater preserve and is to celebrate its 50th anniversary Dec. 10, 2010. (Photo by Stephen Frink/Florida Keys News Bureau)

Katherine Wieland snorkels by the the “Christ of the Abyss” statue, an underwater icon for John Pennekamp Coral Reef State park, off Key Largo, Fla. Named after a former Miami newspaper editor, Pennekamp is the nation’s first underwater preserve and is to celebrate its 50th anniversary Dec. 10, 2010. (Photo by Stephen Frink/Florida Keys News Bureau)

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KEY LARGO (CBS4) — The 50-year anniversary of America’s first underwater preserve wound up 11 days of festivities Saturday with formal ceremonies and an environmental expo at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

The almost 65-thousand acre park located in Key Largo covers a diversity of underwater landscapes and includes statues such as one of Christ of the Abyss, which received a garland Saturday to commemorate the event.

Christ of the Abyss has been submerged at the park since Dec. 10, 1960.

“It’s the oldest underwater park … not just in Florida … not just in the United States, but it set a precedent for the world,” said Earle Sylvia, famed oceanographer. “This protected area where even the fish have a safe haven, is a gift to the world.”

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