Covering Kentucky

Mar 22, 2012 4:04 PM

Treasure Hunters' Proposal Hits Road Block In Ky.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Legislation that would have allowed treasure hunters to scour state parks and historical sites with metal detectors hit a roadblock Thursday in the Kentucky legislature.

Tourism Development Committee Chairwoman Leslie Combs refused to call for a vote, essentially quashing the measure with only days remaining in the legislative session.

Preservationists had raised concerns that allowing treasure hunters to comb public land with metal detectors could allow artifacts that belong to the people of Kentucky to fall into private collections or be sold for cash.

Nancy Ross-Stallings, a professional archeologist, was among a growing chorus of critics who called on lawmakers to oppose the proposal to keep people with metal detectors from damaging historical sites.

"It's kind of reprehensible," she said. "Nobody would dream of walking into a state museum and say, 'Can I have the artifact in that case,'" Ross-Stalling said. "But that's what they're doing in essence with the artifacts that are still in the ground. It's kind of reprehensible."

What seemed to be a longshot initially squeaked through the Senate on a 20-16 vote.

Kentucky Archeological Survey Director David Pollack said he's cautiously optimistic that the proposal won't resurface in the final days of the legislative session.

"Archeological sites are a non-renewable resource," Pollack said. "Once you've destroyed them, they can't be reconstructed. So, these sites are there to be preserved and protected."

Pollack said he's aware that the popularity of metal detectors has grown in recent years and that hobbyists have been looking for additional places to use the devices. But they should not be allowed to search for artifacts on Civil War battlefields or other historically significant sites owned by the state.

"The state owns those artifacts," Pollack said. "'So does an individual really have a right to go onto the state property and take artifacts, keep them as their own, and then, theoretically, put them on eBay and sell them?"

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