Guide to the distant past

A sign marks the site of a future center for visitors to the Wetumpka impact crater site.

Friday, Aug. 1, 7:46 a.m. — WETUMPKA — The age of the planet is a controversial topic for those who’d rather not tussle with scientists and those who believe the literal story of the Bible. Here in Wetumpka, that could be a flashpoint.

The reason is Wetumpka’s crater — a marine impact crater, to be exact, that Auburn University professor David King says is 85 million years old. Wetumpka is rapidly taking advantage of this geologic discovery with a host of tourism and learning opportunities.

After King’s research proved the crater’s existence and age in 1998, the Coosa County Commission established the Wetumpka Impact Crater Commission, an eight-member body whose job it is to preserve the crater and educate people about it. For what it’s worth, commission chairwoman Marilee Tankersley said there’s been no uproar in the community from those who may disagree with King saying the crater is 85 million years old, or that the city is so actively pushing that scientific find.

“We have had no people with any local religious (affiliation) say anything,” Tankersley said Thursday. She said she has received two letters from people during her time as chairwoman who said King was wrong and the Bible was correct about the Earth’s age. One of the letters was sent to the Wetumpka police chief, she said.

“I understand their fervor,” Tankersley said. “But I believe it’s scientifically possible and evangelically possible because our years aren’t God’s years.”

On a related note, Wetumpka’s crater commission is planning for next year’s Crater Days. On March 5, Auburn’s King will deliver a lecture that’s free to the public. On March 6, the commission will organize crater tours for schools. On March 7, public tours will be held. There’s a small fee for the tours, and space is limited. If you’re interested, call Tiffany Robinson, the city of Wetumpka’s events/tourism manager, at 334-567-1384, or email trobinson@cityofwetumpka.com.

— Phillip Tutor