ISLAMORADA, Fla. (CBSMiami) — A 52-year-old artist from the Keys just finished an eight-mile swim.
Larry Herlth wasn't trying to set any records, just raise awareness for preserving aging lighthouses off the island chain.
Herlth's swim to Alligator Reef Lighthouse took about six hours. He was escorted by several boats and paddle boarders.
Known locally as "Lighthouse Larry" for his detailed, scale metal reproductions of Keys lighthouses, Herlth is obsessed with the need to preserve the large beacons originally fabricated in the 1800s to warn ships away from the Florida Keys reef tract.
Modern Global Positioning System navigation has replaced the need for lighthouses in the Keys and, with the exception of their navigation lights, they are no longer maintained.
Herlth says the metal structures are in dire need of restoration so the historical icons will remain standing for future generations.
"We need to bring the attention to a national treasure," he said. "These structures need to be saved."
Herlth wants the federal government to take the lead in preserving Keys lighthouses and compares them to icons such as the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.
"Look at the money, time and resources spent on monuments in Washington that were not there when these (the lighthouses) were built," he said. "These saved lives, commerce and these are an absolute part of our history."
Herlth said he believes $16 million would be needed to stabilize Keys lighthouses.
To continue building awareness for lighthouse restoration, Herlth said he plans to lead efforts to organize a competitive swim next August from Islamorada to Alligator light.
Joining Herlth in the awareness swim Saturday, but from 80 miles away off Key West, marathon swimmer Diana Nyad trained, preparing for a fourth attempt to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys.
Nyad, who turns 63 Aug. 22, and her team are waiting for "great" weather conditions before beginning the effort.
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