Thursday, May 23, 2013
By Leslie Bridgers email@example.com
Seven groups are at least interested in owning one or both of the offshore Maine lighthouses that the federal government wants to give away.
The U.S. General Services Administration in Boston this week received six letters from organizations stating an interest in becoming the steward of Halfway Rock Light Station, which can be seen from Bailey Island in Harpswell. It also received three letters about Boon Island Light Station, about six miles off the the coast of York.
Two organizations, including the American Lighthouse Foundation in Rockland, which has leases on the lighthouses, sent letters of interest for both, said Meta Cushing, project manager from the GSA's Office of Real Property Utilization and Disposal.
She wouldn't name any other groups that submitted letters, but said most were from Maine and all but one, which is from the Great Lakes region, are based in New England.
She said the parties are members of the lighthouse, sustainable development, preservation and museum communities.
The National Historic Preservation Act was passed in 2000 to provide the federal government with a mechanism for disposing of historic lighthouses while ensuring their protection.
Federal agencies, state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, educational agencies and community development groups are eligible to take over the lighthouses at no cost.
Letters of interest in applying for stewardship were due Monday. This sumer the groups will schedule an inspection of the lighthouses, led by the GSA, the Coast Guard and the National Park Service, the agency that will select the new owner, Cushing said.
After the inspection, the groups have 90 days to submit an application that includes plans for an educational program, rehabilitation of the structure and public access. She said the selection process usually takes about a year.
If none of the groups applies, the lighthouses will be sold at auction.
Tim Harrison, editor and publisher of Lighthouse Digest, in Whiting, said he was surprised to learn how many letters of interest were submitted.
"I think that's good news, but it will be interesting to see what happens when push comes to shove," he said, referring to whether they'll submit applications.
"It's hard to believe there are six nonprofits that would want to step forward and spend that kind of money to maintain a lighthouse," he said.
Boon Island Light, the tallest lighthouse on the Maine coast at 123 feet, became operational in 1812. Halfway Rock Light, which is 76 feet tall and connected to a boathouse on a 2-acre rock ledge, was put into operation in 1871.
The Coast Guard will continue to operate the lighthouses' navigational beacons.