Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Seven groups are at least interested in owning one - or both - of the off-shore Maine lighthouses that the federal government wants to give away.
Boon Island Light Station sits a mere 6 miles off the coast of York and boasts a lively history. It has operated since 1812, but the tower was replaced in 1855. At 123 feet, it is the tallest lighthouse on the Maine coast.
Photo by Bob Trapani Jr.
Halfway Rock Light Station is located about 10 miles east of Portland Head Light on a 2-acre rock ledge. The lighthouse, which began operating in 1871, is a 76-foot-tall granite tapered tower. Special feature: a boathouse.
Photo by Bob Trapani Jr.
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 received three letters for Boon Island Light Station, about six miles off 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 July 16. The groups this summer will schedule an inspection of the lighthouses, led by the GSA, the Coast Guard, and the National Park Service, which will be the agency to select the new owner, said Cushing.
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 apply, 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.
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at