Ownership of Bass Harbor Head Light on Mount Desert Island has been transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to Acadia National Park, a move that should lead to improved public access as well as greater public education about the site’s historical significance.

The National Park Service made the announcement Wednesday, saying the transfer includes five historic buildings on two acres of land.

Bass Harbor Head lighthouse Carol M. Highsmith photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Until now, public access to the lighthouse, located in Bass Harbor, was restricted, but the National Park Service said it will develop plans to improve access and enjoyment of the historic landmark. Bass Harbor Head Light was built in 1858 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

With an estimated 180,000 annual visitors, the lighthouse is already the fifth most popular destination in Acadia National Park, behind only Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond, Sand Beach and Thunder Hole, the National Park Service said in a news release.

Acadia is now home to three lighthouses including Bass Harbor Head Light, Bear Island Light and Baker Island Light. Bass Harbor is the only lighthouse in the park that can be reached by motor vehicle. All three are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A quarter mile entrance road to the lighthouse ends with a 27-space parking lot, a short hiking trail and a stairway leading to a shoreline viewing area. The property includes the 37-foot tall lighthouse tower, a keeper’s dwelling, bell house, oil house and barn.

The transfer of Bass Harbor Head Light was finalized on July 8. The Coast Guard will continue to operate and maintain the lighthouse’s automated navigation aid. The light’s range is about 13 miles.

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