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State ownership of the Morris Island Lighthouse is a signal step toward the landmark's preservation and eventual restoration. It doesn't solve all of the problems facing the project, but it provides a way to deal with some of the most serious.
Primarily, it will make possible the support of public agencies in stabilizing the threatened lighthouse, and the availability of public money for that work. The Department of Natural Resources acquisition of the lighthouse last Friday - for $1 - also served to officially recognize the landmark status of the 19th century structure.
The action of the DNR board will give Save the Light Inc. well-deserved assistance in its dogged efforts to put the lighthouse in public trust and protect its long-term future from the elements and from continued vandalism.
The citizens group purchased the lighthouse from a private owner, and has raised a total of $250,000 in a grass-roots campaign that demonstrates the public sentiment for its preservation. DNR is expected to lease the lighthouse back to Save the Light Inc., which will continue to administer the restoration and fund-raising project and will accept liability for the structure, a major concern of the state.
The board's action should be speedily validated by the State Budget and Control Board and the local Legislative Delegation, so that detailed work on a stabilization plan can begin, presumably under direction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
DNR's decision was greeted with applause by supporters of the Morris Island Lighthouse campaign, but those supporters should share in the congratulations. They took over the project when there was little public agency interest, and advanced it largely on their own through its difficult initial phases. Save the Light Inc. has demonstrated unswerving dedication to its goal and should provide the long-term stewardship that the lighthouse requires.