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State ownership of the Morris Island Lighthouse is key to its stabilization and preservation. The state Heritage Trust Advisory Board should endorse a proposal to take title to the historic structure.
Save the Light Inc. plans to make the request Thursday, citing the need for public ownership to obtain grants and other assistance unavailable to the citizens group. It would donate the lighthouse to the state.
Save the Light took charge of efforts to save the 123-year-old lighthouse, a nationally recognized landmark, when public agencies wouldn't. It has done a magnificent job: It purchased the lighthouse from the owner, arranged for engineering studies, and took steps to secure it from further vandalism. It has raised $150,000 on its own - through donations and the sale of art prints and T-shirts.
Preliminary estimates put the cost of its long-term preservation at $1.5 million to $2 million.
Robert New, co-chairman of Save the Light, is convinced that a full $1 million can be obtained through the continued fund-raising campaign. The Legislature already has allocated $500,000 for preservation activities at the lighthouse. Mr. New says additional grants can be leveraged to make up the remainder. Federal money may be available, but only if there is public ownership.
Inexplicably, Heritage Trust officials appear lukewarm on the project, even though many of the state agency's earlier concerns appear to have been settled through the efforts of Save the Light. The group has sustained the initial purchase price, and initial engineering studies and cost estimates have been completed.