Lighthouse maintenance adds up

Grand Haven officials say they are hoping that, by the end of the year, they will be the owners of two beacons lighting the way for boaters into the city's port. "The timeline is when the Coast Guard finishes some maintenance on the light, then we'll set the wheels in motion to get the deed transferred to the city,' City Manager Pat McGinnis said.
Alex Doty
Mar 31, 2012


According to McGinnis, the U.S. Department of the Interior has accepted the city’s application to acquire the lighthouses, but they want to get any glaring maintenance issues dealt with before taking ownership.

Planned work at the foghouse includes reinforcement of the western endwall, replacement of damaged corrugated metal sheathing and painting of the exterior of the western endwall.

McGinnis said he expects the Coast Guard to start work on the structural issues at the foghouse this spring.

“It is something that they would be doing if they were to continue owning them,” he added.

The structure was constructed in 1875 and relocated to its present position around 1905.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there is a long history of repairs that have been made to the lighthouses since 1922.

In 1922, exterior modifications included installing corrugated metal siding and covering windows, and the installation of a fog signal.

In 1985, new roofing was installed and the chimney was removed; and, in 2001 the structure was restored with new sheathing and a standing-seam metal roof, replacement of the lantern area decking, painting, and exterior sealing.

Local historian Wally Ewing said the Grand Haven lighthouse was a “very important part” of the community.

“The port of Grand Haven was the start of our community,” he said. “When the Rev. Ferry and his family came in on Nov. 2, 1834, they came here because there was a good harbor — and they’ve taken benefit of that ever since.”

Ewing said at one time there were many ships that came in and out of Grand Haven’s port every day.

“Its preservation is symbolic of our history and our port’s history,” he said.

McGinnis said there will likely be several areas of liability the city will take on once they take over the structures. This includes making sure they are kept in good condition and are “aesthetically pleasing.”

“Then there is the whole coverage of public liability for personal injury,” McGinnis said.

McGinnis said the city’s next insurance policy will include language covering this, and the lighthouses won’t be accessible for the foreseeable future.

“They will be maintained as they are, which means they’re not open to the public,” he said.

The Grand Haven Lighthouse Conservancy has a three-phase plan to address maintenance and upkeep at the lighthouses. The proposed cost of the three-year, multiphase preservation plan is $300,000 to $500,000 — and fundraising is under way.

“They are all working to maintaining that asset and getting it open to the public,” McGinnis said.

The first phase of the plan will focus on several evaluation and maintenance issues — including hazardous materials testing, an architectural analysis, and replacement of some doors and siding. Phase 2 will include painting the structures' exteriors and interiors, repairing their foundations, and installing new doors and ventilation systems. The third phase will include replacing windows, restoring 24-inch portholes, stripping, priming and painting the interior circular staircase in the inner light, and restoring holding tanks in its foundation.

To make a tax-deductible contribution to the Grand Haven Lighthouse Community Service Fund, visit the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation office; or mail a check to GHACF, Lighthouse Community Service Fund, 1 S. Harbor Ave., Grand Haven, MI 49417.


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