It's no surprise that after 150 years the lighthouse at Cape Lookout National Seashore is in need of some repair work. Well, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has come up with nearly $500,000 to handle those repairs so the lighthouse can be reopened to the public.
The funding, not too surprisingly, is coming available just as the folks at Cape Lookout are celebrating the lighthouse's 150th birthday.
“Standing 163 feet tall, Cape Lookout Lighthouse is one of the most recognized symbols of North Carolina as well as a national treasure, but a cloud has hung over the structure because it has not been open to the public for more than a year,” Secretary Salazar said Wednesday. “Today I’m happy to announce that we will provide $487,000 for the repairs that will re-open the lighthouse, hopefully by the 2010 season.”
The lighthouse was first lit on November 1, 1859. The anniversary celebration kicked off last Saturday at the seashore in a ceremony with 500 people, including members of the public, the National Park Service, the Coast Guard, and descendants of lighthouse keepers.
Transferred from the Coast Guard to the National Park Service in 2003, the lighthouse continues to serve as an active aid to navigation. Though operational, the lighthouse has been closed to the public since the spring of 2008 due to structural and safety problems. Secretary Salazar said the required safety and structural changes will include repairs and alterations of the cast-iron staircase, railings, landings and galleries. After the funding is provided, the Park Service will put the project out to bid.
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina welcomed the news.
“These much needed repairs will allow the lighthouse to re-open so that future generations of Americans will be able to enjoy this national treasure and fully appreciate its historical significance to our state," he said.
"For 150 years, the Cape Lookout Lighthouse has greeted visitors to the North Carolina coast and played a significant role in the state’s coastal economy. Even today, the lighthouse help guide ships into North Carolina ports and supports recreational boating along the Outer Banks,” added U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. "Since coming to the Senate, I have worked toward securing the funds to restore the lighthouse. I am thrilled to join Secretary Salazar in announcing this federal funding to support its critical rehabilitation. The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is one of North Carolina's most beautiful tourist attractions, and an investment of this size will help boost the coastal economy. This funding will also help to ensure that future generations are able to experience firsthand the enduring legacy of North Carolina’s maritime heritage."