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Signs provide information about offshore lighthouse

A photo by Stephen M. corley of St. George Reef Lighthouse
A photo by Stephen M. corley of St. George Reef Lighthouse

As part of an ongoing effort to preserve, restore and share knowledge a local landmark, the St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society (SGRLPS) has installed three interpretive signs in Del Norte and Curry counties during the last two months.

The St. George Reef Lighthouse is a 119-year old granite structure perched upon a rock reef six miles offshore from the Oregon-California border. The lighthouse operated continuously from 1891 to 1975. Five men lost their lives during that time, either manning or servicing the lighthouse.

The interpretive sign in Brookings-Harbor is located near the entry to Sporthaven Beach. Two other signs were placed in Northern California: one each in Smith River and on the grounds of Ship Ashore Resort.

Funding for the signs was provided by the SGRLPS and the installation was done by volunteers.

According to SGRLPS President Guy Towers, the signs were intended to make the public aware of the lighthouse and to advertise tours,  provided by the society, which help fund the restoration and preservation efforts.

“That’s why we wanted to get these interpretive panels up there, because thousands of people drive by and don’t know what it is,” Towers said.

The signs also fulfill part of the society’s obligations. When it filed for possession of the lighthouse, part of the agreement required SGRLPS to submit a plan of preservation and unitization, meaning the society would claim responsibility for upkeep and judicious use of the lighthouse.

“The signs accomplished both goals,” Towers said.

Tours are an integral part of the society’s formula, as they provide funds for the preservation part of the agreement, and this year the society hopes to resume tours after a five-year lapse. In 2004, access to the lighthouse was cut off because endangered Stellar sea lions were using the island as a nursery. Towers said they hope to get back the permit for this season.

“We hope to fly sometime in the next month or so,” Towers said. After investigation, the federal division responsible for protection of threatened species has determined that helicopter delivery of maintenance personnel and tourists is a “minimal problem,” Towers said.

Normally, tours are offered from November through April. Helicopter traffic under the permit will be possible once a month for three consecutive days, Towers said, and the tours will be available during one Sunday over a three-day weekend.

“The tours produce the revenue that maintains the lighthouse,” Towers said. “(The SGRLPS) is in the business of saving that lighthouse. We just want to make the public aware of that magnificent structure and its part in maritime history.”

An approximately 90-minute tour – the helicopter ride and a guided, inside look around the lighthouse – will cost $195, Towers said.

For information, visit the St. George Reef Lighthouse Web site  at http://www.stgeorgereeflighthouse.us/, or call 707-464-8299.

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