Raising funds for lighthouse

By Matthew Durkee, WesCom News Service June 23, 2013 11:24 pm

If a night of rousing sea shanties is your thing, the St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society has a treat in store for you.

If supporting a good cause is more your thing, then you’re still in luck.

Faced with limited fundraising opportunities and large bills for ambitious projects, the society is hosting a benefit concert in Crescent City on Monday, June 24, featuring “Shifty Sailors,” a band of nautical balladeers from Whidbey Island, Wash. A variety of lighthouse mementoes will be on sale at the event.

“This is the first significant fundraising event we’ve done,” said society president Guy Towers.

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. at Crescent Elk Auditorium. 

Tickets cost $15. They can be purchased at Del Norte Office Supply in Crescent City and Wright’s Custom Framing and Art Supply in Brookings. Children younger than 12 enter free if accompanied by an adult.

The society has been working since 1996 to restore St. George Reef Lighthouse to its former glory. The beacon can be seen from Brookings on clear days.

The society’s initial challenge was to make the lighthouse watertight. Other work includes removing debris, replacing rusty iron, bringing utilities back online, peeling paint off, plastering, and renewing mortar between the lighthouse’s thousands of granite blocks.

Some of this work has already been completed. The utilities are now fully functional, for example. But other tasks remain to be done, and now federal regulations have added another project to the bill: expanding the helipad.

A major source of funding for the society was grounded when the California Department of Transportation  issued an order in April 2012 that barred paid tours.

Costing $195 a person, tourists were flown by helicopter to the lighthouse to see the restoration work under way. Proceeds supported further renovations, which don’t come cheap: Helicopter flights necessary for the work run $500 an hour.

Caltrans’ order restricting helo landings (flights for renovation work are still allowed) was based on Federal Aviation Administration regulations mandating a helipad of at least 80 feet in size. The St. George Reef Lighthouse helipad is only 48 feet in size.

The society anticipates flights will resume in November after permitting for a larger helipad is completed and the work on it is finished.

In the meantime, the society is pursuing other revenue streams. Grants, a staple pursuit of the society since its inception, have limited returns, explains Towers.

“The problem with getting  grants in Del Norte County is, everyone has the problem of isolation and ‘political invisibility,’” he said.

At the June 24 event, the society will introduce a gift line, called the Legacy Collection.

Broken light room glass has been turned into jewelry by local glass artist Amber Wier, and glass panes that went in the light room have been cut into 4-by-6-inch panes with an image of the lighthouse etched onto them and then mounted on pieces of wood.

Small pieces of a 90-foot boom that was used to hoist boats and supplies have been specially treated and mounted on oak as well. And granite fragments from the site on Humboldt Bay where the lighthouse’s granite was processed have been mounted on pieces of ceramic. All items come with certificates of authenticity, Towers said.

The benefit concert itself will feature traditional, nautical-themed music, including songs about lighthouses and some that involve audience participation. 

The Salty Sailors, who have performed in Europe and Hawaii, as well as North America, will be dropping anchor in Crescent City as part of an eight-stop tour down the West Coast.