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Good news for PA Reef Lighthouse

by Candice Miller on November 17, 2011

By Kate Hessling, Huron Tribune Staff Writer
PORT AUSTIN — Last week, the focus of representatives from the Port Austin Reef Light Association was in Bad Axe, where the group secured a letter from the Huron County Board of Commissioners in support of transferring ownership of the local lighthouse from the federal government to the local association.
This week, the focus is on Washington, where U.S. Rep. Candice Miller issued statement praising the awarding of a $20,000 grant to the association to assist in their continued historic preservation efforts of the full lighthouse structure.
“I congratulate the Port Austin Reef Light Association (PARLA) on receiving this award to further protect this historic lighthouse,” stated Miller, a Republican who represents Michigan’s 10th Congressional District, in the statement issued Wednesday. “Their dedicated efforts to restore one of Michigan’s shining examples of our maritime heritage and development are to be commended and I look forward to their continued preservation efforts made to ensure that it will be enjoyed by residents and visitors for many years to come.”
The grant was awarded by the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program (MLAP), which is run through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority State Historic Preservation Office.
PARLA President Lou Schillinger stated the support of Michigan and Miller in “securing this critical first grant will allow the Reef Light to begin it’s second life.”
“This grant will allow the Port Austin Reef Light Association to continue along the path to full restoration of this ‘Castle in the Lake’ and begin its second 25 years of restoration,” he added.
Located 2.5 miles off the shore of Port Austin, the Port Austin Reef Lighthouse was established and first lit in 1878 and is operational to this day. In 1988, the PARLA was formed and became the caretaker for restoration and upkeep of the historic lighthouse. The opportunity to transfer ownership came in June, when the lighthouse was declared excess to the needs of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The lighthouse was made available to eligible organizations under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse preservation Act of 2000, according to the Port Austin Reef Light Association’s website.
During last week’s county board of commissioners meeting, Schillinger reported the Port Austin Reef Light Association has been in the process of seeking the title for the lighthouse for the purpose of preservation and education. Also, the group hopes to eventually turn the lighthouse into a tourist attraction, Schillinger said.
Part of the process of obtaining ownership of the lighthouse is proving the association has the ability to perpetually maintain the property, he said. That includes funding between $3,000 and $5,000 that’s needed each year to maintain the property in its current condition.
Schillinger gave commissioners two reasons why it shouldn’t have a problem proving it can maintain the property.
First, the association has a track record of financing/maintaining the lighthouse over the last 25 years.
Second, the Village of Port Austin and Port Austin Township have pledged to assist each year if the association doesn’t raise enough funds. But it doesn’t look like that will be necessary any time soon, however, given Wednesday’s announcement of the $20,000 MLAP grant.
MLAP was established to assist in the preservation, rehabilitation and protection of historic lighthouses in Michigan. The MLAP grant provides funding for planning and rehabilitation projects at Michigan light stations. Funding for the grant program comes from the sale of the Michigan’s “Save our Lights” lighthouse license plates, a fund-raising license place implemented in 2001 by then-Secretary of State Miller, according to Wednesday’s announcement.

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