Plans to repair and restore the tower at Big Sable Point Lighthouse are on hold due to the pandemic, but the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association (SPLKA) is still accepting donations to fund the work, and it could use those funds now more than ever.
SPLKA Executive Director Peter Manting on Wednesday said that COVID has taken its toll on the organization’s operating budget.
“We’re kind of at a standstill with this COVID thing,” Manting said. “We were unable to open last year to the public, so our funds have decreased.”
SPKLA originally planned to have the bidding process underway for a number of repairs to the lighthouse tower by September 2020.
“We had somebody a few years ago… take a look at the tower, and he found 139 holes or gaps in the steel cladding around the brick and cement,” Manting said. “We have some water seeping in in different spots. Some are small, others are larger, but we need to weld those shut. Then we would have to scrape the tower down and repaint it.
“He also found some structural work that needs to be done on the watch-deck where the people come out, to make sure it stands for another 150 years.”
Because of the pandemic, the timeline has been pushed back. Now, the hope is bid the work out in September of this year, and begin the work in earnest sometime in spring 2022.
So, fundraising will continue, not only to fund the repairs, but also to pay for a Historical Structures Report to be conducted for the lighthouse. The report would help SPLKA identify and prioritize actions needed to preserve the structure.
“It’s an architectural report where an architect and engineer come in and… take a really good look at the structure and give us a blueprint on what needs to be done in terms of preservation, and tell us as an organization what the priorities are,” Manting said.
He added later that the Historic Structure Report “provides documentary, graphic and physical information about a property’s history and existing condition,” noting that it’s widely recognized as an important part of the preservation planning process.
The report also would also address management goals and provide recommendations for approaches to treatment, prior to the commencement of work, while also outlining the scope of recommended work.
The report is an important piece of the restoration process for Big Sable, not only because a lot of major donors require one to be completed before they contribute to a project, but also because it’s been requested by the Michigan DNR.
The total cost of the report and the labor is about $225,000. To date, SPLKA has raised about 71 percent of that amount, just shy of $160,800.
Manting said the organization welcomes donations to help close the gap and reach the fundraising goal.
Those interested in contributing can do so by visiting SPLKA’s website.
Manting said SPLKA will welcome the help, since most of 2020 was spent simply keeping the organization running.
“This past year, the fundraising efforts have been more to keep our doors open than to do preservation work,” he said. “We lost about 80 percent of our anticipated funds…
“It looks like we’ll continue fundraising.”
Manting said the State of Michigan is also considering spending more than $100,000 to protect the seawall around Big Sable Lighthouse from erosion.
With water levels expected to stay close to record highs in the coming months, waves are currently lapping over the seawall, he said.
“The state has been talking about shoring up our breakwater, because we’ve been having problems,” he said. “They’re hoping to put rock in front of the seawall, but also behind the seawall to create a path back out to the lake instead of pooling on the ground and seeping into Big Sable Point Lighthouse.”
Erosion has been a consistent issue for SPLKA’s beacons, and it’s a concern at the Little Sable Lighthouse as well.
Manting said he’s unsure when the state funds might be available.
One station that isn’t in danger is the White River Light Station, according to Manting.
“Our White River Light Station is situated between White Lake and Lake Michigan, so there’s not really any erosion at all,” Manting said. “The lighthouse is not at any danger from shoreline erosion.”
HOW TO DONATE
To contribute to SPLKA’s capital campaign, visit www.splka.org and scroll down to the “Donate” option. There, it offers multiple donation methods.
For more information, call SPLKA at (231) 845-7417.