Refuge position on the Preservation and Management of the St. Marks Lighthouse
Consistent with Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, the Refuge, in cooperation with the Friends of the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge ("Friends"), intends to preserve the St. Marks Lighthouse in its present form. Corrective measures will be taken regarding deficiencies identified in the condition assessment commissioned by the Friends and conducted by Kenneth Smith and Assoc. in April 2014. Deficiencies not visible will be remedied to best ensure long-term structural integrity. Visible components such as the roof, keeper's quarter's floor, lantern room, windows and doors, interior and exterior walls, ceilings and finishes will be preserved and or restored to best represent the character defining features of this historic structure. Electrical, climate control and other special requirements such as safety, security and accessibility will be consistent with current local, state and national building code. The exterior color may be changed to the more traditional white and green color scheme. There is evidence of green paint several layers beneath the current USCG gray.
The refuge concurs with supporters that efforts should be explored to relight the beacon. The refuge and partners realize there are obstacles to overcome such as cost for restoration of the lens to optical quality, USCG authorization, and the long-term responsibilities inherent to a designation as a private aid to navigation. Ultimate responsibility will be on the Refuge and much thought has to be put into this decision. Will we be able to respond appropriately at 3AM should the light malfunction? For now, the Fresnel lens has been professionally preserved in its current condition and is on display in the Visitor Center during the building preservation.
The refuge appreciates the expressed desire to permit climbing of the tower. The refuge and partners realize there are obstacles to overcome. Primarily, the physical design of the tower steps provides an obstacle. They are utilitarian in design, intended to provide access for one individual to maintain the light. They are also a character defining feature of the tower, historically significant and unable to be altered. They are dangerous by today's standards. What is the liability should someone get hurt? As a Federal Agency, there are requirements to provide access to all visitors. Will this be challenged? That being said, every effort will be made to explore what is possible as well as not possible.
With the exception of a cistern, historically located on the North wall of the keeper's quarters, no plans are in works to expand the footprint of the facility by reconstructing historic out-buildings. A current moratorium on expanding structural square footage on refuges is in effect. The Refuge would have to demolish an existing building and no buildings on the refuge are identified as non-essential to current daily operations. The cistern is the exception as it will provide limited water to the building otherwise unavailable. As the cistern sits atop metal legs it does not have a building "foot print".
Planned site enhancements include a new flag pole (recently installed), new walkways, rehabilitation of the historic marker, an ADA compliant ramp to provide access the front porch and landscaping as appropriate. No exterior lighting is planned. We are a daylight use only- "Wildlife First" refuge.
Options are being explored to address need for public restrooms on site. The moratorium on building expansion, extremely limited availability of water, and waste disposal present considerable challenges. We will have to see what is possible.
The plan for education and historical interpretation will be in the form of static exhibits and a series of rotating exhibits highlighting the Lighthouse, the people whose lives were instrumental in its construction, upkeep and operation and the historically significant roles the St. Marks Lighthouse has played in the social and economic life of the local community, state and nation in both war and peace. Exhibits on-loan from other lighthouses will complement our exhibits adding context and fresh appeal to a diverse set of interests.
Post preservation, the refuge plans to open the St. Marks Lighthouse to visitors contingent on availability of staffing and maintenance/operating funds. To that end, the refuge and partners are currently in the process of determining projected costs and looking at scenarios where by sufficient funds can be raised to provide for sustained operations. A Lighthouse access fee of $2/person has been approved and will be implemented when the museum is opened. The Friends are looking into a mobile sales unit to provide appropriate educational merchandise. There are no plans to offer the facility to the public for social engagements.