Iconic lighthouse finally in Acadia; use of property still undecided

ACADIA NAT’L PARK — The announcement last Wednesday that the Bass Harbor Head Light Station had been officially transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the National Park Service was a long time coming.

In 2017, the Coast Guard offered to give the light station – which includes the lighthouse, lightkeeper’s house, three smaller buildings and 2.5 acres of land – to the park service. It took more than three years to work out all the details and finalize the deal, but Acadia officials weren’t just sitting on their hands while they waited.

“Over the last year, we completed a historic structures report that looks at how we preserve the Bass Harbor Head Light into the future,” Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider said at Friends of Acadia’s virtual annual meeting last Wednesday.

“When we do maintenance work there, how do we do it in a way that the fabric of that special place is preserved, that we do it in a historically appropriate way?”

Schneider said no decision has been made on how the park will use the lighthouse.

“Within the last few weeks, we held a workshop with park staff and some community leaders to reenvision the future of Bass Harbor Head Light and to think about how do we adaptively reuse this building in a way that fits with our needs, fits with the community’s needs and is sensitive to the historic structure,” he said.

“This is an exciting moment. I really look forward to opening (the lighthouse) up and welcoming people to that building when we can.”

Schneider has said in the past that park officials would like to find an appropriate use for the lighthouse property that also generates revenue for its upkeep.

“We are very cognizant that lighthouses are expensive,” he told the Acadia Advisory Commission in 2018.

Schneider has noted in the past that the decision on how to use the lighthouse property might well be influenced by the size of the parking lot there, which currently can accommodate only about 22 vehicles at a time.

Even though the lighthouse now belongs to the National Park Service, the Coast Guard will continue to maintain and operate the automated light itself as an aid to navigation.

The Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse was built in 1858. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

The lighthouse property is surrounded by park land, and most visitors have always assumed it was part of Acadia.

A decade ago, the U.S. Mint began producing a series of coins featuring iconic images from the national parks in the America the Beautiful Quarters Program. An image of the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse was chosen to represent Acadia.

The cover of the 2017 Rand McNally Road Atlas featured a photo of the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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