ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Acadia officials are considering the U.S. Coast Guard’s offer to transfer ownership of the iconic Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse and its 2.5 acres of land to the park.
The lighthouse property, which includes the keeper’s house, is surrounded by park land, and many assume that it already is part of Acadia.
Christie Anastasia, the park’s public affairs specialist, said Tuesday that the park is “considering the possible acquisition” of the lighthouse.
“We’re really thinking about it and doing due diligence to understand the costs of taking on that facility,” she said. “It probably needs some work just to get it up to usability, and there’s also the cost of maintaining it.
“We’re also very aware that it is an important property to everyone on the island, so we fully intend to share more information with the public, town officials and other stakeholders when we are at the point that we can do that,” Anastasia said. “We will want to get input on what people are thinking, what they want the lighthouse to become, what they would want us to do with it. There are a lot of unanswered questions at this point.”
A spokesperson for the Coast Guard’s Northeast District, which includes Maine, confirmed Wednesday that the Coast Guard and the National Park Service have been in contact regarding the future of the lighthouse, but said they had no further information.
If Acadia decides not to accept the lighthouse and surrounding property, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) could sell it at auction. The GSA is responsible for “the disposal of real property that is no longer mission-critical to federal agencies.” According to the GSA website, it “first offers excess property to other federal agencies that may have a program need for it.”
GSA Auctions, the agency’s property sales arm, currently lists five lighthouses for sale: four in Michigan and one in Maryland.
If the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse property were sold to a private party, it would go on the town of Tremont’s tax rolls.
The lighthouse was built in 1858 atop a cliff at the southernmost tip of Mount Desert Island. A fog bell and tower were added in 1876. The lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
It is one of the most photographed places on Mount Desert Island and, to many people, is synonymous with Acadia.
The Acadia National Park 25-cent coin, produced in 2012 as part of the U.S. Mint’s America the Beautiful Quarters Program, features an image of the lighthouse, even though the lighthouse isn’t in the park.
Last year, the U.S. Postal Service issued a “forever” stamp featuring a photo of the lighthouse in observance of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.
The 2017 Rand McNally Road Atlas celebrates the park service’s centennial with a full-page cover photo of the lighthouse.
David McDonald, president and CEO of Friends of Acadia, said the group looks forward to working with park partners and the local community to explore options for protecting the lighthouse.