Department Of Interior

DOI News Header
Office of the Secretary
Joan Moody

Secretary Norton Transfers Lighthouse to California Parks in Scenic Ceremony at Point Sur Historic Park

POINT SUR, CALIFORNIA - In a ceremony today at Point Sur National Historic Park off scenic California Highway 1, Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton signed documents to transfer Point Sur Lighthouse from the U.S. Coast Guard to the California state parks. The event marked the first transfer of its kind on the West Coast, and she announced other lighthouses to follow in California, Washington, and Hawaii.

Noted celebrants at the ceremony included California Resources Agency Secretary Michael Chrisman, state parks director Ruth Coleman, Monterey district park supervisor Phil Jenkins, GSA Regional Administrator Peter Stamison, Coast Guard 11th District Chief of Staff James Hass, U.S. Lighthouse Society President Wayne Wheeler and Central Coast Lighthouse Keepers Association director Doug Williams.

"Point Sur Light Station has been in continuous operation for 115 years. It stands as a witness to the journeys of seafarers a hundred years ago and to the migrations of whales today," Norton said. "This is the only complete turn-of-the-century light station open to the public in California. It preserves a sense of the drama and isolation of the chain of sixty California lighthouses begun in 1852 and managed by the Coast Guard until recently."

Point Sur Lighthouse and a related barracks building on 12 acres will be added to Point Sur State Historic Park. Under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, about 300 lighthouses are candidates for transfer. The law calls for the Secretary of the Interior to decide which applicant can best protect a given lighthouse. The Act authorizes the transfer of historic lighthouses and stations at no cost to federal agencies, state and local governments, nonprofit corporations and community development organizations.

The law places preservation of each historic light station first. It directs the Secretary of the Interior to work with the General Services Administration and the National Park Service to choose the best stewards for long-term preservation.

Under the leadership of the parks department and its nonprofit partner, the Central Coast Lighthouse Keepers, more than $2 million already has been invested in the maintenance and restoration of the Point Sur Lighthouse

"In this case, California State Parks and its nonprofit partner certainly have proven to be the best possible stewards of Point Sur," Secretary Norton said. "The partnership between the private and public sectors that is protecting Point Sur Light Station is a model for the nation during Earth Week. At Point Sur, we have seen the type of care that our lighthouses need."

Recognized on the National Register of Historic Places, the Point Sur lighthouse was completed by the U.S. Lighthouse Service, the predecessor of the U.S. Coast Guard, in August 1889. The existing park already preserves other components of the light station-the main keeper's dwelling, hoisting house, carpenter and blacksmith shop, barn, and oil house. A school that was once there was moved.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation obtained the majority of the buildings and 27 acres in 1984, excepting the lighthouse, the barracks building, and the oil house. The department has worked under a lease for the operation and maintenance of the structures since 1990.

Almost two years ago, on June 10, 2002, Secretary Norton launched the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Program from the base of the Tybee Island Lighthouse near Savannah, Ga., with the transfer of the first lighthouses from the Coast Guard.
Point Sur is the first West Coast transfer. In addition, Secretary Norton announced the status of other proposed transfers:

  • The National Park Service has recommended that Pigeon Point Light Station in San Mateo County also be transferred to the California Department of Parks and Recreation with a nonprofit partner, The Peninsula Open Space Trust. This recommendation is pending an appeal by two other nonprofits and should be decided by the end of June.
  • Grays Harbor Lighthouse in Westport, Wash., will be transferred to the Westport/South Beach Historical Society, which has operated the lighthouse since 1998 under a U.S. Coast Guard license.
  • West Point Light Station in Seattle has been recommended by the National Park Service for transfer to the City of Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation. This recommendation is pending an appeal by the nonprofit Light Keepers Retreats. A decision should be made by the end of June.
  • Molokai Lighthouse in Molokai, Hawaii, will be transferred administratively to the National Park Service.
  • An announcement is forthcoming on a lighthouse in Alaska next week.

    Secretary Norton also visited Yosemite and other California national parks as part of her Earth Week tour. She released a report on the Administration's efforts to increase maintenance of buildings, facilities, and roads in the national parks in the Golden State and nationwide. The report covers the status of the Administration's goal of eliminating the maintenance backlog by spending $4.9 billion over five years nationwide.

    Since FY 2001, the document reports, the Bush Administration has invested more than $229 million in more than 470 projects to preserve and protect California's national treasures alone. These projects are completed, underway, or being planned. Once FY 2005 funds are allocated, national parks in California could receive an additional $27 million.


Selected News Releases