By Bob Trapani, Jr.
At a time when the Delaware lighthouse community laments the tragic loss of Mispillion Lighthouse, two other historic “First State” lights will soon have a much brighter future. The Delaware River & Bay Lighthouse Foundation, Lewes, Delaware, recently announced that the organization has begun formal proceedings with the U.S. Coast Guard to obtain historic leases on Liston Range Rear Light, near Port Penn, Delaware, and Reedy Island Range Rear Light, Taylor’s Bridge, Delaware.
The pursuit of Liston Range Rear Light and Reedy Island Range Rear Light will provide the DRBLHF with an invaluable land-base presence for their lighthouse interpretive and educational goals, while complimenting the newly acquired historic lease of the offshore Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse off Cape Henlopen. Michael DiPaolo, 1st Vice-President for the DRBLHF, states, “The range lights will add immeasurably to our organization’s educational programming by allowing the Foundation to hold regularly scheduled, year-round events, educational seminars and tours from secure land-base lights. We want to allow the general public to get “up close and personal” with lights in Delaware.”
The need to help preserve our nation’s lighthouses has never been greater. Ever-dwindling Coast Guard maintenance budgets, aging structures, vandalism and Mother Nature are formidable challenges in the world of lighthouse preservation. Chief Michael Baroco, Officer in Charge for USCG Aids to Navigation Team Philadelphia, explains the dilemma facing the Coast Guard, saying, “As these structures grow older, the maintenance costs mount. With the current Coast Guard budget stretched to its limits in recent years, sometimes lighthouse maintenance projects are deferred in favor of more vital operations. Therefore, organizations like the DRBLHF are outstanding when it comes to the preservation and educational aspects of lighthouses. Private organizations generally have more options and the ability to focus their energies and funding on specific sites."
Once the organization has formally obtained the two range lights, the lighthouse preservation efforts of the DRBLHF will span statewide and impact lighthouses in both the Delaware River and Bay. Mr. DiPaolo summarizes the DRBLHF’s efforts to expand its preservation endeavors beyond Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse, noting, “As part of our mission statement, the Foundation must act as an advocate for preservation of historic Delaware lights, and, when appropriate, act as their keepers.”
For the Delaware River & Bay Lighthouse Foundation executive board, there is an overriding sense that the organization must seize the moment and act now to impact the daunting challenges of preserving the lights of the river and bay. Chief Baroco, a lighthouse history buff and huge advocate of lighthouse preservation, is looking forward to the Coast Guard transitioning the care of the range lights to the DRBLHF, saying, “When these leases are approved, I will take it as one of the high points of my tour here at USCG ANT Philadelphia. These two lights are magnificent pieces of our maritime heritage and are the last strong few in Delaware that have survived the test of time. I look forward to working alongside the DRBLHF to ensure that these lights are here for many generations to come.”
Created: July 2002
Authors Note: The Delaware River & Bay Lighthouse Foundation signed a 30-year historic lease on Liston Range Rear Light in May 2004, but relinquished the pursuit of a lease for Reedy Island Range Rear Light in favor of forging a partnership with the Delaware River & Bay Authority to preserve the offshore Delaware Breakwater East End Lighthouse in September 2004.