Eldred Rock Lighthouse Non-Profit receives Lease Agreement with U.S. Coast Guard

Kim ValverdeAlaska Maritime History, Local, RegionalLeave a Comment

For Press Release
2 April 2020
Contact: Sue York, ERLPA Executive Director
Phone: (907) 255-3662, slyak3@yahoo.com

Eldred Rock Lighthouse Non-Profit receives Lease Agreement with U.S. Coast Guard

The Eldred Rock Lighthouse Preservation Association (ERLPA) received a five year term lease from the USCG Civil Engineering Unit on April 1, 2020 that is renewable for up to four terms. The purpose of the lease is for ERLPA to have access to the property to rehabilitate, preserve and maintain the lighthouse so that it can be shared with the public.

ERLPA became a non-profit in 2014, branching off of the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center in Haines, AK where the original 4th order Fresnel lens from Eldred Rock Lighthouse is on display. Getting the lease agreement finalized was not easy, and several attempts to gain access to work on the lighthouse have been made in the past. The Coast Guard was unable to make the Eldred Rock Lightstation available through the NHLPA 2000 (Nat’l Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act) for various reasons such as land conveyance issues and hazardous environmental conditions. Pursuit of a lease agreement by ERLPA began in earnest in 2018 with fundraising and negotiations with the CG, the State Historic Preservation Officer and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. 

ERLPA recognizes that without the support of the Juneau-based Marine Exchange of Alaska (MXAK), the lease may never have become a reality. The Marine Exchange has been visiting Eldred Rock island over the years to install and maintain their vessel tracking receiver, weather station and safety information systems. Captain Ed Page—USCG Ret., and the founder and Executive Director of MXAK—recognized the increased deterioration of the lighthouse during these frequent visits. “It’s part of the maritime legend (…) we really hate to see this lighthouse just deteriorate,” Captain Page states. “Over the years, it has become obvious lighthouses are no longer the most efficient way to aid maritime safety and have been abandoned with the onset of new technology, but remain a key part of our maritime history and legacy. The Marine Exchange is involved in maritime safety throughout Alaska and we too appreciate the role lighthouses have played in the past and we are using lighthouses to install our weather and vessel tracking equipment because they are strategically placed in locations that are hazardous to mariners. The Coast Guard no longer has the funds to maintain these buildings they no longer have a need for. Non-profits like Marine Exchange and ERLPA see the value of these historic properties and are taking on the role of maintaining them so that they can be available to the public to visit and have an appreciation for the role they played in maritime history.” MXAK supports ERLPA with supplemental funding and transportation to the island on their landing craft, the CLEAT. 

The most frequently asked question by the public is: “Can we stay out there?”  The short answer, says ERLPA Executive Director Sue York, is not just yet, but ERLPA will work hard to make it safe for visitors as soon as possible. ERLPA is passionate about sharing the lighthouse: it’s not just going to be a private residence, but it needs a lot of work to be safe for visitors. Becoming a member of the association and volunteering for future work parties is the best way to be able to visit the lighthouse in ERLPA’s first work season, says York. More information about membership and volunteer opportunities can be found on ERLPA’s website www.eldredrocklighthouse.org. Eldred Rock is the oldest original lighthouse in the state, built in 1905 and automated by the Coast Guard in 1973. That means it has stood alone and neglected for 47 years, assaulted by the harsh weather of Northern Lynn Canal. Despite this, Eldred Rock is the darling of upper Lynn Canal. Not only is it the most photographed lighthouse in the state, but it’s also the most endangered. Concrete is spalling, asbestos and lead paint crumble from the floors, walls and ceilings, and the island itself contains its own hazards of uneven ground and missing railings. Additionally, the lighthouse has been listed on Alaska Association for Historic Preservation (AAHP) Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties for two years in a row, and ERLPA has used a grant from AAHP to have an Historic Structures Report (HSR) written. This report is essential for getting all future work approved by the CG as property owners and State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO). Eldred Rock is on the Nat’l Registry of Historic Places, so it is required to be rehabilitated to historic standards. ERLPA plans on establishing a maritime museum and visitor center at the lighthouse someday, giving tours of the lighthouse and having seasonal keepers living there. They invite the communities of Haines, Juneau and Skagway to get behind the rehabilitation of this breathtaking piece of Alaska maritime history.

Captain Ed Page, Executive Director of Marine Exchange of Alaska at Eldred Rock
Eldred Rock Lighthouse with the MXAK M/V Cleat

Photo credits: Eldred Rock Lighthouse Association

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