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Coast Guard wants to part with iconic Nobska Light

WOODS HOLE — Nobska Point Light will continue to be a beacon for sea travelers in Vineyard Sound, but a different landlord might be in charge of putting the property in shipshape condition.

The Coast Guard has started the long process of selling the lighthouse and the attached residence at 233 Nobska Road. Although the Coast Guard will continue to run the light and foghorn at the top of the structure, which rests to the east of Woods Hole's harbors, it has determined the site is no longer needed and wants someone else to take over stewardship of the buildings.

But any change of ownership is a long way off, Klinker said.

The site is on a list to be considered for divestiture, which means the Coast Guard still needs to examine potential environmental or legal responsibilities that would stem from a sale. A site investigation also needs to be done to more thoroughly examine the structure.

No timeline has been set, Klinker said.

Nobska Light was established in 1829 and the current lighthouse was first lit in 1876, according to the Coast Guard's website.

The Coast Guard took over operations in 1939 and a civilian lightkeeper was on site until November 1973. The light later was fully automated in 1985. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, according to register records.

Nobska is perhaps the most viewed lighthouse on Cape Cod, a must-have snapshot for tourists every year, sitting in the easy gaze of millions of passengers who take ferries from Woods Hole to Martha's Vineyard. Despite the thicket of governmental red tape that lies ahead, Catherine Bumpus, co-president of the Woods Hole Community Organization, said she's confident the site will fall into good hands.

"It's iconic and loved by Woods Hole, Falmouth and many people from way beyond here," she said. "Because it is so accessible, because you can go look at it, because it's right there, people get to enjoy it. That makes it special to a lot of people."

Under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, lighthouses must first be offered to federal, state and local agencies, and nonprofits. Any plan to take over a lighthouse must pass the muster of the National Park Service. If no agency or nonprofit steps up or if the plan is deemed unacceptable by the federal government, then the property would be placed up for auction by the General Services Administration.

Bumpus doesn't see that happening. The community group is already planning conversations with area nonprofit groups to help identify potential suitors and educate the public about the process involved in taking responsibility for a lighthouse.

"Falmouth has demonstrated its capacity to do historic preservation, keeping important public property in the hands of organizations that will maintain them," she said. "We are going to work to help facilitate that process."

If it is taken over or sold, Nobska wouldn't be the first lighthouse in the area to come off the government's property rolls.

The Cleveland Ledge Light Station in Buzzards Bay was sold in 2010 for $190,000 to California resident Sandy Boyd. The Borden Flats Lighthouse in Fall River has been renovated and is available for overnight lodging.

Gay Head Light on Martha's Vineyard has been declared surplus by the Coast Guard and several groups, including the town of Aquinnah, have applied to take it over before erosion destroys the site.

The decision came after a June visit to the lighthouse, said Coast Guard Lt. Joseph Klinker. The Coast Guard's civil engineering unit out of Providence discovered rotting, leaks, mold and mildew and heating problems. Repairs would have cost an estimated $550,000 and it was recommended the structure no longer be used.

Nobska knowledge

  • Original light was built in 1828.
  • Current structure and lightkeepers house was built in 1876.
  • The 40-foot cast-iron tower was built in Chelsea and taken to Woods Hole in four sections.
  • Civilian keepers were at the light until late 1973.The light was automated in 1985.
  • Source: National Register of Historic Places.

  • This Article was reprinted fromcape Cod Online.com

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    Coast Guard wants to part with iconic Nobska Light