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S. Oregon Coast's Cape Blanco Light Fundraising for 'Dire' Need of Repairs

Published 10/08/23 at 9:42 p.m.
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

S. Oregon Coast's Cape Blanco Light Fundraising for 'Dire' Need of Repairs

(Port Orford, Oregon) – For a good 100 years, the Cape Blanco Lighthouse saved thousands of lives, alerting nearby mariners of the dangers of the area and guiding them the right direction. But when an iconic Oregon coast lighthouse is in trouble, who will save the lifesaver? (Photo courtesy Cape Blanco Heritage Society)

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Just that question is being posed right now as the 153-year-old Cape Blanco Lighthouse is in dire need of repair and actually in danger of closing down or becoming part of the private sector. Already the lighthouse tower is no longer accessible to the public as it once was. Increasing damage led to that closure in 2020. Its situation is dire, says the Cape Blanco Heritage Society (CBHS), which oversees the lighthouse and staffs it with volunteers.

This place is not in a good place.

So the CBHS has launched a fundraising website, saveourlighthouse.net, and is hoping to raise some $682,000 for all the repairs required. That, however, only covers the lighthouse repairs and not the deteriorating road nor the possible change into private hands.

Among the issues are cracks in the masonry, preparing the historic site for work, scaffolding, repair to the metal work and recoating the exterior. This also involves removing all the exterior painting and repainting it, as what's currently on there is actually contributing to the rust and corrosion on the inside.


Courtesy photo

Back in 2020, the cooperating partners involved had architect Sue Licht come out and do an assessment, which reached the $682,000 quote. (Ironically, “licht” is the german word for “light.”) There is actually a much longer list of all that needs to be fixed.

The road to the lighthouse is also severely damaged by erosion and keeps getting substantially worse with each winter season.

In the meantime, the CBHS partners with various groups in the region, including local tribes, and county and state agencies as well as the Bureau of Land Management. Some partners are apparently pulling their support, although the Society hasn't released who.

This, said CBHS executive director Rebecca Malamud-Evans, doesn't bode well for the future of the lighthouse. There are currently many lighthouses around the U.S. going up for auction because taxpayers cannot foot the bills any longer, and if that happens to this south Oregon coast gem, and it falls into private hands, access to the lighthouse could become limited.

So, how dire is this?


Courtesy photo

“This has been an ongoing situation since 2020 when an architectural plan was drafted by a historic preservation architect which led to the initial closure of the tower,” Malamud-Evans told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “The road has been dramatically washing away during that time which is very concerning as the loss of the road will further limit access to the lighthouse. The longer we wait the more dire the situation becomes. There are people who are offering solutions and want to help. The cape itself is on a challenging piece of land with erosion and geological fault zones, but so are many lighthouses.”

Oregon coast history has numerous last-minute save moments for lighthouses, such as the Yaquina Bay lighthouse in Newport, which sat dilapidated and decaying for decades until it was saved in the '70s. See Landmarks and Legends of an Oregon Coast Lighthouse, Newport's Yaquina Bay, Part I

Similarly, Malamud-Evans points to the success story of the Green Ledge Light in Connecticut as an inspiring story, and one that gives her hope.

“There is a meeting in mid-October between several cooperative partners that will be key in deciding next steps at Cape Blanco,” she told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “I personally am hopeful that our partnership will continue out at Cape Blanco because that is part of our unique story.”

Another positive: the Cape Blanco Lighthouse is still utilized by mariners, so hopefully that puts it another notch or more in the priorities of Oregon officials, keeping it from being actually closed off.

Also see 1919 Wreck of J.A. Chanslor on South Oregon Coast Left 36 Dead Near Cape Blanco

“I can't imagine that our lighthouse would be shuttered forever because it is still actively used as a navigational aid,” she said. “Also, for any lighthouse to be shuttered forever is a heartbreak because they are such an important part of our national history. However, if the U.S. government is auctioning off lighthouses so taxpayers don't have to foot the bill, we need to find our own way of financing the repairs because the group I am involved with (CBHS) is a tiny non-profit in a rural town of approximately 1200 people.”

Also See How Cape Blanco is a Dividing Line in South Oregon Coast Weather

The lighthouse gate road offers particular challenges, CBHS said, because they can't build another one that veers inland as that could wreck archaeological sites on Cape Blanco. There are short-term possibilities that would last maybe 40 years, but a long-term solution would still need to be found.

You can help by donating to saveourlighthouse.net or spreading the word.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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