Historic Oregon Coast Lighthouse Vandalized, Riddled with Bullets
(Tillamook, Oregon) – One of Oregon's historic lighthouses was the victim of vandalism this weekend, as someone shot the beacon area several times as well as took the U.S. Coast Guard active light out of commission with more rounds.
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department estimates damage to be over $50,000 at the Cape Meares Lighthouse – just west of Tillamook - while there is talk the actual lens may not be replaceable.
In just a day since the investigation began, the reward for information leading to an arrest has just been upped from $1,000 to $5,000.
Oregon State Police (OSP) Sergeant Todd Hoodenpyl said that between the afternoon of January 9 and noon on January 10, a vehicle went beyond the barriers at the state park and drove down a maintenance road as well as on the grassy areas by the viewing platforms, tearing up the grass in the vehicle’s wake. At the lighthouse, they fired numerous rounds into the glass, breaking 15 windowpanes of the structure's extensive glass and several pieces of a historic Fresnel lens.
Large, gaping bullet holes now dot the stately structure, along with shattered glass pieces throughout
OSP has been working with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) on the investigation, and the Coast Guard has become involved now as well.
Chris Havel, Associate Director for Oregon Parks & Recreation Department, said the active beacon – which sits behind the historic lighthouse – is actually used by seafaring vessels in the area who don't have GPS or other modern technology, while the lighthouse itself is a historic attraction.
“The automated beacon is critical to vessels passing by,” Havel said. “The coast guard wouldn’t have put it there if it wasn’t. There are these beacons all up and down the coast.”
The Fresnel lens is of special concern to Oregon officials, as it was created in the 1880’s in Paris, made from materials from that age and by a means no longer practiced in the modern world. It is irreplaceable. After its manufacture it was shipped around Cape Horn up to Oregon, arriving for installation prior to 1890, when the lighthouse went into service.
The lighthouse itself was decommissioned in the 1960’s as the modern navigation light replaced it.
Representatives from the State Historic Preservation Office are on site Tuesday assessing damage.
Havel said Cape Meares State Park is closed during the investigation period, and will likely be shut down for a while beyond that.
“It’s closed to protect the light,” Havel said. “We’re not sure yet how protect it from the elements. So until we know more about how to protect it further, the park will remain closed. Luckily, this time of year, we can afford to keep it closed for a while, even days. That’s one of the things the historic preservation team is looking at today - that’s one of the recommendations they’ll be making.”
Diane Emineth owns Sand Lake Country Inn, about a 25-minute from the lighthouse, along the winding, slinky Three Capes Loop. She was aghast.
“It breaks my heart,” Emineth said. “I don’t understand why someone would do that. It’s an icon in the community here. It’s a draw to the Oregon coast, and on this part of the Three Capes.”
Several years ago, the lighthouse went under a facelift for about a year. During that time it was unavailable to tourists. Emineth worries about that happening again.
“When it was getting its facelift, and not open to the public, it did affect people’s experience along the Three Capes. If it’s closed again for a really long time, it will be very detrimental.”
The Friends of Cape Meares Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge is accepting donations to help pay for costs to repair the damage. That organization increased its reward for information in the case to $4,000, while OPRD added $1,000 late Monday night.
At about 30 feet high, Cape Meares Lighthouse is the shortest on Oregon’s coast. The park also features numerous popular hiking trails, lookout areas, and the famed Octopus Tree – which was featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not in the mid 20th century.
Anyone with information to help in the OSP investigation is asked to call the OSP Northern Command Center dispatch at 800-452-7888.
The Friends of Cape Meares are accepting donations for repairs through their website: www.capemeareslighthouse.org/html/news_events.html
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