For over 200 years through summer heat, winter storms and ice, pea soup fog and hurricanes, America's lighthouses have stood guard along our nation's shores saving countless lives.
The fact that early America, in its younger years, developed an amazing system of aids to navigation is a direct result that led to the fast development of commerce and transportation that helped America grow into the great nation we are today.
In spite of the recent developments like the Maine Lights Program and the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, which turn ownership of lighthouses to local communities, other government agencies and nonprofits, many of America's lighthouses are in still in grave danger.
Many government agencies that now own lighthouses either refuse to accept the responsibility, or don't have the money in their budgets for restoring and maintaining these historic structures.
Nonprofits that have lighthouses are for the most part struggling to raise money. While it is true that many popular lighthouses, especially those in tourist areas and those in wealthy communities or with a high profile may be well taken care of. Many more lighthouses in less populated and remote areas are in dire need of help.
While nonprofits can raise a certain amount of money toward restoration, without federal or corporate help, many of these lighthouses will eventually be lost.
Some lighthouses, that no one wanted, have been or will be put up for auction and purchased by private individuals. In most cases these individuals have the personal wealth to maintain the lighthouse. But once the novelty wears off, or their financial status changes, or when they die, what will happen to those structures remains questionable.
However, it is the nonprofits that are literally forced to go begging for money. Middle income America, which has always stepped forward to help, can only donate so much.
On the other hand, most of America's corporate and business leaders are not paying any attention and ignoring the requests of nonprofit lighthouse groups for financial help. While they will all say they respect our nation's lighthouses and respect what the nonprofits are doing, they will only donate to their pet causes or other causes that have better political connections or those that will directly benefit their corporate image.
Thankfully, small numbers of volunteers at various lighthouses around the nation are putting in massive amounts of time into saving these lighthouses, which is the only reason some are being saved. However, there simply are not enough volunteers or business leaders coming forward to help.
Saving lighthouses are a major undertaking that can only be successful with the help of America's business leaders. While it is understandable that rising dependence on corporate and business leaders to help fund nonprofit social, health and human services, it is also a shame that these same leaders totally ignore or decline to lend a much-needed hand to the preservation of our historic lighthouses and the history associated with them.
This story appeared in the
October 2006 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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