The U. S Coast Guard wants to divest itself of Florida's 1858 Egmont Key Lighthouse at the mouth of Tampa Bay. Declared surplus property, the lighthouse has been turned over to the General Services Administration to be sold.
A landmark for tourists exploring the state park and wildlife refuge, the 87 foot high tower, minus its lantern room, is only accessible by boat.
Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife owns most of the island, and would like to add the lighthouse and the land surrounding it to the rest of the wildlife refuge, Congress has created a roadblock to that idea. It seems a 1996 Federal law states that any government surplus land must be sold to the highest bidder and the money must be put into the restoring the Everglades. So, the only way to prevent the lighthouse from being sold to the highest bidder would be for Congress to amend the law with a special provision.
Because of its rich history, the entire island is on the National Register of Historic Places. Before the Civil War the area was a haven for runaway slaves and during the Civil War it was military base, military prison and a refuge for southern pro-Union sympathizers. The fort here served until the end of World War I, however erosion is slowing destroying what is left of the fort. Last year the Florida legislature passed a bill to spend $250,000 on erosion control on the island, but the Gov. Jeb. Bush vetoed the bill.
This story appeared in the
January 2000 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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