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Posted: Sunday, November 04, 2001

A lighthouse in our own backyard.

How many people can say that? And since we have one so near at hand why, over the past few decades, have so few people been out to visit? Perhaps there was nothing of real interest to appreciate. A couple of run down old buildings with paint curling toward the sky; interior walls stained brown from the inevitable encroachment of rainwater through the unkempt roof; unfurnished rooms echoing hollowly, yet hinting sadly of the ghostly presence of past keepers who once cared so diligently for their sparse accommodations and their duty to seafarers. The place was creeping toward collapse. Thankfully, it was our own citizens, with the approval of Congress, who came to the rescue. Who are they? Well, it could have been you, or you, or you. And it still can.

In 1998, in order to relieve the Coast Guard of the financial burden of maintaining this (and other lighthouse properties), Congress specifically authorized the transfer of Point Retreat and its accompanying land of 1,505 acres, which was appointed by executive order to the Light Station by President McKinley in 1901, to the Alaska Lighthouse Association. (Pub.L.105-383, section 416). This was done under the condition that it be used to preserve maritime history. The Lighthouse Association isn't being given free land, they are being entrusted with the responsibility of caring for a historical landmark that belongs to us all. How often do you pass by ruins such as those at the Treadwell mine and ask yourself, "I wish I could see how it used to be, way back then. Who let it crumble?"

In the beginning, the ALA formulated a plan to restore Point Retreat based on information given on what they had to work with. They poured sweat, time and personal sacrifice into areas that are now suddenly falling under the threat of revocation. The state of Alaska covers 365,000,000 acres. Point Retreat, reposing in its original state of dignity, occupies 0.0004 percent of that. The numbers make their own point.

I would like to extend an invitation to all citizens to become a member of the Alaska Lighthouse Association. Historically, the land belongs to everyone; at least it does when placed in the care of the selfless people who form the ALA. For any questions, call the ALA at 364-2410.

Bobbi McCutcheon


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