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City applies for federal grant to refurbish historic Sanibel Lighthouse

By Staff | Sep 3, 2010

The City of Sanibel has applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Historic Preservation to assist in the refurbishment of the Sanibel Lighthouse, erected in 1884.

Since the City of Sanibel officially took possession of the historic lighthouse back on April 21, many residents have wondered what it planned to do with the nearly 126-year-old landmark.

Last week, the city’s Department of Public Works formally applied for a 2012 Special Category Grant, from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Historic Preservation, to assist in the refurbishment of the island icon.

Gates Castle, Public Works Director and manager of the Lighthouse Painting and Maintenance Project, said on Monday that the city had completed and submitted the 16-page grant application last week. Sanibel is seeking $170,000 in federal assistance to help pay for the estimated $270,000 project. An additional $100,000 will be paid for by the city, if approved by the City Council, drawn from beach parking revenues.

"The lighthouse is the symbol of this island," said Castle. "It is a historic landmark which needs some attention and proper maintenance to be preserved for future generations."

The Lighthouse Painting and Maintenance Project, which could be completed by September of next year should the city receive the full amount requested, includes the pressure blasting and repainting of the 98 foot tall structure. Surface preparation of the existing lead-based paint will include high pressure washing, spot blasting of severely corroded areas, followed by a full brush-off blast.

The project also includes the removal and replacement of deteriorated structural steel along the top eve of the lighthouse walkway and trim, as well as repairs to the existing steel doors at the site. Currently, those doors are not functioning.

"The Sanibel Lighthouse remains a functional lighthouse for potential marine navigation," the application reads, in part. "Years of neglect and weathering have lead to isolated areas of steel corrosion. This deteriorated structural steel needs to be removed and replaced and inoperable steel access doors need to be repaired … This repair work is necessary for the longevity of the lighthouse structure."

According to Castle, one of the grant application requirements was to provide some public input to show that the proposed project was being done for the benefit of the community. He and Deputy Public Works Director Scott Krawczuk began soliciting letters from local residents, asking that they petition the Bureau of Historic Preservation for funding to help preserve the lighthouse.

"We posted a notice on the city’s website on Aug. 20," he said. "One week later, we had collected 31 letters of support for the project."

The city has not received any grant assistance from the Department of State within the past five years, as noted in the application. Since 2005, Sanibel has received $1.25 million in federal aid, including:

• $100,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for a Clam Bayou Restoration Project in 2005

• $25,000 from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service for a Bowman’s Beach Revegetation Project in 2005

• $470,000 from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service for Conservation of habitats on Sanibel and the Caloosahatchee in 2007

* $200,000 from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for Bowman’s Beach Park Restoration in 2007

* $458,224.92 from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for Sanibel Community Park in 2008

Should the City Council approve the request for $100,000 Capital Improvement Project to assist in the funding of the lighthouse project, the next step would be the solicitation of bids to complete the work.

"I suppose the next opportunity for the community to get involved might be deciding what color to paint it," Castle added. "I’m sure the Historic Preservation Committee will have their input, but the final decision will be up to the City Council."

The Sanibel Lighthouse was the first lighthouse on Florida’s Gulf Coast north of Key West and the Dry Tortugas. It played a vital role in assisting ships calling on the port of Punta Rassa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During World War II, the lighthouse was used as a lookout point for foreign war ships and submarines. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.