2016 Holland Award Winners Announced

Congratulations to Lee Radzak and Don Terras for winning the Ross Holland Award. This distinguished service award was established by the American Lighthouse Council to recognize truly exceptional contributions by an individual or group in the lighthouse preservation community. It is named for Francis Ross Holland, Jr., who received the initial award that was to henceforth carry his name. 

Lee RadzakAs manager of the Minnesota Historical Society’s Split Rock Lighthouse Historical Site, Lee Radzak has lived in the keeper’s quarters of the iconic Great Lakes lighthouse on the North Shore of Lake Superior since 1982. He has raised a family there, and has had plenty of visitors – more than four million of them, during his tenure as the lighthouse keeper.

Under his stewardship, now covering nearly a full third of the light station’s history, Lee has undertaken and completed many preservation and history projects, including major restoration programs and constant smaller efforts to preserve the brick tower and other structures on the clifftop light station. In 1986, he led construction of the first visitor center at the historic site. In 2011, more years of work led to designation of Split Rock Lighthouse as a National Historic Landmark.

An extensive three-year restoration project culminated in 2010 with an dramatic celebration of Split Rock’s centennial, including year-long programming, the release of a high-definition video of “Split Rock, A Superior Light” to document the station’s rich history, and a spectacular site fireworks display. Annually, Lee and his staff stage a poignant and well-attended special Nov. 10 lighting of the tower’s third-order mercury-floated bivalve lens to mark the anniversary of the tragic loss of the Great Lakes freighter Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975.

Beyond his tireless work to make Split Rock an exceptional visitor experience and his work on other publications and videos, Lee is a vice president and longtime executive committee member of the American Lighthouse Council, a contributor to the National Park Service’s Historic Lighthouse Preservation Handbook, a tireless friend and colleague to the entire national lighthouse preservation community and a source of wise counsel and encouragement. The American Lighthouse Council takes pleasure in presenting the lighthouse preservation movement’s highest lifetime achievement honor, the F. Ross Holland Award, to Lee Radzak, keeper of the Split Rock Light.

Don Terras has been deeply involved in lighthouse preservation and lighthouse history since bringing his considerable skill as a curator, anthropologist and cultural resources administrator to the Grosse Point Lighthouse on Lake Michigan in 1983. He has coupled an outstanding career as director of the Lighthouse Park District of Evanston and Grosse Point Lighthouse National Landmark with exceptional projects as an historian and author, winning numerous Illinois local and state awards for his writing as well as for his historic preservation, museum and research work.

Don’s award-winning 1996 book, Grosse Point Lighthouse: Landmark to Maritime History and Culture, was followed three years later by the selection of the lighthouse as a National Historic Landmark, on the strength of a nomination he wrote and championed. He subsequently published Lighthouses of Chicago Harbor: Their History, Architecture and Lore as a further contribution to his region’s maritime heritage.

As curator of a special 1992 exhibit at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, “Eyes on the Sea,” Don organized and produced one of the largest displays of lighthouse history and heritage ever staged. As an anthropologist and teacher of museum studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels at Northeastern Illinois University and the University of Wisconsin, Don has shared his expertise and experience with new generations of heritage keepers.

At the national level in the lighthouse preservation movement, Don served on the steering committee for an effort to site and establish a National Lighthouse Museum, and is a past president of the American Lighthouse Council, the lighthouse preservation leadership council and forum. Among his many achievements for the ALC (formerly the American Lighthouse Coordinating Committee), Don organized the entire lighthouse track for the national triennial Maritime Heritage Conference in Baltimore in 2010, contributed a survey and study of visitor policies and practices at American lighthouse sites, and has been instrumental in ALC advocacy efforts for lighthouse causes and preservation funding. In recognition of his many contributions, his leadership and his efforts in the preservation of lighthouses and interpretation of their place in America’s rich maritime history, the American Lighthouse Council presents Donald J. Terras the movement’s highest lifetime honor, the F. Ross Holland Award.

Past winners of this award can be found at: http://uslhs.org/alc/initiatives/ross-holland-award/winners/ 

2016 Maritime Heritage Grant Cycle Now Open

Approximately $1.7 million in National Maritime Heritage Grants for education or preservation projects are available for 2016. Proposals for grants will be accepted from May 23 until August 5, 2016. Education projects can request $15,000-50,000 and preservation projects can request $50,000-200,000. Funding for Maritime Heritage Grants is competitive and requires a 1-to-1 match with non-Federal assets from non-Federal sources. Project funds are disbursed from the Maritime Heritage Program directly to State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs), who make subgrants to applicants.

Applicants must submit their complete application packages through the grants.gov website. Organizations not yet registered or familiar with grants.gov must first go to the following website and follow the instructions to register: http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/applicants/apply-for-grants.html. It will take up to two weeks for your account to be processed before you can submit your application. Do not wait until the last minute to register with grants.gov and the system for award management (SAM); application extensions will not be granted for incomplete grants.gov or SAM registration.

Goto NPS Maritime Heritage Grants website for full details.

Excerpted from the National Park Service website, May 23, 2016

Maritime grants for lighthouses

It’s encouraging to see how many lighthouse projects benefited from the Maritime Heritage Grants program this year, even as the fight continues in Congress to restore full funding (see previous posts).

Of the 34 awards announced by the National Park Service and Maritime Administration recently,  seven involved lighthouses. Here’s the list:

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum won $50,000 to help build an archaeological research and education center; while that’s not strictly lighthouse, it does benefit a very good lighthouse museum’s efforts to expand maritime knowledge through the marvelous shipwreck archaeology and conservation work Kathy Fleming, Rick Cain and the rest of the St. Augustine crew are doing.

The Maine Maritime Museum in Bath won $50,000 to build a simulated lantern room to house and interpret a lens in its collection.

The Mason County Historical Society in Michigan got a $52,335 grant to clean, preserve and display Fresnel lenses in its collection.

The Michigan SHPO got $123,000 for historic structures reports and a public education project centered on the state’s offshore lights.

The Minnesota Historical Society got $68,000 for a cultural landscape report at Split Rock Lighthouse.

The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities won a $50,000 grant to paint the outside of the Cape May Lighthouse.

The Town of North Hempstead, NY got $165,000 to take the first steps toward rehabbing the Stepping Stones Lighthouse in Long Island Sound not far from the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point.

The folks at NPS have told us they’d like to see more lighthouse-related applications next time around, so keep that in mind!

Here at the Dire Straits Lighthouse, we didn’t win anything. We never do. We’d been hoping for some funding to replace the old pot-bellied stove we rely on when the ice is thick on the strait and not even the cockroaches are moving. It’s been spilling embers on the old wooden floor and, as usual, we’re expecting bad things to happen.

But if they do, it’s not as if we’re all that needed any more up here in Dire Straits. There hasn’t been any shipping to speak of since the beaver-pelt plant over at Moot Point shut down and threw all three of the region’s wage-earners out of work. Maybe the folks over at NPS heard about that, and just sort of wrote us off. Wouldn’t be the first time. Instead they’re throwing money at Keeper Lee over at Split Rock to fund something called a “cultural landscape,” whatever that is. Around this station, the only cultural landscape is an old dog-eared copy of Cap’n Billy’s Whiz-Bang.

Sorry we’re a little late reporting out this week-old news, but we have to row the station dory way over to the village at Goose Neck to pick up any mail. That’s a two-day row in a leaky boat, which probably also needs a grant because the Lighthouse Service wrote us off long ago, too. If you don’t hear from us in a couple of days, though, don’t worry — and don’t even think of calling the Coast Guard to check up on us. Those boys over at the Neck lost their compass so they’re not quite sure where we are anyway, and the Coast Guard wrote that station off a long time ago too.

It didn’t help that the last of the carrier pigeons died off just after bringing word of the Michigan Lighthouse Alliance conference down in Traverse City this mid-May. I’ll try to register for that online, but that’s hard too — I “borrowed” this old extra computer from the Forest Service, but I can’t find any instructions in all the old Lighthouse Service manuals we still have on the shelf. Ranger Rick over at the FS tower trained one of the geese to sort of help me out, but the dang thing keeps migrating and it takes forever to get anything typed.

Well, that’s all the woe from Dire Straits for now. I’ve got to go feed the station cow. She heard about our grant rejection, and now all I’m getting is curdled milk.

Keep your lights on.

The Fight for Funding

I know this seems like an annual struggle. That’s because it is, unfortunately, and it will be until the full finding Congress originally intended is restored to the Maritime Heritage Grant Program that was steamrolled by the Maritime Administration to MARAD’s own financial advantage.

Tim Runyan of the Maritime Alliance again is leading the charge on Capitol Hill, and he could use help. Please consider contacting your senators and your representatives in Congress to support the STORIS Act, which restores funding and requires more transparency in MARAD’s handling of the money. ALC will write and lobby, but input from local groups is important. The pressure already has forced MARAD to increase the share of the ship-scrapping funds that go to the maritime preservation and education programs that originally were supposed to get them.

Tim has drafted a prototype letter. It’s full of background and information, and you can use that in developing your own, and joining the fight. His is directed toward Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who sits on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and is the ranking member of the subcommittee considering the bill, Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security. You can adapt it to your own elected representatives or their staffs. Your letter emailed to Sen. Booker’s staff also would be helpful — email them to Jason_Lemieux@booker.senate.gov;   kara_vantralan@booker.senate.gov; or  devon_barnhart@commerce.senate.gov  and  cc to Tim:   Runyant@ecu.edu

Here’s the letter:

Dear Senator Booker,

On behalf of the board, staff, volunteers, and community that supports (name of museum), I write to you to seek your support for the “Ships to be Recycled in the States” (STORIS) Act, (S. 1511; H.R. 2876). I ask that you assure the inclusion of the STORIS Act in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Section 4 (c) (C) of the Act restores a competitive public grants program in support of America’s maritime heritage. Our non-profit organization could benefit from this competitive grant program. Rep. Donald Norcross (NJ) has requested that the STORIS Act be included in the 2017 NDAA.

The (your organization) is devoted to preserving and interpreting to the public America’s maritime heritage. The maritime heritage community is composed of more than 1,000 non-profit organizations in more than 40 states. This includes historic naval ships, maritime museums, tall ships for sail training, historic lighthouses, maritime historical societies, education, and preservation organizations. Thousands of veterans serve as staff or volunteers.

The STORIS Act is a proposed amendment to Public Law 103-451, the National Maritime Heritage Act of 1994. This act calls for a pool of unappropriated funds equal to 25% of the proceeds from the scrapping of ships in the National Defense Reserve Fleet (“mothball fleet”), to be distributed by the National Park Service to maritime non-profit institutions, and state and local governments through a competitive matching grants program. There is no impact on the budget.

The National Maritime Heritage Act reflected an historic and deep recognition by Congress of the importance of our country’s maritime history. On a practical level, the National Maritime Heritage Act also sought to provide assistance to those non-government organizations dedicated to preserving surviving reminders of that past, the ships, the artifacts and the stories that are so vital in telling our unique maritime story to new generations of Americans and so economically important to the cultural tourism sector on which so many communities depend.

An amendment was added to the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act that allowed the Maritime Administration to use all of the funds solely for the preservation of property it owns. This resulted in reduced funding to maritime heritage institutions in more than 40 states by 50%. The STORIS Act (S. 1511 and H.R. 2876), restores the original formula of 50% for MARAD, 25% to maritime academies, and a full 25% to the National Park Service-administered grants program for maritime preservation and educational projects. The STORIS Act also seeks more transparency in the ship-scrapping process.

I respectfully request that you include the STORIS Act in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

Name                                                                                                                                                        Executive Director

Query on Economic Impacts of Lighthouses

Ted Panayotoff writes that he has been working on “the restoration of the Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse in Oswego, NY.  The H. Lee White Maritime Museum has leased the light from the City that owns it and the Museum has taken on the restoration project, which I head.”

“We are currently working with the City of Oswego in applying for a grant from the State of NY to do restoration work on the exterior of the lighthouse structure which is badly needed. This work is beyond the capability of volunteer work crews and will need to be done by a professional contractor with all the appropriate certificates due to lead paint, etc.  Our volunteers have probably put in around 2000 hours of work over the past 3 years (during the 5 month working season) but we cannot take this project on. Receipt of this grant is therefore key to progress with the restoration.”

“A topic that has come up in discussions between the City and the State is the anticipated economic impact of the restored lighthouse to the City and surrounding area. We anticipate that, starting this year, we will be able to offer some limited public tours to the lighthouse on special occasions. These tours have to be done by boat as that is the only means for access. We see the number of these tours expanding in the years ahead.”

“Would the American Lighthouse Council or any of your other lighthouse contacts have any data that could assist us answering the question of what the local economic impact would be given the lighthouse was restored and was accessible by boat tours? Do you know of any other lighthouse organizations that have attempted to answer such a question?”

“Any help you can give us would be most welcome.”

Ted can be contacted at <keepertedp@gmail.com>

2016 Great Lakes Conference

The theme for this year’s 2016 Great Lakes Conference is Lighthouse Organization Excellence through Resilience and Change.

“Restoring, maintaining, and welcoming the public to enjoy our lighthouses is a process. Developing organizational excellence in times of change requires resilience and expansion of roles, skills and “tools.” Organizations working with diverse people and issues need talented leadership to facilitate volunteer engagement and investment. Join us to explore ways to meet evolving contexts and challenges!

Keynote speaker Jeff Shook will describe and show behind-the-scenes images on how he advised Disney during filming of The Finest Hours; The Real Story as well as supplying lifeboats and Coast Guard artifacts to enhance the film’s authenticity. Hear parts of the true story that are not in the film and learn how they made such a challenging rescue come to life on the big screen! This is truly a one-of-kind experience you won’t want to miss!”

Sponsored by the Michigan Lighthouse Alliance, the conference will take place May 15 – May 17, in Traverse City, Michigan.

For more information.

Droning on …

Discussion in the cold winter months at the Dire Straits Lighthouse has turned to these new-fangled drones, which we’ve heard about even though the Lighthouse Service has yet to issue instructions on how to clean them. Hope they’re not brass.

Anyway, some of our fellow keepers are having problems with them that seem even worse than those pesky bird strikes. Don Terras down at Grosse PointLH had one explode the other day, showering plastic shrapnel over a 50-foot radius. Luckily, there was nobody below. Rick Cain even farther down at St. Augustine LH had an assistant injure an arm warding a crashing drone away from a visitor’s head. And over at Split Rock, Lee Radzak had a couple of near-misses and so many drone visits he had to develop a written no-drone policy.

I guess that means I can never talk to visitors at his lighthouse, because my wife says I do drone on. But if anyone else has a horror story or comment on this emerging issue (which can only get worse thanks to Christmas sales of these things), we’re all ears.

Up here at Dire Straits, it’s not much of a problem yet. We can’t afford drones. Heck, we can barely afford the mosquitoes.

-Mike Vogel, Keeper

In memoriam, Richard Moehl

Sad news from Michigan: Terry Pepper of GLLKA reports that long-time GLLKA president Dick Moehl died at home sleep last night. He was a superb lighthouse community leader, a can-do guy with a winning attitude and an unmatched enthusiasm in meeting and surmounting challenges, and he will be deeply missed by the entire lighthouse preservation movement.

Dick will be remembered for the “Miracle of the Straits,” bringing the St. Helene Lighthouse back from ruin. He ferried scouts to the island for volunteer work that included many Eagle Scout projects, and his contagious love of that lighthouse and of the work that went into restoring it ignited a love of lighthouses and the island in all who worked with him.

As the guiding light of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association for nearly 30 years, Dick built that organization into a major binational leader in lighthouse preservation. He earned many honors from the preservation community and his state along the way, including the Ross Holland Award, the American Lighthouse Council’s lifetime achievement award.

There are no memorial details at present. But a leading light has gone out in this movement, as Dick crosses the bar. May God rest his soul, and may his example still shine for all of us who remain.

Mike Vogel

Maine MuseumProgress

Good news: The Maine Lighthouse Museum has a new extension agreement with the Coast Guard and the City of Rockland for the artifacts on loan to the waterfront museum.

There will be a full inventory of the artifacts in the springtime, after which the museum hopes to sign a more long-term agreement that would continue the loan of the lenses and other items gathered by the late Ken Black. The agreements are a major and critically needed step for the museum, which houses the largest publicly-displayed collection of lenses and lamps in the United States. While the museum itself owns many artifacts, the loaned items are a significant part of its displays.

The museum still has financial needs, though. Tax-deductible donations can be made to the Maine Lighthouse Museum, P.O. Box 1116, Rockland ME 04841. You can also donate online at the museum’s web site.