$250K sought for PI lighthouse restoration

Courtesy Photo Left to right: Gene DeMaegd, Scott McClennan, state Sen. Jim Stamas, Patrick Heraghty, Kelly DeMaegd, Matthew Bedard, Jeni Matuszak, Barb Croteau, Patti MacNeill, Harriet Poch, Karen Pettalia, Katie Wolf, John Poch, Vickie Fields, Mike Bugenske, Larry Fields, Chris Baumgardner, Ron Smolinski, Bill Gaasch, Nancy Kinney, Carl Woloszyk, Roger Baumgardner. Tuesday marked a new partnership between the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, the Presque Isle Township Museum Society, and Presque Isle Township, as well as the establishment of the Presque Isle Township Lighthouses Restoration Fund. A check for $15,000 was donated during a ceremony at the Old Lighthouse for use in its restoration.

PRESQUE ISLE — At the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse on Tuesday, the establishment of the Presque Isle Township Lighthouses Restoration Fund was announced, along with the start of a campaign to raise $250,000 for the first phase of the lighthouse’s restoration.

The restoration fund is housed at the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, and it accompanies a new partnership between the foundation, the Presque Isle Township Museum Society, and Presque Isle Township.

All funds will be used in the restoration and maintenance of the township’s two lighthouses, with initial efforts on the old lighthouse, as well as making handicap-accessible restrooms.

No local tax dollars will be used for the restoration. The effort announced Tuesday is separate from Presque Isle County’s request on the Nov. 6 ballot for new tax money for property upkeep, including restorations to the 40-Mile Point Lighthouse Park.

Museum Society President Katie Wolf said that is a momentous collaboration and a big step for the community groups and township to come together. She said local boards and community groups come and go, but the lighthouses are a community staple that need to be cared for forever.

As one of the oldest surviving lighthouses on the Great Lakes, the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse is an iconic symbol of Michigan’s maritime history. The lighthouse was built in 1840 and its years along the coast have left it in need of restoration.

According to a news release from Tuesday’s event, the lighthouse will be boarded up the first week of November to avoid further damage because of the poor condition of the windows.

The partnership and restoration fund were announced on Tuesday, along with the presentation of a check for $15,000 to CFNEM Executive Director Patrick Heraghty. Karen Pettalia, wife of the former Presque Isle Township supervisor and state representative Peter Pettalia, was there to present the check. Of the $15,000, $12,000 was donated to the Peter Pettalia Lighthouse Memorial Fund. Pettalia was killed in a traffic crash in 2016.

“Pete tirelessly dedicated his energy and leadership to Northeast Michigan and Presque Isle Township,” Karen Pettalia said in the press release. “He knew firsthand how much it took to keep these magnificent lighthouses as proud beacons of our community and the Great Lakes. In his memory, I hope people will continue to help take care of our lighthouses, both through their generosity and by volunteering their time.”

The remaining balance was given by the Museum Society as its role in the new partnership, and it will continue to raise funds for the restoration.

Wolf said there is a large variety of visitors who come to the lighthouses, and they want all visitors to be comfortable and to have access to necessary facilities.

Wolf said the two lighthouses are important historically and are significant facets of the community, and it is a major responsibility to restore and care for them so they can continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

In the news release, township Supervisor Larry Fields stressed the significance and importance of the maritime structures and how fortunate Presque Isle Township is to house them.

“However, with only 1,600 households in the township, maintaining two of these historical treasures located within a mile of each other requires a regional effort by all those who take pride in sharing the lighthouses with their family and friends, and benefit from the thousands of tourists and school groups who visit the lighthouses every year,” Fields said.

Wolf encouraged the community to contribute, share fundraising ideas, and to reach out to local businesses, organizations, foundations, and any other agencies that may be able to help protect the historic structures. She stressed that those are regional relics of history and play a major role in tourism.

For more information, contact the Museum Society at 989-787-0814 or Wolf at 989-277-3543. More information can also be found at presqueislelighthouses.org.

To make donations, visit cfnem.org and use the “Make a Gift” button and locate the Presque Isle Township Lighthouses Restoration Fund.

Kaitlin Ryan can be reached at kryan@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 989-358-5693.