Cape Henlopen, Delaware. Nov. 5, 2007.
U.S. Coast Guard and DRBLHF Write a New Chapter in Delaware Bay Lighthouse History
By Bob Trapani, Jr.
On April 1, 2002, the pages to a new and exciting chapter in Delaware Bay lighthouse history were turned when the United States Coast Guard granted a twenty-year lease of Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse, Delaware, to the Delaware River and Bay Lighthouse Foundation. The DRBLHF, based in Lewes, Delaware, has the distinction of being the first non-profit organization to be awarded a lease of an offshore Delaware Bay lighthouse, which runs through April 1, 2022.
The U.S. Coast Guard, who has developed a fine working relationship with the DRBLHF, is very excited about working with the group wherever possible. Senior Chief Dennis Dever, Officer in Charge of the Aids to Navigation Team, Cape May, New Jersey, states, “the lease on Harbor of Refuge Light is a great things in that the DRBLHF can make positive restoration progress, possibly even recreate an old active Coast Guard light station. The Coast Guard today simply could not do this on our own with such limited resources. The DRBLHF, like other organizations who truly want to preserve a lighthouse, is stepping up to the plate and making it happen.”
The DRBLHF executive board is currently working to hire a marine structural engineering firm to formulate an engineering plan that achieves the stabilization, preservation and restoration of Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse. The size and importance of the project is not lost on members of the executive board as attested to by Michael DiPaolo when he states, “we cannot shrink from this project – it is a large project – probably the single largest historic preservation project undertaken in the State of Delaware.”
The long-term goal of the DRBLHF is to open the lighthouse for educational programming and tours based on a specific era in the light’s storied history. In addition, the organization will seek to blend the history of Harbor of Refuge with southern Delaware’s maritime heritage and that of the U.S. Lighthouse Service and the U.S.
Coast Guard. Greg Ositko, a member of the DRBLHF executive board, stated, “this historic event presents the most fervent, challenging and steadfast community projects of a nature and magnitude, which will have no end – only unforeseen and boundless educational opportunities for all generations to come.”
Senior Chief Dever summed up the importance of lighthouse preservation by saying, “taking care of lighthouses is a great thing in that they are a timeless constant in the history of our country and in our local areas. As people, styles and events come and go, the lighthouse remains. A lighthouse is the first thing mariners see approaching land and the last thing they watch departing to sea. A lighthouse is always in the background tolerating its surroundings. Interest in
preservation ensures the lighthouse remains stable while the world continues to evolve.”