Digest>Archives> July 1997

George Bush attends Maine Lighthouse Conference

By Timothy Harrison


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The Honorable George Bush, 41st President of the ...

Former President salutes attendees for volunteerism

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Posing next to a famous lighthouse print by Jamie ...

The attendees of the Maine Lighthouse Conference enjoyed a special treat at the June 16th conference when the 41st President of the United States showed up to salute their volunteerism.

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Candace Clifford shown here with Ken Black, ...

The conference, sponsored by the Island Institute of Rockland Maine was held as an information meeting for municipalities and non-profit groups to advise them on the requirements for obtaining a Maine lighthouse from the Federal Government. Under the Maine Lights program, recently signed into law by President Clinton, 35 Maine Lighthouses will be deeded away by the Coast Guard.

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Connie Small, who at age 96 just recently gave ...

The meeting was held at the brand new MBNA Conference Center in Northport, Maine. The credit card company which has long been a strong supporter of preservation efforts donated the use of their new convention center for the conference.

Rear Admiral Richard I. Rybacki (Ret), Chairman of the Select Committee, who also acted as Master of Ceremonies, said the meeting was held "to level the playing field," . . and to, "reach a common goal to find good stewards for the lighthouses."

Peter Ralston of the Island Institute, who has been the driving force behind the Maine Lights Program had the honor of introducing the 41st President of the United States, George Bush, to the group of about 200 attendees. The former president, at age 73 looked as fit as ever as he bounded to the podium amid the applause of the attendees.

Bush said, "the people of this state have an extraordinary resolve, tenacity and willingness to sacrifice for the greater good." He went on to say, "You are helping to keep these very special lighthouses burning into the next century. You are doing better with actions than I possibly can with words." He went on to salute the leadership provided by the Island Institute, the Coast Guard, MBNA and the Selection Committee which works with no pay and basically no funds. He said that we have now entered "a new era of care-taking and preservation . . . and possibilities can be made into realities."

He then introduced Connie Small, who got a sounding vote of applause, who at 96 years old has given over 500 lectures on lighthouses. He thanked her for her and her husband's dedication as real lighthouse keepers at Maine lighthouses and her real life dedication in today's world.

He said he was not going to offer advice to the crowd on how to save the lighthouses, but did say that "lighthouses are a living legacy that must be saved." He went on to further say that "Maine is leading the nation if not the world in saving lighthouses and I salute you."

The meeting was open to all who were interested in submitting an application for ownership of one of the lighthouses being given away. The main purpose of the meeting was for applicants to fully understand the complicated application process and exactly what would be required of them to properly maintain and restore a lighthouse. Federal, state, and local agencies as well as non profits only will be allowed to apply for ownership of the lighthouses being transferred.

While introducing the members of the Selection Committee to the audience, Admiral Rybacki made special mention of "Mr. Lighthouse," Ken Black, founder and director of the Shore Village Lighthouse Museum in Rockland. He said, "not only is he the Mr. Lighthouse of Maine, but he is the Mr. Lighthouse of America, if not international."

In attendance at the meeting was a panel of experts to help and assist applicants with questions and to give advice. Anne-Webster Wallace, Director of the Maine Lights Program discussed how the review process would work, and how the properties would be conveyed.

Stan Skutek, of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service spoke on the wildlife criteria and Susan Lessard, who lives in the Browns Head Lighthouse in her position as town manager of Vinalhaven, discussed the municipal criteria. A panel of experts from the United States Coast Guard explained what their ongoing role would be and fielded many questions from the audience on the cost associated with maintaining the lights, while members of the Maine State Historic Preservation Office gave an excellent slide presentation on what can happen to a lighthouse if the proper materials in maintenance and restoration are not used.

All in all it was probably one of the best lighthouse conferences held in modern times and the Island Institute and members of the Selection Committee are to be commended on a 'job well done.'

Applicants have until October 1 to submit their applications. The Selection Committee will then review the applications and give final approval or final rejection as to who gets the lighthouses.

This story appeared in the July 1997 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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