Digest>Archives> July 2009

It's Always Neat at Pigeon Point

By Vincente Menjivar


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California’s Pigeon Point Lighthouse Station is ...

It wasn’t easy for Luke and Mary Beth Shoberg to decide the place of their wedding. “It took us a couple of years to find the right place to get married,” says Mr. Shoberg, a 35-year-old information technology professional.

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After three years being engaged they made a trip to Costanoa and stopped by the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, located 50 miles from San Francisco. “I have family in New England. Visiting the lighthouse gave me the feeling of the East Coast, and I wanted to have that feeling for my wedding,” says Mrs. Shoberg, who works as an account manager for an advertising agency.

The couple, who now lives in San Francisco, obtained the necessary permits to have the ceremony at the facilities at the grounds of the lighthouse, and got married on September 9th, 2006. Now they have picture of them kissing and holding hands the day of the wedding, with the lighthouse in the background, as a spectator.

Like the Shobergs, many travelers who take the Pacific Coast Highway come across the Pigeon Point Lighthouse. The tower can be seen from the road and a small sign that says: “Lighthouse next right” is placed a couple of miles north from the narrow entrance between summer flower fields that lead to the place.

This historical landmark was built in 1872 on the area that was named after the Carrier Pigeon, a clipper ship that was defeated by the waves and smashed against the rocks of this part of the West Coast on 1853.

The tower’s purpose was to guide mariners coming from the south to San Francisco. It’s 115 feet tall. The lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and it’s still used by the U.S. Coast Guard as an aid to navigation who installed an aero beacon in the front of the tower when they discontinued the original Fresnel lens.

Since December of 2001 the tower has been closed to the public due to its deteriorated condition. The keeper's house is now operated as a hostel with an occupancy of 60 people.

According to Alex John, who attends to guests at the hostel, there is diversity of the visitors who stay in the hostel. “We get people with nothing more than their bicycles and their backpacks. They are from all over the world, but we have locals who just want to get away for the weekend too,” he says.

The popularity of the lighthouse also benefits the local economy. Pen Harle, who works at the restaurant owned by his parents and located two miles south from Pigeon Point, says that people ask frequently about the lighthouse and how to get to it. They also share their experiences about watching the whales go north from Pigeon Point. He also says that some customers know about the restaurant because they are referred from the hostel. “On their website they have a link to ours and we post a link to theirs,” Harle says.

Despite the lighthouse’s history and its economic contribution to the local community, it’s still in need of financial help for its restoration.

The California State Parks Foundation has a fundraising campaign for this purpose.

One of their activities is the annual lighting ceremony, held on the Saturday evening closest to November 15th, the month of the tower’s anniversary. This is the only time that the Fresnel lens is lit for the general public. Its light can be seen for up to 17 miles even with the dense fog conditions, very common on this area of the coast.

At a more ambitious level, Michigan senator Carl Levin, along with other federal senators, is pushing the National Lighthouse Stewardship Act of 2009, that if approved would create a fund for 20 million dollars per year to be distributed through several states for the restoration and maintenance of lighthouses.

Even with these activities some people ask if the efforts for preserving sites like the Pigeon Point Lighthouse are enough, or even getting people interested. As with all other lighthouses, it’s difficult to do fundraising these days.

For some people, history is reason enough to preserve a site like the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, but for people like Mrs. Shoberg, its importance has to do with a particular moment. “I remember the day of the wedding it was overcast,” she says. “When I was walking with my father to where Luke was, the sun came out. As soon as the ceremony was over it was overcast again. I thought that was neat.”

This story appeared in the July 2009 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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