When it comes to Lighthouse Groups, the Washington Lightkeepers Association (WLA) is a relative new-comer. WLA had its auspicious beginning in December 2003 when this “pharologist” sent a thank you email to noted lighthouse author and historian, Elinor DeWire. I had just finished reading one of Elinor’s fascinating books and wanted to thank her for sharing her passion and profound knowledge of lighthouses. Elinor and her husband Jon had recently relocated to Washington State. After settling in, Elinor was a bit surprised to discover a maritime-rich state like Washington, with over twenty lighthouses, lacked a formal lighthouse preservation society. Granted, several Washington Lights were represented
by individual groups, but there was
a ripe opportunity to consolidate the local groups into an association to, “serveas a central point of communication between lighthouse organizations in
the state and a clearinghouse for information nationwide.”
In early 2004, Elinor and I met when she was guest speaker, presenting “Lighthouses Across America” to an audience in Tacoma. Although her slide show spoke of famous lights nation-wide, it was obvious in our initial conversation that she had a plan to focus a bullseye directly on Washington sentinels. The state would soon be celebrating its 150th anniversary of lighthouses (Cape Disappointment, established first in 1856), and Washington needed a group to facilitate a grand festival. Elinor first tested the local waters of interest in lighthouses by organizing an informal tour of three historic Puget Sound lights, during a whirlwind day trip in early 2005.
The turnout was strong and the message was loud and clear — “with all our historic lights, why doesn’t Washington have an official lighthouse association?” Exactly one month later, charter members of what became the WLA, met appropriately enough in a makeshift office of the Keepers residence at Admiralty Head Lighthouse.
The first official board meeting was brought to order and the group assigned membership duties and drafted WLA governing documents. It’s interesting to note the diverse backgrounds that comprised the initial core group; the President who hailed from Chesapeake Bay, the Vice-President who was born and raised in California, the Secretary who hailed from Pennsylvania, the Treasurer from Florida and several board members who grew up around New England Lights. Yet, we all came together with a common goal - “to keep alive the history and lore of the Evergreen State’s beautiful lighthouses and lightships…save the remaining twenty-one lighthouses and two lightships in our state and foster an appreciation for the historic and social contributions of all our state’s sentinels.”
WLA accomplishments are numerous and note-worthy…
= May 2005 Certificate of Incorporation issued by Washington Secretary of State, WLA becomes an official Non-Profit Corporation.
= June 2005 WLA hosts inaugural “Directors Forum,” an annual professional development workshop to help lighthouse volunteers, docents, and boards of directors work together to learn and share lighthouse history and preservation information.
= August 2005 WLA Website debuts – www.walightkeepers.com. Over 20,000 visitors since its debut.
= January 2006 WLA instrumental in the debut of the Washington State Lighthouse License Plate.
= August 2006 Official Proclamation by Washington State Governor Gregorie declaring August as “Great Lighthouse Hunt” month and Oct. 16, 2006 as “Lighthouse Day.”
= Annual “Membership Meetings” that include unique “open house” tours of Washington Lighthouse and Lightships.
= The “Great Lighthouse Hunt” – Annual summer celebration of Washington lights. Includes a lighthouse photo contest and charter boat tours visiting remote lights in the San Juan Islands.
= The annual “Run/Walk for the Light” in Westport. Runners and walkers traverse a course along the Pacific Ocean and pass by the State’s tallest sentinel, the 1898 Grays Harbor Lighthouse and Westport Maritime Museum.
= Education Mission – WLA visits schools and provides free public programs. Individual lighthouse groups sometimes request “Lighthouses 101: The WLA Guide to Being a Public Lighthouse Site.”
= Archives – WLA aim’s to be the central archive for historic pictures, documents, books, and other info on WA lights. Interviews with past keepers and their descendents, visits to libraries and other archives, help build our collection. We also provide research for our members, finding names of keepers, technical info, etc.
= The Focal Point – Colorful and educational, newsletter is published five times a year.
Though less than three years old,
the WLA is shining brightly and successfully adhering to its primary mission statement — “the rehabilitation, restoration, preservation, and perpetuation of Washington’s lighthouses and lightships.”
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2008 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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