The Squirrel Point Light Station, established in 1898 at the westernmost point of Arrowsic Island on Maine’s Kennebec River, presents a tranquil appearance from a passing boat. The recent history of this picturesque site has been anything but peaceful, but a new agreement has brought hope for a brighter future.
When the Coast Guard transferred ownership of the Squirrel Point property to an individual in 1998, the deed required that the property be used “for educational, historic, recreational, cultural and wildlife conservation programs” and that it be maintained “in a manner consistent with the provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.”
The owner was later found to be out of compliance with the covenants of the deed, and a group called Citizens for Squirrel Point (CSP) formed in response. In August 2003, CSP filed suit in federal district court seeking a judgment that the title to Squirrel Point Light Station be reverted to the federal government. In early 2005, a federal judge ruled in CSP’s favor. All right, title, and interest in Squirrel Point thus reverted to the U.S. government. Meanwhile, as the legal process dragged on, the neglected property fell increasingly into a shameful state of disrepair.
In February 2008, the Chewonki Foundation, an organization based in Wiscasset, Maine, which offers a broad array of environmental education, natural history, conservation, and wilderness programs, signed a 15-year license with the Coast Guard to manage the 4.5-acre light station property. The Coast Guard will continue to maintain the lighthouse’s 250-millimeter optic and the fog signal, which are still active aids to navigation.
Bringing the light station’s buildings back to good condition will take time; it will take several months just to assess what work needs to be done. Hudson says Chewonki will have to decide if it’s a good idea to restore all of the functions of the keeper’s house, including water and septic. “If we decide to restore the house to a livable residence,” he says, “we will likely assign a staff person to live there.”
For many years, a mildly strenuous walk through the nearby woods has provided access for most visitors to Squirrel Point. The trail will still be the chief means of access for most people, but Hudson says that canoeists and kayakers wil be welcomed. Chewonki might also establish a campsite at the light station or on adjoining property.
Wiebke Theodore, who lives near Squirrel Point, is a partner in Theodore and Theodore Architects and an assistant professor at Bowdoin College in nearby Brunswick. She is developing a program that will involve student interns in the restoration planning at Squirrel Point. “This is a way for students to get a sense of the coastline and the environment they’re in,” she explains.
This story appeared in the
April 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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