Digest>Archives> Mar/Apr 2014

Feds Shut Out Cape Cod Lighthouse Group

By Kathleen Finnegan


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Cape Cod’s Highland Lighthouse in North Truro, ...

The Cape Cod National Seashore has shut out the nonprofit Highland Museum and Lighthouse from the Highland Lighthouse, which is also commonly called the Cape Cod Lighthouse in Truro, Massachusetts.

Cape Cod National Seashore Superintendent George Price cited operational differences and the need for a change, but the relationship between the Seashore and the nonprofit have been strained for some time.

Things may have reached a head last October during the federal government shutdown when the nonprofit volunteers, who have operated the lighthouse for the past ten years without any real federal assistance or National Seashore help, opened the federally ordered closed lighthouse for a tour group from Germany. No doubt, this must have really upset the feds.

However, Timothy Harrison, editor of Lighthouse Digest said, “The action by the federal government in shutting down many historic sites and memorials that are operated by nonprofits during the government shut-down was nothing short of despicable,” something that he wrote about in his “Wickie’s Wisdom” column in the November/December 2013 issue of Lighthouse Digest.

The members of the Highland Museum and Lighthouse had been responsible for the day to day operations and management of the gift shop at Highland Lighthouse since the lighthouse was moved back 450 feet from the eroding bluff in 1996. In fact, many of the members of the Highland Museum and Lighthouse group were extremely active in many various ways in helping to accomplish the objective of moving the lighthouse - an accomplishment that had started through their grass roots movement which was led by the Truro Historical Society and the Save the Light Committee.

In 2012 the Highland Lighthouse and Museum group was awarded the American Lighthouse Foundation’s (ALF) coveted “Keeper of the Light Award.” According to ALF, “The award was given because of their leading role in the saving of historic Highland Light in the 1990s, and for their ongoing care and interpretation of one of most beloved lighthouses.”

The Cape Cod National Seashore is not required by law to have a bidding process for any group or organization to manage the lighthouse; it can simply put into place the group of their choosing. Media reports indicate that the management of the lighthouse is likely going to be turned over to Eastern Nation, which was formerly known as Eastern National Park and Monument Association, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit “cooperating association” that supports the National Park Service, and was essentially founded by the National Park Service. Cooperating associations are recognized by Congress as a means to assist the educational and interpretative mission of the National Park Service.

It is estimated at well over 20,000 people climb Cape Cod’s Highland Lighthouse each year. But at the time of the writing of this article, no mention of the current status of Highland Lighthouse could be found on the website of Cape Cod National Seashore.

The Cape Cod National Seashore also manages the Nauset Light Station and the Three Sisters, which are three nearly identical towers that were once the Nauset Light Station. The current Nauset Light Station is managed by the Nauset Light Preservation Society under an agreement with the Cape Cod National Seashore, as was the Highland Light.

This story appeared in the Mar/Apr 2014 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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