The July 14th deadline has come and gone, and United States General Service Administration (GSA) Spokesman Paul Hughes says “over a dozen” parties have expressed interest in Warwick Neck …
The July 14th deadline has come and gone, and United States General Service Administration (GSA) Spokesman Paul Hughes says “over a dozen” parties have expressed interest in Warwick Neck Lighthouse.
To recap, the lighthouse, built in 1826, sits at the tip of Warwick Neck, is owned by the Coast Guard and still operates a navigation aide, but currently sits vacant. The GSA listed a notice of availability for the lighthouse in May. This NoA means that interested nonprofit and public organizations can express interest, visit and inspect the site, and then decide whether or not to submit an application to the National Park Service. Once applications are in, a NPS Review Committee will select a recipient for a no-cost transfer of the lighthouse to the organization deemed best able to maintain the site and comply with government preservation standards.
While Hughes says that the GSA would not disclose the identities of all the interested parties, at least three have publicly said that they submitted an expression of interest: the City of Warwick, Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse, and the Warwick Neck Improvement Association.
Warwick Mayor Frank Picozzi wrote a letter on June 22nd to the GSA and called the lighthouse a “cultural, environmental, and historic asset to not only the residents of the City, but also to the entire State of Rhode Island.” The five sentence letter just serves to express interest. The letter reads that “preservation of the historic light, and providing public access to the property are elements that will be explored in more detail in the full application.”
Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse already maintain Plum Beach Light – the squat red and white lighthouse that sits in the shadow of the Jamestown Verrazano Bridge in waters off of North Kingstown. Friends of Plum Beach point to their proven track record of caring for the North Kingstown lighthouse, which they have done since 1999. Friends president David Zapatka wrote in a press release that “many groups fail to realize the difficulty, especially financially, in taking control of properties like the Warwick Neck Lighthouse. We've proven since 1999 that we have the knowledge, desire, and personnel to care for not only the Plum Beach Lighthouse, but to care for Warwick Neck as well."
While there will be repairs to the lighthouse necessary, as well as year to year upkeep costs, Friends of Plum Beach wants Warwick Neck Lighthouse to be financially self sustaining. According to Zapatka, they have funded upkeep at Plum Beach Light through the sale of over 12,000 lighthouse license plates over the last 12 years. Zapatka did not say whether or not there would be Warwick Neck license plates, instead pointing to a different angle: tourist stays.
"There are many lighthouses offering overnight stays and we envision that possibility at Warwick Neck. People love lighthouses, people love staying in lighthouses, and our group has a great understanding of how they work.”
The Warwick Neck Improvement Association says they will wait to publicly discuss a funding or operation plan until after they have inspected the property and determined whether or not to submit an official application. However, their level of enthusiasm suggests an application is likely.
WNIA President Jonathan Knight said that “the possibility of acquiring the lighthouse is, without exaggeration, a potentially remarkable opportunity for the WNIA to expand the work we do to promote the welfare of the Warwick Neck community and for the benefit of all Warwick residents.” In addition, while there is no official plan yet, Knight says that “opening the property to the public beyond what is now done for Easter Sunday service will certainly be a key consideration for us.”
According to Hughes, the GSA did not receive an expression of interest from any State agencies. Hughes also says that there is “no set timeline for the review process.” In its release Plum Beach said a final decision on control of the lighthouse would be made “within about two years.”