White Island Lighthouse battered by storm
RYE â€” Last month’s storm caused extensive damage to White Island Lighthouse, the pet project of the Lighthouse Kids.
State engineer Tom Mansfield said the covered walkway that connected the keeper’s house to the tower broke apart for the first time since it was erected in 1842.
Retired North Hampton teacher Sue Reynolds and her class of seventh-graders are the driving force behind the Lighthouse Kids, a group that banded together to raise money to restore White Island Light when it fell into disrepair. After many fund-raisers, the students contributed money that two summers ago was used to repair the tower and put a new roof on the keeper’s cottage.
“There was fairly extensive damage,” said Reynolds about the storm. “The solar panels and foghorn are destroyed. This would be the Coast Guard’s responsibility to restore. The covered walkway is destroyed and also the landing to enter the tower. Places on the northeast face of the tower have had the white parget material washed away so the brick is exposed.”
Mansfield said Dan Hayward of the state’s tern project went out on May 6 to assess damage to the islands.
“He took a bunch of pictures and sent them to me,” said Mansfield. “I was appropriately astounded. The covered walkway is physically washed away. About one-third is lying in the ravine it crossed. The solar panels that run the lighthouse were washed away, and the foghorn is now a smashed-up tin can.”
The state wants to rebuild the walkway because it is an historical icon, said Mansfield.
“There are possibilities for money,” he said. “We will file a FEMA claim. That’s a 75/25 match, so we will still need to come up with some money. Sue Reynolds and the Lighthouse Kids will help, and we may be able to use some of the state conservation license plate funds.”
The damage makes the timing of a walkathon scheduled for Friday seem fortuitous.
The LHK walk leaves from Rye Harbor at about 3:30 p.m., said Reynolds. Participants will walk four miles to the south end of North Hampton beach, where a trolley will take them back.
Mansfield said construction on White Island, accessible only by boat or helicopter, would be difficult with the equipment, supplies and manpower needed to carry out the repairs.
“The Lighthouse Kids have been remarkable,” said Mansfield.
Reynolds said she thinks the repairs already done may have saved the lighthouse itself.
“If it hadn’t been restored in 2005, I don’t think there’d be a tower to save,” she said.
For details on The Lighthouse Kids, visit www.lighthousekids.org. Donations for the restoration can be sent to Lighthouse Kids, P.O. Box 96, Rye, NH, 03870.