|Isles of Shoals
"Lighthouse Kids" Save White Island Light
SEE: THE CRACK IN WHITE LIGHT
Last week SeacoastNH.com received a call from the office of Senator Judd Gregg in Washington, DC. The Senator, the caller said, had "good news" about the endangered White Island light. At roughly 2:30 p.m. Sen. Gregg and four students from North Hampton elementary met with a dozen media reporters in a telephone conference call. The state of New Hampshire had found federal funds to fix the weathered light, the governor said, and lauded the students for their "activist: efforts in spreading the word about the condition of the lighthouse.
"This is a very important historic site," Gregg said over the . "It really defines the seacoast region to a certain extent." (A week later another NH symbol, The Old Man of the Mountains, collapsed into rubble.)
Students Anna Kane, Victor Blanchette and Sky Hooper then made brief statements to the press back home in New Hampshire. Their class had been on a tour of Washington, DC. The kids themselves raised $21,500, but were only at 10 percent of their goal when the attention drawn to the issue spurred the state to take action.
Just 18 months ago SeacoastNH.com met with the "Lighthouse Kids", a group of middle-schoolers trying depserately to save New Hampshire's only offshore lighthouse. Their teacher, Sue Reynolds, had told the kids about the crack in the 19th century brick lighthouse 10 miles out to see. The state of New Hampshire owned the light, but did not have the funds to afford the estimated $250,000 repair at the Isles of Shoals. Nothing was being done, so the kids took action.
"We tried riasing money, but that didn't do much," one of the students said. "Now we want to raise awareness."
Well it worked. The stroy of the crack in White Island light first appeared here at SeacoastNH.com in January 2002. That "scoop" also appeared on the front page of Foster's Sunday Citizen. From there the story picked up speed and articles appeared in the Portsmouth Herald, the Boston Globe, Yankee Magazine, the Manchester Union Leader and on the news wire services. The students took their promotional Powerpoint lecture on the road, sold T-shirts and lighthouse books, and raised funds and attention everywhere they went.
By persisting, they drew attention. The money raised was not as important as the attnetion that continued to point out a simple fact -- the state of New Hampshire was not preserving its only lughthouse. NH has never been known for spending tax dollars on historic preservation. Most state-owned historic sites languish for lack of attention and scores are lost annually to a lack of support and funding. With a coastline of 18 miles, the single offshore light didn't command any money from the state's budget. The more the kids talked and raised funds, the more embarrassing the story became. The light was purchased from the coast guard while Judd Gregg was governor and saved -- at last -- during his tenure as state Senator.
The lessons were not lost on the students -- stay vigilant, spread the word, get the facts, don't let up the pressure.
I'm glad they're not old enough to run for the Senate," Sen. Gregg quipped over the phone to reporters. --- JDR
For more on the history of White Island Light see www.lighthouse.cc
For more on thekids go to www.lighthousekids.com
THE OFFICIAL STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE PRESS RELEASE
SENATOR GREGG JOINS NORTH HAMPTON STUDENTS
TO ANNOUNCE $250,000 IN FEDERAL FUNDING FOR
PRESERVATION OF WHITE ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced that he has secured $250,000 in federal funding in the Fiscal Year 2003 Omnibus Appropriations measure, signed into law earlier this year, for structural repairs to restore the White Island Lighthouse located among the Isle of Shoals. Four eighth grade students representing the “Lighthouse Kids,” a North Hampton Elementary School Service Project joined Senator Gregg in his Washington office today to learn of the funding. For three years, students at the school have undertaken an aggressive education campaign to raise awareness of the history of the lighthouse and raise money for its protection. Senator Gregg was able to direct the funding to the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development through the Save America’s Treasures program in the FY03 appropriations bill. DRED’s Division of Parks and Recreation has jurisdiction over the White Island Lighthouse. The Lighthouse Kids received a formal bid from a local construction firm which set the cost of restoration of the White Island Lighthouse at $122,000.
Senator Gregg, who as Governor presided over the transfer of White Island from the U.S. Coast Guard to the State of New Hampshire in the early 1990's stated, “The leadership and vision of the North Hampton Lighthouse Kids, represented by these four in Washington today, who have worked so diligently to save the White Island Lighthouse over the last few years, is really an inspiring story. These students truly exemplify what can be accomplished when citizens take an active interest in serving their local communities and work in conjunction with public and private organizations to reach their goals. Back in 2000, under the leadership of their teacher Sue Reynolds, the Lighthouse Kids began researching the history of the lighthouse, its importance in New Hampshire’s maritime heritage and what it would take to preserve it for future generations in an attempt to secure the necessary funding to restore the lighthouse. I am pleased today to announce a $250,000 federal grant through the Save America’s Treasures program to undertake the necessary improvements these students have worked so hard to make a reality.”
George Bald, Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, the state agency now charged with the upkeep of the lighthouse, stated, “DRED is excited about receiving this Save America’s Treasures grant. It will go far to help restore the White Island Lighthouse, a national historic place and an icon for New Hampshire’s coastline. The Save America’s Treasures grant will also facilitate partnerships with state and community organizations. I applaud Senator Gregg’s leadership role in supporting this and many projects in this state.”
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Photo courtesy Sen. Gregg's office, Washington, DC