In responding to requests to open the grounds at Long Island Head Lighthouse, Boston Massachusetts Mayor Thomas M. Menino was quoted in recent newspaper reports as saying, “People haven’t accessed that lighthouse for more than 30 years, and now suddenly they’re interested.”
Although the only thing left is the tower of Long Island Head Lighthouse and the lighthouse is part of Boston’s Harbor Island National Park they only way you can gain access to the property is if you are homeless or an inner-city summer camper.
According to the National Park Service the area is designated a public park. However it is also a camp in the summer for inner-city school children in the summer and houses a 435-bed homeless shelter. Other services that Boston provides on the island are substance abuse treatment, job training and support groups for mothers with AIDS.
What lighthouse preservationists don’t understand, and haven’t for years, is what any of that has to do with keeping the lighthouse off limits to the public or occasionally opening the lighthouse tower for tours. The other thing that lighthouse aficionados don’t understand is how the mayor of a city can control what happens in a National Park at a lighthouse that is owned by the National Park Service.
Although a private firm, hired by the city, recommend that public access should be developed, Boston officials have stated that there will never be any public use, no matter how restricted, because it would spoil the island’s current role of serving the most vulnerable people. Can you imagine if that was the policy at every lighthouse?
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This story appeared in the
Nov/Dec 2011 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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