"Time and tide wait for no man." The same can be said of our lighthouses as the ravages of time continues to exact its toll.
Since 2007 and until recently, I've acted as a year 'round volunteer interpreter at North Head Lighthouse. While it has been rewarding to share the experience with thousands of visitors, it's been disheartening to witness the deterioration. In my time there, windows have cracked, the roof has started leaking, walls are crumbling, and corrosion is rampant. Sponges and buckets are no match for the cascades of water. The smell of mold and decay permeate the lighthouse. The condition of the tower's internal structure, between the inner and outer walls, is anyone's guess.
North Head appears to be entangled in bureaucratic red tape: trapped in limbo between the Coast Guard and the state of Washington. Apparently this has been going on for years. Based on personal observations of nearly three years, the lighthouse will not wait while the powers that be resolve their issues.
As anyone in Pacific County knows the power base in Washington state lies near Puget Sound: an area that boasts of 17 lighthouses in various conditions. Two lighthouses in Pacific County appear to be a low priority.
The history of lighthouses around the world is that only when local visionaries gather enough steam to fight to preserve them for future generations are the necessary steps taken to save them. Our two lighthouses stand as a tremendous draw for visitors and inspiration for those of us who live here. Cape Disappointment Lighthouse will be 154 years old this October; I can't think of another structure in this area that rivals that. Chunks of the ceiling are now falling away in the main workroom.
Next month we will celebrate 112 years that North Head has stood sentinel on the bluff. Its image as an icon is used in countless displays of advertising on both sides of the river. It appears in the masthead of this newspaper and an outdated photo showing it in better times graces the cover of this year's Discovery Coast Visitors' Guide. The sad reality is that, in its present state, it now stands as more of a ruin than a shining icon. The images that circulate could be called false advertising and I doubt that many businesses would want a recent photo attached to their name.
Anyone interested in background on lighthouse preservation around the United States is urged to check out Legendary Lighthouses (Timberland Libraries has it). It's a PBS series that covers all the regions of the United States that are privileged to have lighthouses, including the Great Lakes, Alaska and Hawaii. The plight of lighthouses and the efforts to save them are well-documented and it's a darned good travelogue!
Locally, the Keepers of North Head Lighthouse, a fledgling group which has organized to spearhead preservation, needs your support. You can visit North Head when it celebrates its 112th birthday in May and see for yourself what time has wrought.
Time and tide wait for no man: neither will our lighthouses.