BIPS says full speed ahead with Gasparilla Light restoration

rangelightOn Tuesday, the Barrier Islands Park Society (BIPS) announced that they had received final written approval from the United States Coast Guard to commence “rehabilitation of the Gasparilla Island Rear Range Lighthouse.”

The long-awaited enabling document means work can begin immediately on clearing the construction zone and proceeding with metalwork repairs, replacement parts construction and, as soon as possible, sandblasting and painting the structure. It is hoped that much of the work will be completed by Christmas. BIPS Executive Director Sharon McKenzie explained that the delays were driven by permitting and environmental safety issues, but now it’s “full speed ahead.”

Jim Grant, project director representing BIPS, explained that while fundraising goals are short of that needed for the full scope of the land and structure clean-up and restoration, BIPS has received sufficient funding to implement structural repairs at the immediate site of the light. Cleaning up the 7.4 acres of land, removal of invasive species, interpretative history signage and building of ADA visitation and hiking paths will be delayed until all needed monies are secured. “But just cleaning up and rebuilding the structural concrete pad, rust removal, metal, doors and windows restoration and painting of this landmark historical island icon is a major step forward to our dream for the property. With luck and continued hard work by our team of experts, we hope to bring sometime around the new year a beautiful ‘new’ range light we can all be proud of, which will bless our island for generations to come!”

With respect to fundraising, Larry Hannah, BIPS director and head of the fundraising effort, said, “We have donations and pledges in hand approximating $1.25 million, and thanks to all who have helped us out to date. While that provides us with funding for restoration of the physical light structure and the immediate land parcel it sits on, we must still raise the remaining $508,000 to complete the project as scoped out and envisioned. We will begin a Phase 2 campaign in October, kicked off by a scramble-format golf outing at The Gasparilla Inn course on October 17. We thank The Inn for its generosity in providing us its wonderful course and facility, and we also thank the many businesses and individuals purchasing sponsorships (see event flyer in today’s paper). If you like golf, sign up to play. It is a great way to help raise money for a worthy cause. Our major funding drive to hit our financial goal of $1,758,000 will be targeted to those outside of the 420 individual or organization donors who have given.”

If you would like to make a first-time or additional donation to the Gasparilla Island Light (GIL) restoration project, tax-deductible contributions should be made to the “Light Keeper’s Fund” and sent directly to BIPS at P.O. Box 654, Boca Grande, FL 33921. Multi-year pledges and gifts of stock are also welcome. For more information, please contact Sharon McKenzie at smckenziebips@gmail.com.