■ STAFF REPORT
The Barrier Islands Parks Society (BIPS) has obtained a commercial building permit from Lee County for the Gasparilla Island Light, and now the last step will be a final NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) review. This can take up to two weeks, but according to BIPS Executive Director Sharon McKenzie, “The Coast Guard is doing everything they can to get it approved quickly. Once we obtain this final approval, we will begin to clear the land and begin the initial stages of the restoration process. We are all very excited and really appreciate the support of our community, members and lighthouse friends.”
McKenzie recently returned from a Florida Lighthouse Association (FLA) meeting, at which they awarded her a check for $30,000 from a grant request she wrote to the organization. FLA supports the restoration efforts of all 29 publicly held lighthouses in Florida from the sales of their specialty license plate, “Visit Our Lights.”
BIPS reported that thus far the fundraising for the Gasparilla Island Light restoration project has brought in $1,175,000 in gifts and pledges. Larry Hannah, BIPS director and chair of the fundraising effort, said that “more than 350 individual gifts have propelled the organization to 65 percent of its goal of $1,783,000 to complete all the work on the structure, the clean-up and maintenance of the property, and fund an endowment for the perpetual care of both of the island’s historic lighthouses.”
BIPS reported that while there is still more work to do, the success to date will enable the organization to obtain necessary permits and to schedule metal repair and painting of the range light for this summer and fall. Fundraising will continue in parallel with initial restoration activities, but some planned work, including land clean-up, pathways, removal of invasive species and other actions will be deferred until funding is assured. Jim Grant, who is chairing the restoration effort, echoed Larry Hannah in “urging all island residents who have not yet donated to help us reach our goal with a thoughtful contribution.”
To support this project, please send checks to: Light Keeper’s Fund, P.O. Box 654, Boca Grande, Florida 33921. Gifts of stock are also welcome. For more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.