New London group in running to preserve lighthouse

The National Park Service is evaluating two applications from groups seeking to acquire Race Rock Light station, the two-story Gothic Revival granite structure that has helped guide mariners at The Race, the narrow channel where eastern Long Island Sound meets the Atlantic Ocean, for 134 years.

Patrick Sclafani, spokesman for the General Services Administration, said the two applicants have been asked for supplemental information and that a new owner will be chosen by this summer. The GSA is working with the Park Service to turn over 12 historic lighthouses, including Race Rock, to groups willing to preserve them. The lighthouses are being offered at no cost.

Sclafani declined to identify either of the applicants or provide any information about them. No additional applications will be accepted, he said.

One of the applicants, however, is appealing to the public to help bolster its chances. The New London Maritime Society this week launched a membership campaign, offering two-for-one memberships for the next three weeks. The society has about 200 members, said Susan Tamulevich, society director, and increasing the membership will strengthen its application.

"Our application to take on Race Rock Lighthouse may hinge on it," she said in a the group's Facebook posting on the membership campaign.

The society plans to work with the Henry L. Ferguson Museum on Fishers Island and the Fishers Island Ferry to offer periodic tours of the lighthouse and will post a "virtual tour" of it on its website, Tamulevich said.

On the application, the society was asked to demonstrate that it had the financial wherewithal and expertise to preserve the lighthouse, as well as a track record of preservation, she said.

In addition to the Custom House Maritime Museum on Bank Street, the society also owns New London Harbor Light. It was recently outbid by a private individual in an attempt to purchase another Long Island Sound property with a lighthouse, Little Gull Island.

j.benson@theday.com

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