Deed transfer for Race Rock planned June 27

Buy Photo Sean D. Elliot/The Day The deed to Race Rock lighthouse off Fishers Island, N.Y., seen in this March file photo, is expected to be handed over to the New London Maritime Society at the end of this month.

New London - The U.S. General Services Administration is expected to hand over the deed to Race Rock Light to the New London Maritime Society at the end of the month.

Susan Tamulevich, director of the society, said the GSA notified her last week that the society, based at the U.S. Custom House on Bank Street, was selected to acquire the two-story Gothic Revival granite lighthouse at the eastern end of Long Island Sound.

It is the second lighthouse the society will own and control. In 2010, the maritime society was given New London Harbor Light on Pequot Avenue.

A condition of both gifts is that the lighthouses be accessible to the public. Access can include tours, videos and educational programs, Tamulevich said. The lighthouse will continue to operate as a light for mariners.

"What's important is that the lighthouses remain in the public domain,'' she said. "Our plan is restoration and eventually preservation."

Patrick Sclafani, GSA spokesman, confirmed that the transfer will take place June 27.

"We'll hand over the deeds and the keys,'' he said.

The deed transfer ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. that day at the Custom House. Robert Zarnetske, administrator for the GSA New England Region, will sign over the property.

The lighthouse will be given to the society at no cost, he said, but generally, lighthouses that are sold privately have gone for $25,000 to about $380,000.

George Sprecace, president of the maritime society who worked for nine years to obtain New London Harbor Light, praised Tamulevich for getting the government to work much faster this time. The process took less than a year.

"This was made easy because of Susan,'' he said.

"With nonprofits, success depends on the willingness of people to support us,'' Sprecace said. "So long as we're not reckless, and we pick the right opportunities, people will be behind us and support us."

The 134-year-old lighthouse, which has helped guide mariners through The Race, a narrow channel where eastern Long Island Sound meets the Atlantic Ocean, is structurally sound but needs interior work. Tamulevich said the society, which has about 800 members, will start raising money and applying for grants for restoration.

"Nothing has made people more excited than lighthouses,'' she said. "So many people have come forward who have wanted to help us."

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. It also will post a "virtual tour" of the lighthouse on its website.

The National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 gives the government the authority to transfer surplus federal property to nonprofits, among others. If no preservation group or nonprofit wants the property, it goes out for public auction.

Last year, the maritime society was outbid by a private individual in an attempt to purchase another Long Island Sound property with a lighthouse, Little Gull Island.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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