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Published: Wednesday, 1/16/2013

Lighthouse restoration stalls over location spat

BY FEDERICO MARTINEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Darrell Brand, owner of Brands' Marina, planned to give Port Clinton an old lighthouse. So far, an agreement has been elusive on where it would be placed. Darrell Brand, owner of Brands' Marina, planned to give Port Clinton an old lighthouse. So far, an agreement has been elusive on where it would be placed.
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PORT CLINTON — Efforts to restore a historic Port Clinton lighthouse that once guided boaters into the entrance of the Portage River have stalled because the city and the lighthouse’s owners can’t agree on where the structure should be relocated.

The Port Clinton Lighthouse Conservancy, which is spearheading the project, wants the wooden lighthouse placed at Waterworks Park, just off the Lake Erie shore near the river's mouth once restoration is completed. The city wants it farther from the waterfront.

After a 13-month stalemate, the conservancy is taking its case to the public. The group will hold a community meeting from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Ida Rupp Public Library.

The group hopes to rally community support and in turn pressure city officials to adopt their plan, said Richard Norgard, president of the conservancy.

“We believe that the full restoration of the lighthouse and its placement on the waterfront will do more than preserve a vital piece of local history for future generations,” Mr. Norgard wrote in a recent letter to The Blade. “It will also serve as an unparalleled attraction for visitors from far and wide, and help fuel the city’s economy into the foreseeable future.”

The lighthouse, built in 1896, is owned by Darrell Brand, owner of Brands’ Marina in Port Clinton. It has sat on the marina property — located further west down the river — for more than 60 years. It was relocated from the west pier of the Portage River after previous marina owners bought it from the city to avoid it being destroyed.

In November, 2011, Mr. Brand, the conservancy, and city officials began discussing the potential a relocated lighthouse could have on revitalizing downtown. That led to Port Clinton City Council voting unanimously on Dec. 20, 2011, to accept Mr. Brand’s offer to transfer lighthouse ownership to the city.

That’s when negotiations broke down.

Mayor Vincent P. Leone said the problems began when the city asked Mr. Brand to sign a contract releasing the city from any liability that could result from the transfer.

Mr. Brand countered with the demand that the lighthouse be placed in Waterworks Park and ownership revert back to him if the structure was ever moved, Mr. Leone said.

“Anytime we can secure an important part of our history we think it’s a good idea,” Mr. Leone said. “But it was a gift with a lot of conditions, so I was unwilling to accept those.”

Mr. Leone said the city would like to keep its options open.

Marina employees said Mr. Brand is on vacation and could not be reached for comment. Mr. Norgard and other members of the restoration group acknowledged the reasons for the impasse.

“We haven’t agreed where to put it,” said John Smothers, a member of the restoration group.

Despite the uncertainty, the group has already raised about $13,000 through donations and a local grant to do the restoration work, Mr. Smothers said. The total project is expected to cost about $30,000.

The top of the lighthouse was removed in late 2011, and Mr. Smothers and other volunteers started refurbishing efforts, which included placing new siding on the lantern house. The next challenge is to try to replace rotted wood and the base, Mr. Smothers said.

The Port Clinton Lighthouse, a four-sided, pyramidal wooden structure, guided vessels into the Portage River until about 1927, Mr. Norgard said.

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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