Ahoy all Squirrel Point Citizens,
It’s a good time to review what got done at Squirrel Point Light in 2016, plus plans and prospects for 2017.
Citizens for Squirrel Point (CSP) commenced serious fund-seeking in autumn 2015. In December arrived news that Maine’s Davis Family Foundation had awarded us a $20,000 grant (Davis’s maximum) towards the restoration. Within days, CSP members added over $12,000 in new personal donations, swelling our total assets to some $42,000 (including $10,000 from earlier member donations since 2005).
Based on these assets, in April 2016 the Board signed a contract with Blaiklock Carpentry for the first, urgent stage of the restoration: replacing the barn/workshop’s rotten sill; re-shingling the roofs of the barn/workshop and the keeper’s residence; and re-grouting the residence’s chimney. This work was carried out between late May and mid-July at a cost of $32,000 with due consultation and authorization from both the U.S. Coast Guard (property owner) and the Maine State Historical Preservation Commission. Indispensable throughout were the services of a special marine vessel provided by Davies Allan of Chesterfield Associates for transport between Squirrel Point and the Phippsburg side of the Kennebec: 3.5 tons of building equipment and materials to Squirrel Point in June; and, in October, no less than 5.6 tons of used shingles, old timber and other debris in the reverse direction. Also vital for the job: on four mornings numerous CSP volunteers hiked in to clear out the barn/workshop and to load/offload the construction material or debris. Hammond’s Lumber, Higmo’s Lumber, and RC Rogers & Sons graciously gave discounts on building materials and on the charge for hauling debris to the dump, respectively.
Separately, Chris Brett procured a riding mower, semi-miraculously transported it to Squirrel Point thanks to Ralph Pope’s motorboat services, and by dint of much sweat has largely tamed the sumac which had overrun what used to be the keeper’s lawn. For Maine Open Lighthouse Day in September, we organized on short notice publicity and an on-site reception which drew over fifty visitors, forty-plus of whom signed up as new CSP members. A new ten-foot on-site seasonal sign invited pedestrian and aquatic passers-by alike to join the cause. Our website, squirrelpoint.org, has been updated and streamlined, with a new PayPal feature to facilitate donations. CSP is now associated with the Maine Maritime Museum, the Maine Philanthropy Center, and the National Lighthouse Museum. We consult with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the American Lighthouse Foundation.
At CSP’s annual October meeting, we voted to expand the Board to seven persons, consistent with our bylaws, to broaden expertise and geographical diversity. Chris Fox, Brian Detwiler and Isabella Ciolfi have joined Chris Brett, Lucy Hull, Caroline Kurrus and Roman Wasilewski, for the prescribed three-year overlapping terms. Brian has returned to his former role as Treasurer, succeeding in that position Susan Lubner, for whose faithful years we her former Board colleagues thank her with feeling.
What next? Cash remains the crux. Our tentative cost estimate to complete the light tower exterior restoration is $150,000. As of December 1, 2016, CSP’s bank balance is a little under $10,000. Our current financial strategy hinges on the bid for a six-figure matching grant from the U.S. National Park Service Maritime Heritage Program, for which we have applied but a decision on which will come only in April, 2017. We have also submitted bids to three Maine foundations (Morton-Kelly, Belvedere, Libra), for a total of $55,000. All three are scheduled to announce their results before the New Year.
If we gain even one of these grants, we will be able in 2017 to achieve the next priority, which the Board agrees should be the South Porch of the Keeper’s Residence. Should we, in addition, win an NPS matching grant next April, we will proceed to re-shingle the Boathouse Roof, and -- provided we can sustain members’ and other non-federal donations at recent levels over the next two years so as to meet the NPS matching requirement -- our prospects for Squirrel Point's full restoration will be bright.
Final note: A new CSP member has researched and brought to our attention that August 19, 2017 will be the three-hundredth anniversary of the mishap to which Squirrel Point Light owes its name. It was on that date in 1717 that then-Massachusetts governor Samuel Shute’s pinnace “Squirrel” ran aground on a rocky point while returning down the Kennebec from a parley on Lee Island with local English settlers and native Americans. A widely-publicized commemorative fiesta at Squirrel Point Light next summer is surely called for.
Our Squirrel Point project still has far to go, but congratulations to all for the collective sustained effort, and results, to date.
On behalf of the Board,