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Lighthouse beacon? Not in my back yard

The Coast Guard partially darkens a lighthouse after a complaint that it shines into a home

The Coast Guard partially darkens a lighthouse after a complaint that it shines into a home

The Coast Guard this past summer darkened a number of windowpanes on the harbor side of Eagle Harbor Lighthouse on Lake Superior in Michigan, after a homeowner, residents say, complained that light was shining into his home at night. Now residents are calling for the windows to be restored to their original condition.

“Sure, the light doesn’t shine on land anymore, but it also doesn’t shine into the harbor,” says Pat Roche, 59, who grew up near Eagle Harbor, Mich., and has lived there for the last two years. “It’s a navigational issue, too. If you’re boating in the harbor at night now you’re on your own. There’s no light to guide you.”

In July, the Coast Guard used black paint on some of the lighthouse’s nine glass panels to keep the light from shining into town. A number of the panels had been blackened previously, but the light now is restricted even further.

Is this yet another sign of the times? Like the person who buys a waterfront home but complains when anchored boats “spoil” their perfect sunset view.

“I think it was to everyone’s amazement that the Coast Guard jumped on this complaint like they did,” says Roche. “Now this lighthouse, an area icon, has lost some of its charm and beauty. It almost looks, well, sort of dead.”

The Coast Guard was in Eagle Harbor during the summer, reviewing the Light List standards for the lighthouse and to fix a broken windowpane, says Coast Guard spokesman Ryan Barone, who maintains he was unaware of any complaint from a homeowner. “It’s a sectionalized light, meaning it is only supposed to shine on a certain portion of the water,” Barone says. “Our standards say the lighthouse should only be visible from the lake. After the panels were blackened the light does not shine southwest into the town.”

A petition circulated by a seasonal Eagle Harbor resident to return the light to its previous condition was signed by a number of people and sent to the Coast Guard, Barone says. He was uncertain how many people had signed it.

Located at the west end of the harbor, Eagle Harbor Lighthouse was constructed in 1851 and today is owned by the Keweenaw County Historical Society. The Coast Guard is responsible for the operation of the light.

“I’m not real keen about the situation, but I guess the Coast Guard looked into it and did what they had to do,” says Keweenaw Historical Society president Dave Thomas. “Hopefully sometime down the road we’ll get some of the black taken off those panels.”

In November the Coast Guard was planning to again review the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse as part of a Waterway Analysis and Management Study, an in-depth study to ensure aids to navigation support safe navigation, Barone says. “We’ll determine, among a number of things, if the light should remain [as] it is or if its range should be increased again,” he says.