Tawas Point Lighthouse Repairs Highlight First List of Building Michigan Together Plan Funding
When we visited Tawas Point State Park and the historic Tawas Point Lighthouse earlier in July, I was surprised to see that the lighthouse tower was showing serious signs of disrepair. In addition to needing a fresh coat of paint, the tower appeared to have several cracks in its brick. It was a relief to find out that good news and much-needed funds are headed to the Tawas Point Lighthouse, as part of the first round of Building Michigan Together funding.
The funding for the Building Michigan Together Plan comes from the federal American Rescue Plan, and Michigan will use close to $16 million in Phase 1 to tackle problems at state parks. Tawas Point Lighthouse will receive $455,500 “to repair water-damaged brick on the historic Tawas Point Lighthouse. The work will be completed by professionals specializing in historic architecture for maritime buildings.” As with any historic structure in the state it is important that the work be done in a manner that preserves the existing architecture and protects it for the future at the same time.
The Tawas Point Lighthouse is the second lighthouse at Tawas Point, as it replaced an 1850 lighthouse that had a short life before shifting sands made it ineffective. We learn more about the current structure from the Michigan historical marker that was recently added to the site: “It was replaced in 1876 with this sixty-seven foot tower, built on a shoal at the point’s end and protected by rock-filled timber cribs. A life-saving station was built nearby. The lens was replaced in 1892 with a larger fourth-order Fresnel lens, which increased the light’s range to sixteen miles. By 1885 kerosene had become the main fuel source for U.S. lighthouses. The Tawas Point Light Station added its small brick storage building in 1898 and a steam-powered fog signal at the end of the point in 1899. In 1921 a two-story “double dwelling” was moved here from the Ecorse Light Station to provide more staff housing. It t was demolished in 2002. The light station was electrified in 1935 and turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard four years later. The Coast Guard, which automated the light in 1953, remained on-site until 1993. The light station was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The state acquired the buildings in 2001. The Coast Guard decommissioned the light in 2016 and replaced it with a modern optic further out on the point.”
The lighthouse (it is open for tours and tower climbs) is one of the draws to this beautiful state park that also offers a campground, the Sandy Hook Trail, and a sandy beach on Lake Huron.
One quote stood out from the Michigan DNR press release announcing the future funding, and it was from Ron Olson, Chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division: ““Michigan’s state parks and recreation system has experienced a 30% increase in visitation over the past two years, while at the same time dealing with more than 20 years’ worth of critical infrastructure needs.” It is great to see the state paying attention to this and directing funds to these important sites. The other state park projects that will receive Building Michigan Together Plan funding are:
– Bay City State Park: funds to repair and renovate the interior and exterior of the Saginaw Bay Visitor Center including accessibility upgrades
- Cheboygan State Park: funds to upgrade electrical and water services in the modern campground
- Fayette Historic State Park: funds to reconstruct the retaining wall by the charcoal kilns as well as funds to reconstruct the south wall of the west casting house in the townsite
- Straits State Park: funds to upgrade the bathroom and shower facilities at the upper campground in the same fashion that the lower campground ones were recently upgraded
- Sterling State Park: funds for stabilizing the river bank along the Heritage Trail
- TBD State Park in Saginaw: funds for parking lot construction at this former GM site along the Saginaw River that is still in development with hopes that it will be a future state park
- Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park: funds to restore and repair the Kaug Wudjoo lodge as well as staff quarters and other buildings
- Waterloo State Recreation Area: funds for accessibility upgrades to the fishing pier
- Belle Isle State Park: funds to remove lead paint and replace glass and steel in the upper dome of the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory