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California Lighthouse Gets Restoration

December 29, 2002

POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE, Calif. (AP) _ At the very tip of the Point Reyes Headlands north of San Francisco, rolling green hills turn to sheer cliffs when they meet the Pacific Ocean.

Today, an automated electric light and fog horn warn mariners of the rocky shore, but the original Point Reyes Lighthouse remains as a testament to California’s maritime past.

Years of wind, fog and harsh sea air have left the structure in need of repairs, so the 132-year-old lighthouse is being restored as part of a $1.2 million project by the National Park Service.

``Everything takes a beating out here,″ said Steve Anastasia, a ranger at Point Reyes National Seashore. ``The moisture, the wind, the salt air is highly corrosive and it just rips everything apart.″

Crews are rushing to fix the 300 narrow concrete steps _ the only way down the cliff to the oceanside beacon _ paint the lighthouse and complete other repairs before next month when tourists will flock to the peninsula to see migrating gray whales.

The lighthouse was built in 1870 to keep sailors from crashing into the rocky shore as they navigated into and out of San Francisco Bay, 35 miles to the southeast. It was decommissioned by the Coast Guard in 1975, and is now maintained by the National Park Service as a historic site.

The stairway that leads down from a clifftop observation deck is treacherous even in good weather. A sign at the top warns that the climb back up is equivalent to a 30-story building.

Repairs aren’t easy. Broken pieces of concrete must be hauled up the cliff in a sort of motorized wheelbarrow. New concrete has to be pumped down through long pipes.

The weather doesn’t help. Rain makes work impossible and the renovation fell behind schedule when a series of winter storms battered the area. Point Reyes is also the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and one of the foggiest spots in North America, according a National Seashore brochure. Rangers say the wind has reached 133 mph there.

``When it’s more than 40, it’s too dangerous,″ Park Service ranger Sue Cipolla said.

On calm days, visitors can go inside the lighthouse, which still has its original 19th century lens and clockwork mechanism that focused and turned the light beam. Spring through fall, rangers operate the lighthouse for show twice a month.

``People come from all over the nation just to see the lighthouse. ... They’re amazed,″ said ranger Craig Morgan. ``It’s an experience.″

___

On the Net:

Point Reyes Nat’l Seashore: http://www.nps.gov/pore/history_maritime_lgthse.htm

Lighthouse: http://www.ptreyeslight.com/lthouse.html

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