2010-08-28 / Top News

Round Island Light Put Into Hands of Preservation Group

By Allison Knopp

Celebrating a service agreement between the Hiawatha National Forest and Round Island Preservation Society Saturday, August 21, are (back, from left) Mark Siegman, Tom Pfeiffelmann, Steve Christiansen, Pat Eckenstahler, Teresa Chase, Don Goeckel; (front) Chuck Eckenstahler, Ron Gensman, K.C. Carter, Dale Gensman, Elaine Mack, Ann Doyle, Matthew McMullen, Lyn Hyslop, and David Mack. The lighthouse can be seen in the background. Celebrating a service agreement between the Hiawatha National Forest and Round Island Preservation Society Saturday, August 21, are (back, from left) Mark Siegman, Tom Pfeiffelmann, Steve Christiansen, Pat Eckenstahler, Teresa Chase, Don Goeckel; (front) Chuck Eckenstahler, Ron Gensman, K.C. Carter, Dale Gensman, Elaine Mack, Ann Doyle, Matthew McMullen, Lyn Hyslop, and David Mack. The lighthouse can be seen in the background. An agreement was signed Saturday, August 21, at Windermere Point between the Round Island Preservation Society and the Hiawatha National Forest to establish the society as the active preservation society for the Round Island Lighthouse and to outline how the organization will work with the Forest Service to maintain the site. A ceremony was held to commemorate the event.

The Round Island Lighthouse Preservation Society was incorporated January 12, 2009, by Ann Doyle, Mrozinski, and Chuck Eckenstahler.

“What we sign today establishes a future for the Round Island Preservation Society to undertake its mission,” said Mr. Eckenstahler. “Documenting the history of the lighthouse, making that information available to the general public, providing public access, hopefully in greater opportunities than once a year, which is what we've been able to accomplish thus far, and then, lastly, begin to work with the forest service in developing a management plan that will discuss how the lighthouse will be preserved in the future. But I think, more importantly, we provide an opportunity to build the next generation of lighthouse keepers, as those that are lighthouse buffs like to refer to ourselves, and I have to say we are very, very proud of being able to do that.”

The board members of the preservation society are Ann Doyle, Matthew McMullen, Pat Eckenstahler, David Mack, and Brad Mrozinski.

“When the idea of the preservation society came up, all of a sudden we had a direction,” said Mrs. Doyle, chairperson of the society. “We had a goal, and we knew that if we were going to make a difference on Round Island, it would be with a preservation society. We could no longer do it on our own the way we had been doing, raising small amounts of money.”

With the memorandum of understanding in place, the society will be able to set their sights higher in terms of improving and preserving the lighthouse.

“And now the question is where do we go from here?” she said. “Hopefully with your help we will grow, we're going to become stronger, we're going to get new expertise involved, we're going to have new energy, and for that we're really excited, and we look forward to working with the community, especially Mackinac Island, and the mayor, and the forest service.”

Teresa Chase, acting forest supervisor, spoke on behalf of the Hiawatha National Forest.

“We are very excited about this partnership with the forest service and the Round Island Lighthouse Preservation Society,” she said. “The lighthouses are so important to us, we like to brag anywhere we are in the country, that we're the Great Lakes national forest and the lighthouse national forest. We see our niche as great islands, great lakeshores, great lighthouses. So this all fits in with where we want to be and where we think our priorities are on the forest.”

The agreement be a valuable tool for partnership between the preservation society and the forest service, Ms. Chase said, providing “a defined process for preservation the site through the management plan, provides for organized opportunity for public access. We want to ensure that the public will be able to continue to go over and enjoy the lighthouse, perhaps more often than once a year. It will provide a funding mechanism that will complement the federal resources for preservation of the light. Partnerships play a key role in national forest management.”

Tom Pfeiffelmann spoke on behalf of the Friends of Round Island Lighthouse, formed in 1973 to successfully keep the lighthouse from falling apart after a section of its foundation was washed away in a storm. The group was also responsible for having the site added to the register of National Historic Landmarks. Having accomplished its original mission, the organization is disbanding and Mr. Pfeiffelmann presented the Round Island Preservation Society with the remainder of the group's funds, totaling $7,443. Serving on its board with Mr. Pfeiffelmann have been Marcia Haynes, Alice Myron, Frank Pompa, Phil Porter, and Wesley Maurer.

Mr. McMullen spoke on behalf of Freeland Boy Scout Troop 323, which has been working to preserve the lighthouse since 1995. He spoke of the challenges that the troop has faced throughout the years, including storms, removing 6,000 pounds of debris from the lighthouse, and the privy being struck by lighting the same weekend the scouts were trying to finish its foundation.

“Through all of it, though, the tough weathers, the setbacks, the hard work, the trip where no chocolate pudding was taken, and the wonderful weather days, each scout has stood on that boat at the end of the trip when they are getting ready to head home and they've turned back to face the lighthouse and they have been able to see the physical accomplishments of their hard work,” he said. “They all have the honor of knowing that no matter how big or small the task, how good or bad the weather, or how hard or easy the job was, they did something that will carry on for a future generation.”

Mayor Margaret Doud also spoke to thank the society and the forest service for their hard work.

“The Round Island Lighthouse is a special beacon for the Straits area,” she said. “Especially in the wintertime when the Straits are covered with ice, and you see that light shining down on the ice, it is truly a guiding light. Everyone who has put in the effort to save this structure is to be commended. You have saved a very, very special piece of history, and may the Round Island light shine for many years to come.”

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