Aquinnah voters agree to purchase, save Gay Head Lighthouse

The lighthouse sits precariously close to an ever eroding cliff. — File photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

On a cold, snowy night, Aquinnah voters turned out for a special town meeting Tuesday and agreed to purchase the Gay Head lighthouse and initiate the process to preserve, restore, and relocate it.

The red brick beacon that has guided mariners since 1856 sits 50 feet from the edge of a cliff that is receding about two feet every year. The lighthouse must be moved within the next couple of years if it is to be saved, according to experts.

A total of 43 voters, or just 12 percent of the town’s 389 registered voters gathered for two special town meetings in one night. The first order of business was to conclude a special town meeting originally scheduled on November 15 that failed to attract a quorum.

Voters approved all but one article, a request for $1,500 to restore a cattle pound that was removed from the warrant.

In the second meeting of the night, voters agreed to purchase the lighthouse and appropriate $5,000 from the town’s Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to pay for a feasibility and planning study for work to save the lighthouse.

The lighthouse is currently the property of the U.S. Coast Guard and is leased to and maintained by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. The cost to shore up and move the lighthouse is expected to reach several million dollars. One outstanding question is where to move it.