To the Editor:
The town of Aquinnah should run the tours for the Gay Head Lighthouse.
In the past decade, as it became clear to our community that the lighthouse was in danger, our community rose to the occasion. We gained ownership of the lighthouse from the federal government, researched solutions, raised funds, and hired crews to move the lighthouse to safety. The town of Aquinnah pulled off an enormous feat, and became the little town that could.
As the current owners of the lighthouse, we are now responsible for its care. We pay a lighthouse keeper, insurance, maintenance, and groundskeepers to maintain the lighthouse campus. In addition to these costs, we are still raising funds to continue restoration of the lighthouse, which will cost around a million dollars.
Now it is time for us to move as a community to the next phase of this journey — the town of Aquinnah should run the tours for the Gay Head Lighthouse. Over the past few summers, the lighthouse has taken in hundreds of thousands of dollars from visitors that are drawn to Gay Head Light. These are funds that are desperately needed in town to help us to offset the cost of owning the lighthouse. Yet for the past two summers since we’ve taken ownership, we have outsourced the lighthouse tours to an organization based outside our town. The selectmen of our town have a responsibility to the citizens to seriously consider the financial relief this would offer to taxpayers.
In response to last year’s invitation to invite the (Martha’s Vineyard) Museum to consider working with the town to create a new housing for the Fresnel lens back at its historic location, the museum gave a short, disinterested response. They do plan to move the Fresnel, but not to its historic location, but rather to a town it has never been in. This demonstrates that they are not keen on further developing a relationship with residents of Aquinnah, who almost unanimously directed the selectmen to send the museum this invitation in last year’s town meeting.
The residents here are uniquely qualified to train and be docents at the lighthouse. Nobody knows the history of the town or is better able to relay the history of the lighthouse to visitors than residents of the town of Aquinnah. Several of the docents who currently work at the lighthouse have expressed that they would love the opportunity to continue working at the light, regardless of who runs the tours.