Lighthouse management comes into the spotlight

Aquinnah board of selectmen agree ‘it’s time’ for the town to manage Gay Head Light.

Selectmen say it's time for them to take over management of Gay Head Light tours, though they've held off on a vote.

While not holding an official vote, members of the board of selectmen of Aquinnah Tuesday all agreed that “it’s time” for the Gay Head Lighthouse to be under the management of the town for the upcoming season.

Len Butler, chairman of the Gay Head Lighthouse advisory board, began by giving selectmen a budget, comparing expenses and revenues from the lighthouse during the 2017 season and the expected revenues if the town of Aquinnah were to manage the lighthouse.

The total annual expenses for the lighthouse were $72,000 in 2017, while the total annual revenues from admissions and events were $96,000, bringing in a total net profit of $24,000, Mr. Butler said.

“This is hardly the cash cow that many people assume it is, no matter who runs it,” Mr. Butler said.

The decision of who is to manage the lighthouse is decided by the Aquinnah selectmen, and must be decided on because the current licensing agreement with the Martha’s Vineyard Museum has expired.

“It is time for all parties to work together to do what is best for the lighthouse,” Mr. Butler said.

Mr. Butler also requested a vote not be made yet, but that the Aquinnah selectmen “explore some potential strategies for the town to transition in assuming responsibilities involved in running the lighthouse.”

The selectmen expect to have a formal vote next week, but their minds appeared to be made up.

“I think it’s probably time,” Jim Newman, chairman of the Aquinnah selectmen, said. “It’s going to be run by the town. It’s going to be run by this town alone.”

“I agree with you that it makes a lot of sense for the town to be doing this,” Betsey Mayhew, the museum finance director, said. “We as a museum or I personally are happy to offer advice, to give any sort of background knowledge, as [the town of Aquinnah] moves into this.”

Updates are expected for the lighthouse as well, including Wi-Fi, which is to be set up sometime this spring, and up-to-date payment methods, so tourists can pay with credit cards instead of only cash.

Mr. Butler added a thank-you to the selectmen for “giving this a go,” and a nod of appreciation to the museum for the work it has done with the lighthouse.

In other business, condo owners who bought lighthouse property have sued the town on the decision to move the Helen Manning cottage. “They are concerned about the increased hours at the lighthouse, saying that the increased hours affect their enjoyment of the property, thinking somehow that the lighthouse came after they did, which is slightly preposterous, but nonetheless contained in their complaint,” Jeffrey Madison, Aquinnah town administrator, said.

Ron Rappaport, the town’s legal counsel, has been contacted by Mr. Madison and been informed of the complaint. The town is expected to have an answer to the complaint this week.


Lenny Jason, the Aquinnah town building inspector, has a contract set to expire, but was willing to continue his contract for another year. He was voted unanimously by the selectmen to continue the contract for another year.