Lighthouse Park is considered a "split estate". That is, the town owns all the land and buildings except the tower portion of the light station. Even though the light station is a single building, the western four-fifths of the structure has been owned by the Town of Bristol since 1940. It houses the Fishermen's Museum and a small second floor apartment. The eastern one-fifth includes the tower and its vestibule. Congress has decided that this portion of the structure will be conveyed to an eligible entity; as such, it makes sense that the title be transferred to the town, which for many years has provided all the parking, all the sanitary facilities, the water supply, all the grounds maintenance and trash removal, preservation and repair of all out buildings and a trained seasonal staff to welcome and assist the thousands who visit the park.
From a property management perspective, a split estate leads to inefficiencies and unnecessary operating expenses. Any owner of the only light tower faces a series of logistical hurdles. Alone, the light tower is isolated -- without drinking water, sanitary facilities, parking or storage for any maintenance equipment or materials. By contrast, a unified park offers economies of scale. The staff and facilities are already in place, and can easily expand to encompass wider responsibilities.
Unification of the park would help foster greater educational and recreational opportunities for local citizens and visitors alike. For example, at Pemaquid Beach Park, the Bristol Parks and Recreation Commission has formed a partnership with the Pemaquid Watershed Association (PWA) to expand outreach at that property. During the summer months, the PWA maintains an environmental education center (Beachcombers' Rest) and conducts weekly nature walks, classes and a touch tank exploration. In conjunction with Wabanaki Days, they offer the annual Native American Celebration, honoring those who lived in this area before the arrival of Europeans.
Town ownership would also ensure an open and transparent process in governing and operating the light station property. Under town control, public participation would be available at open meetings of the Bristol Parks and Recreation Commission, the Bristol Board of Selectmen and the annual Town Meeting. Those who would like to be more fully involved are encouraged to seek election to the Parks Commission or the Board of Selectmen.
The Pemaquid Point Light Station is the town's icon -- the very symbol of Bristol. Its likeness has appeared on the town's seal, on its letterhead and on other official town documents for decades. The light station is at the core of the town's history. Hundreds of local citizens were at the site on September 5, 1913, when the first USS Enterprise bested the Bristish brig Boxer in an epic battle near shore. Our ancestors built the tower and were were lighthouse keepers. Local mariners, sailors and fishermen have been guided by the light for almost 200 years. The tower and the park were separated in 1940. Now is the time to "re-unite the light".