Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse launch capital campaign

FRANKFORT — The Friends of Benzie County’s popular Point Betsie Lighthouse have launched a $1 million-plus capital campaign to fund two projects that will protect the historic structure and the people who visit it for generations to come.

The projects — critical repairs to the vintage 1944 Shoreline Protection System (SPS, or “seawall”) and improvements to safety and accessibility on Point Betsie Road — are the final steps in a major restoration effort that began in 2004, when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management turned ownership and responsibility of the lighthouse over to Benzie County. The mission of the Friends of Point Betsie, a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization, includes oversight of and repairs to the main lighthouse and its outbuildings, and the education of young and not-so-young patrons about this historic place.

Point Betsie Lighthouse stands 52 feet above Lake Michigan and has long-served as one of the most important landmarks in Benzie County. The Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse recently launched a $1 million-plus capital campaign to fund two projects. (Pioneer News Network File Photo)

Built in 1858, Point Betsie Lighthouse stands 52 feet above Lake Michigan and has long-served as one of the most important landmarks in Benzie County. As the last manned lighthouse on Lake Michigan’s eastern shore, Point Betsie has set a safe course for ships navigating through the Manitou Passage for over 150 years. The lighthouse still serves as a navigational guide, though her light is now automated.

Today, a small staff and volunteers from the Friends manage the Point Betsie site. The lighthouse itself is now open for tours, including the popular tower climb. A generous donation helped the Friends build a “boathouse” facility that holds a gift shop, public restrooms and historic exhibits about life at Point Betsie long ago.

Richard Taylor, Friends Board president and campaign chairman, said the Lighthouse’s operating expenses are covered by ticket and gift shop sales, memberships and rentals of the former “Keeper’s Apartment,” which gives guests the experience of living in a lighthouse. That income is not enough to fund the capital projects, he said.

“Point Betsie Lighthouse not only represents a central and important aspect of our local history, but is the very symbol of Up North, our region, our state, the entire Great Lakes, and what was described several years ago as the most beautiful place in America,” said Taylor. “Our iconic Lighthouse is the essence of ‘Pure Michigan,’ to which we must say ‘Yes.’”

The funds raised will support urgently needed repairs to the SPS, a now-crumbling concrete structure that guards against beach erosion and protects the lighthouse from harsh Lake Michigan storms. The Friends also plan to use funds raised to repair and improve narrow Point Betsie Road End, which has deep sandy shoulders in which even off-road vehicles can get stuck and require towing. Plans include wider pavement; reinforced shoulders; 25 angled parking spaces; four parking spaces for larger vehicles; a paved turnaround circle; pedestrian walkways; a passenger drop-off point; and easier beach access.

Although the Friends are applying for local, state and federal grants in cooperation with Benzie County, matching funds are the responsibility of the Friends through support from individual donors and family foundations.

“Our beautiful lighthouse and beach are historic, iconic, important, significant and sorely in need of these capital projects,” said Taylor. “With the successful completion of this campaign, we don’t anticipate any major, future fundraising needs. With that in mind, we plead with everyone who loves Point Betsie to consider a most generous donation.”

For more information about the campaign or how to donate, contact Taylor at rrtayIor57@gmail.com. For more information about Point Betsie, visit https://www.pointbetsie.org/

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