Falmouth Seeking To Be Lighthouse Landlord

GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - The Coast Guard announced in March it is seeking an organization to lease Nobska. The Town of Falmouth announced it is submitting a letter to the Coast Guard to express its interest.CARRIE GENTILE/ENTERPRISE - Mary Harris of Falmouth's Historical Society explains the application process for taking over the Nobska Lighthouse lease from the Coast Guard at the Falmouth Board of Selectmen meeting on July 28.

The Town of Falmouth will notify the US Coast Guard that it wants to be the next steward of Nobska Lighthouse by sending a letter of interest this week.

Selectman Mary (Pat) Flynn announced the news at the July 28 Falmouth Board of Selectmen meeting. If the government approves the transfer, the town would hold the lighthouse license, which is akin to leasing it, with local nonprofit organizations backing them.

Three historical preservation organizations—Highfield Hall & Gardens (formerly Historical Highfield), Falmouth Historical Society and the Woods Hole Historical Museum—met recently and formed a consortium in order to maintain and operate Nobska on behalf of the town.

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“The Coast Guard made it pretty clear that whatever agency applies for the license needs to have a track record of financial management.

That’s why creating a new nonprofit with the interested groups would not work,” said board of selectman chairman Mary (Pat) Flynn.

The next step is for the Coast Guard to cull through the letters of interest to determine which entity is eligible to run it. Those chosen would be asked to submit a detailed plan within 120 days explaining how exactly they intend to manage it.

“We’re hoping we are the only entity who has submitted a letter of interest,” said Mary Harris, treasurer of the Falmouth Historical Society.

Selectman Douglas H. Jones said it is rare that the Coast Guard receives more than one application, either from lack of interest or because the interested parties have worked out ahead of time who would be the sole applicant.

Ms. Harris said the only other group that may apply is the Massachusetts Trustees of Reservations, which expressed interest early on, but to her knowledge, has not pursued it.

The Coast Guard, the current owners of the beacon and property, announced in March it is seeking an organization to lease Nobska. The Coast Guard asked interested parties in June to submit a letter of interest by August 5 if they want to be considered a candidate for the lease.

Ms. Harris clarified that this is not a transfer of ownership, at least not yet. She said that will not happen for many years, and in the meantime, the government no longer wants to pay for the beacon and other structures on the property. It will maintain the actual light that is used for navigation.

The nonprofit members formed an exploratory committee aimed at tackling the financial and legal issues associated with the lease, as well as how it will be operated.

The license would allow an organization to run a public program on the property for free, but would be required to pay for the maintenance on the structures. It would have to be open to the public and free of charge, but the selected organization can ask for donations from visitors. Included in the licensing is 2.11 acres of land with the keeper’s quarters, light tower, garage and parking area.

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