image-light house
Funds for restoration of the Pigeon Point Light Station are included in the state's preliminary budget. Review File Photo

More than a decade after it closed to the public, the tower at the Pigeon Point Light Station could receive a multimillion-dollar state-funded restoration. 

The budget request for the California Department of Parks and Recreation was recently submitted to the state Legislature. It must be approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Included in the request is $12.2 million for stabilization and rehabilitation of the lighthouse near Pescadero, the largest project out of the Santa Cruz County Parks district. 

“This is a big deal, as the tower has been closed since 2001,” said Julie Barrow, the special projects coordinator for Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Parks. 

Originally owned and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, the tower suffered severe damage after two large pieces of brick and ironwork fell from the top of the lighthouse. Since ownership transferred to California State Parks in 2011, the state has been trying to raise money through private donations to take on the task of restoring the tower to its historic prime condition. Built in the early 1870s, the light station has been exposed to storms and seawater over many years, causing additional cracks and damage to the ground level of the tower, according to Barrow. 

The nonprofit California State Parks Foundation raised about $3 million to protect the lighthouse structure, relocate the Fresnel lens from the tower’s lantern room to the ground floor of the fog station, and complete architectural drawings for improvements going forward. But to restore the main portion of the lighthouse, Barrow estimates it could cost up to $18 million. 

This is the first time the park’s budget request includes funding designated for the lighthouse’s restoration. 

“The bulk of the money will go towards the damage on the top one-third of the building and returning it to its historic standards,” Barrow said. 

Around 200,000 visitors visit the park annually, and the light station serves as the “perfect neon sign” for visitors to the coast, according to Barrow. 

“It’s one of the most visited lighthouses on the West Coast,” Barrow said. 

“Located in between the route from Santa Cruz to San Francisco, so it is a huge tourist draw.” 

Barrow estimates the restoration project will take about two to three years and she is hopeful the park would remain open to visitors during construction. 

If the money is approved, it will not cover the entirety of the costs needed for repair. 

Barrow estimates it will take an additional $4 to $6 million, which she said could come from private or nonprofit donations or individual donors. 

Once the tower is open, officials hope to offer tours to the public and return the Fresnel lens to the top of the tower. When sitting in the tower, the lens is about 17 feet tall. 

“That lens is priceless,” Barrow said. 

“It cannot be replaced and so it needs protection for future generations.” 

For now, Barrow and others associated with the light station are waiting to hear back as the final budget is expected to be approved in June. 

“We are keeping our fingers crossed,” Barrow said. “We are really optimistic at this point the budget gets approved.”

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