During a two day meeting held in Hope Town between key people involved in the maintenance of Abaco lighthouses it was decided that the lighthouses of The Bahamas would be placed under the jurisdiction of the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation (AMMC). Representatives of government agencies, such as the Port Authority, The Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation and The Bahamas National Trust, were joined by local stakeholders for the meeting.
On May16, Dr. Keith Tinker and Dr. Michael Pateman, representatives of AMMC met with members of The Bahamas Lighthouse Preservation Society, (BL PS) among them the founders of the Society, David Gale and Annie Potts, and members of the Hope Town Historic Society represented by Vernon Malone, Susan Bethel and Lori Kenyan. Also present was David Knowles – Park Director for the Bahamas National Trust. Two Hope Town residents, Thomas Hazel and Paul Thompson, were present. Both were involved in the Hope Town lighthouse restoration.
The goal of the meeting was to come to an agreement on which entity or entities would be best qualified to oversee the restoration and the maintenance of the Bahamas Imperial Lighthouses (built under the British Colonial period) and other lighthouses of the archipelago.
The meeting was held at the Hope Town Harbor Lodge and was opened with a prayer by Vernon Malone who identified the lighthouses as guardians bringing comfort to sailors. Mr. Gale, next, stressed the importance of lighthouses by the fact they were still operating around the world. One of his wishes was to see the San Salvador lighthouse restored as a manually operated lighthouse, one of three lighthouses that have not been automated.
Annie Potts, an arduous volunteer from Florida who helped with the restoration of the Hope Town lighthouse, acted as a coordinator between Abaco and the United States to find parts and people qualified to repair damaged parts. She gave an overview of the lighthouses of The Bahamas. She said that the goal of the meeting was to find a way to save them.
Dr. Pateman went over the conditions of the lighthouses in the country and spoke of a committee meeting on a national level that took place last October in Nassau. The meeting was aimed at establishing the responsibility of lighthouse maintenance. He gave a brief account of what legal authority was in charge of the lighthouses.
The Antiquity Act concerns sites older than fifty years. It designates such sites as historic monuments. The Port Authority Act gave the Port Authority the responsibility of taking care of maritime light structures, but not of the Imperial Lighthouses. The Transport Act placed the land on which they stood under the Ministry of Transport, but there are no committees responsible to coordinate the three acts and oversee their maintenance.
He mentioned the desire of the Minister of Transport and Aviation, the Hon. Glenys Hanna- Martin, whose grandfather was a lighthouse keeper, to see all the lighthouses restored and properly maintained.
Dr. Tinker then put forward the motion that since most lighthouses were older than fifty years and most of them over than a hundred years, they were historic monuments that should be placed under the jurisdiction of the AMMC. He stated, however, that a partnership between the various entities that had been involved in their maintenance or restoration should be established. It would involve the restructuring of BLPS as a foundation which would allow the society to be legally recognized by the government and be granted funds for repairs.
The other partners would be the Port Authority and the Bahamas National Trust. The decision of the Port Authority becoming associated with AMMC regarding the maintenance of the lighthouses rested with Commander Patrick McNeil.
A subsequent meeting attended by Commander McNeil took place the following day at the Methodist Church.
As a former seaman, the Commander said that he had a lot of respect for the lighthouses which were beacons of hope and reassurance for sailors. He recognized that it had been challenging for the Port Authority to maintain all the lighthouses and was all in favor of the proposed partnership. He mentioned that the automation of the Great Inagua Lighthouse had been cancelled and that the Minister of Transport and Aviation was agreeable to have it restored as a manually operated lighthouse.
During further discussions, BLPS representatives were asked to restructure the society as soon as possible and to send copies of the reports that had been made concerning the repairs to Hope Town and San Salvador lighthouses. Mr. Knowles, who said that the BNT will be interested in leasing the lighthouses adjacent to the parks, was also asked to send a report stating the scope of the organization.
It was suggested that the Hope Town Historic Society also become a foundation to facilitate fund raising. The Society will not enter into a partnership with the AMMC but would still assist with issues concerning the local lighthouse.
It was also decided that trips to San Salvador and Great Inagua to assess the state of the lighthouses on those islands will be organized in the near future.
The broken window of the Hole in the Wall lighthouse that was damaged by people trying to get inside the lighthouse will be replaced by a metal one to prevent any further attempts at breaking in. Park Warden, Marcus Davis, will assist with the window repairs.
The stairs are in disrepair and present a serious security problem. Until repairs are done it is advised that no one attempt to climb them.