BENICIA -- Hoping to add a beacon of light along the waterfront, a group of Benicia residents is pushing for a lighthouse near the harbor. But first they must navigate red tape and other obstacles, like raising money to build it if they can get it approved.

The idea, still in its initial stages, is to build a functioning lighthouse that would serve both as a tourist attraction and navigational tool for boaters. Project proponents cite an incident last June in which a boater crashed into the sea wall near the marina's entrance in foggy conditions.

He was uninjured, but his sailboat was seriously damaged, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Spearheading the project is Lorie Campbell, who serves as the Benicia Yacht Club's port captain, the person who greets visiting boaters to

the harbor. At first, Campbell said she was drawn to the idea for aesthetic reasons, adding she was even open to having a purely decorative lighthouse.

But after discussing the idea with other yacht club members, the goal evolved into placing a fully operational lighthouse in Turnbull Park near the entrance of the marina.

"We have frequent cruise-ins coming in after work," said Ginger Penny, who lives with her husband, Steve, on a 52-foot powerboat in the harbor.

She said a lighthouse would make it easier to navigate along the shoreline in foggy conditions if boaters experience equipment failure.


Advertisement

Benicia is a popular destination for visiting yacht clubs, many of which arrive at the marina after dark.

"It would be really nice to have a lighthouse out there to guide them in," Penny said.

Penny added, "We have streetlights out there (near the marina), but they aren't very strong, and some aren't functioning."

There also are lights on the jetty that are owned by the marina and operated under a Coast Guard permit. However, those lights occasionally fail, she said.

In addition, there are Coast Guard-operated lights on a small island near the municipal pier and a buoy south of the marina marking the

approach route.

Mike Dotson, Benicia's parks and community services director, said he's had some initial discussions with Campbell about the project.

Dotson said the city would need more information about how such a facility would be regulated and maintained, including how much it

would cost.

"It's in the very initial stages, and I told (Campbell) we would need to get a very detailed proposal" before moving forward, Dotson said.

The project would be subject to the city's 40-foot height limit, he added.

Campbell and other supporters are in the process of marketing the idea; next steps include looking for financial supporters -- Campbell

estimates they'd need $1 million for construction -- and forming a nonprofit group.

To further their efforts, Campbell launched a website -- benicialighthouse.org -- last month, and is working on creating bumper

stickers to promote the idea.

Lighthouses that serve as coastal navigational aids are regulated by the Coast Guard, which can issue fines of up to $1,000 a day for

violations, said 11th U.S. Coast Guard District information specialist Brian Aldrich. Such penalties, however, are rare because, Aldrich

said, the agency generally works with operators to fix problems as they arise.

The Coast Guard inspects lighthouses annually. In an age of computerized navigation, Aldrich said lighthouses are

becoming outmoded. However, he said the Coast Guard still monitors a handful of lighthouses around the San Francisco Bay, including ones

near the Golden Gate and on Alcatraz Island.

Contact Tony Burchyns at tburchyns@timesheraldonline.com or 707-553-6831. Follow him on Twitter @tonyburchyns.