Click photo to enlarge
The beacon is photographed at Mount Diablo State Park in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Monday, July 23, 2012. The age of the 84-year-old beacon, the harsh weather at the mountain summit, and the lack of state funds for restoration has caused it to deteriorate despite the best efforts of volunteers to keep it running. The beacon is lit every year on Pearl Harbor Day. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Staff)

WALNUT CREEK -- A historic beacon atop Mount Diablo will beam over the Bay Area again Dec. 7 even though restoration won't be finished by then as hoped.

State park managers and conservationists earlier this year expressed fears that the 1928 swiveling navigation light might not answer its annual call to duty on Pearl Harbor Day unless its tired parts and bearings were overhauled.

Now officials say volunteers have done enough repairs and maintenance to ready the Eye of Diablo for its once-a-year evening vigil.

"We will make sure the beacon will light up and turn even if it needs a little help to keep turning," said Ron Brown, executive director of Save Mount Diablo, a conservation group spearheading the restoration.

"We're confident the beacon can work," said Roland Gaebert, superintendent of Mt. Diablo State Park, where the beacon is located on a 3,889-foot-tall mountaintop visible from much of the Bay Area and Central Valley.

A few of the dwindling number of Pearl Harbor survivors plan to be on hand for the public pre-lighting ceremony at 3:45 p.m. Dec. 7 at the summit visitor center. The event is free, although the state park has a $10-per-vehicle admission fee.

Originally activated in 1928 by famous aviator Charles Lindbergh as a navigation guide for airplanes, the beacon is in danger of wearing out under the assault of harsh winds, rains and extreme temperatures at the summit.

State park officials say they lack money to overhaul it.

Save Mount Diablo, a Walnut Creek-based conservation group, committed to raise funds and recruit expert labor for the work.

The state Legislature sanctioned the restoration, and earlier this year passed a bill directing the state Parks and Recreation Department to negotiate an agreement for Save Mount Diablo to restore the beacon with state oversight to assure quality control and historical integrity.

The conservation group had hoped to do the restoration before Dec. 7, but the oversight agreement has not yet reached agreement. "We are close," Brown said.

After the pact is signed, the conservation group plans to firm up a project cost estimate and begin fundraising.

Brown said it's important to restore the beacon while some Pearl Harbor survivors are still alive and will know this piece of history is secure. More than 2,300 military service members died in the 1941 attack, which was the deadliest attack on American soil until the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Pearl Harbor survivors endorsed Mount Diablo as a place to remember the attack because the beacon was turned off after the 1941 air raid on Hawaii out of fear of guiding Japanese war planes in to attack the Bay Area.

Since 1964, the beacon has been lighted on Dec. 7, even in 2009 when a snowstorm closed the road to the summit and forced relocation of the ceremony.

Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.

IF YOU GO
What: Lighting of the Mount Diablo beacon
When: 3:45 p.m. Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day memorial ceremony followed by lighting of the beacon
Where: Summit visitor center. Mount Diablo State Park
Admission: $10 park entrance fee