Massachusetts town bids for historic lighthouse

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The Coast Guard declared Gay Head Light on Martha’s Vineyard surplus property and the town of Aquinnah is among four non-profit and government groups that have expressed an interest in it.

Under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, lighthouses can be disposed of by transferring the property at no charge to a nonprofit organization or government entity or through public auction.

The eligible groups will be able to tour and inspect the lighthouse on Oct. 10. For now, officials of the Massachusetts town must wait through the takeover process and hope that love for the structure is strong enough to raise $2 million to $3 million for its relocation and restoration, the Cape Cod Times reported.

"If everything went 'bang, bang, bang,' we could technically get ownership from the government in five months. But it'll take longer than that," Aquinnah Town Administrator Adam Wilson told the Cape Cod Times.

Gay Head Light was built in 1799 and replaced with the current 51-foot tower in 1856. It quickly became one of the country's most significant lighthouses, helping ships navigate the nearby treacherous stretch of rocks known as Devil's Bridge. And since the beginning, the famed Gay Head Cliffs have threatened the nearby light.

The cliffs were formed by the terminal moraine of a glacier during the last ice age, said Len Butler, chairman of the building subcommittee of Save the Gay Head Lighthouse Committee. Their unique creation and layers of clay — one of only a few spots in the world that demonstrate these characteristics — are such that "geologists from around the world come to study them," Butler said.

Their singular structure also means significant erosion.

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