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The condition of the Morris Island Lighthouse, surrounded by the sea and listing, has long worried its many admirers. For years we've heard talk of saving the 1876 structure, but so far nothing has been done. Now that it's for sale, there is a real opportunity to preserve it.
Earlier this year, its former owner lost title in a foreclosure. The new owner, Columbia businessman Paul Gunter, wants to sell the historic beacon for $100,000. On Thursday, the Morris Island Lighthouse Committee, a group of James Island and Folly Beach residents, asked the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission to buy the lighthouse. It should do so.
A favorite area landmark, the Morris Island Lighthouse is perhaps best and most-easily viewed from the PRC's passive park at the east end of Folly Beach. In fact, it is a key visual element of that park's popular seascape. PRC's acquisition of the lighthouse would bring it into public hands and help ensure its future for the benefit of park visitors and area residents alike.
The Morris Island Lighthouse Committee plans to privately raise the $500,000 thought necessary to stabilize, clean and paint the structure. According to a story by our reporter Arlie Porter, PRC Commissioner Lee Roeber expressed concern that the lighthouse could become an "albatross" to the PRC if that money couldn't be raised.
But as long as the lighthouse remains privately owned, the chances of it receiving the resources necessary for its maintenance are slim. By bringing it into public ownership, PRC would increase the likelihood of successful fund raising from both private and public sources.
The Morris Island lighthouse, on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of nine on the South Carolina coast, and probably the most picturesque. PRC shouldn't let the long-awaited opportunity to preserve this Charleston landmark slip away.