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Wednesday, December 13 will bring to a close the first chapter in the preservation of the Morris Island Lighthouse. In ceremonies at the lighthouse and the east end of Folly Beach, the State of South Carolina will accept title to the Morris Island Lighthouse.
Robert New, Co-chairman of Save The Light, Inc., noted, "The state's ownership of the lighthouse is critical to the success of the preservation plan. State ownership clears the way for the US Army Corps of Engineers to assist in the stabilization study for the lighthouse tower." Additionally, the Corps can provide federal funds for both the stabilization study and the erosion control once the stabilization is complete.
Save The Light, Inc. purchased the lighthouse for $75,000 in February 1999 to keep it from falling into the hands of another private owner. The simple mission of Save The Light, Inc. has been to save and preserve the Morris Island Lighthouse for the people of South Carolina.
In 1999, negotiations began with the state through the Department of Natural Resources' Heritage Trust Program. The act establishing the Heritage Trust Program gives it the responsibility for the preservation of the important natural areas and cultural areas of the state.
In February of 2000, the Heritage Trust Program Board recognized the lighthouse as one of the top 100 cultural sites in the state and recommended to the Board for the Department of Natural Resources the acquisition of the lighthouse. In April 2000, the DNR Board voted likewise to accept the lighthouse. Final acceptance was complete when the State Budget and Control Board gave its approval in September.
Once the deed is transferred, the state will lease the lighthouse to Save The Light, Inc. for 99 years to raise the needed funds, work with the Army Corps of Engineers and coordinate the preservation efforts for the lighthouse.
On December 13, Wednesday morning, a joint meeting between Save The Light, Inc., the Department of Natural Resources and the US Army Corps of Engineers will make plans to begin the process of the stabilization study for the lighthouse tower.
At 3:30 p.m., in ceremonies at the lighthouse and the east end of Folly Beach, the deed will be formally transferred to the state. Attendees will include Dr. Joab Lesesne, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the SC Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR); Dr. Paul Sandifer, Director of SCDNR; Senator Ernie Passailaigue; State Representative Wallace Scarborough; Mr. Vernon Knox, Mayor of Folly Beach; Dr. Terry Ferguson, Chair of the SC Heritage Trust Advisory Board; Dr. Roger Stroup, Director of the SC Department of Archives & History; Mr. Thomas Kohlsaat, Chief Wildlife Diversity Section, SCDNR; Mr. Stuart Greeter, Land Protection Coordinator, Heritage Trust Program, SCDNR; and Mr. Chris Judge, Archaeologist for the Heritage Trust Program, SCDNR.
Richard Beck, Co-Chairman of Save The Light, Inc., pointed out, "This is what's great about our state. A citizen's group saw a need and rallied to action. The partnership between state and local government and private citizens will ultimately preserve this important historic site for generations to come."
The public is invited to attend and join in this celebration and ceremony. There will be a shuttle at the end of E. Ashley Avenue to transport guests to the signing at the east end of the beach.
Later that evening, Café Suzanne, Folly Beach, will host their second annual Benefit Dinner for Save The Light, Inc. All funds for the Gourmet Dinner and the silent auction go to benefit the Morris Island Lighthouse.