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Letter to the Editor, (Port Clinton Lighthouse)

For nearly two years there has been a grass roots effort to restore the historic Port Clinton lighthouse, which the late Dave Jeremy fortuitously saved from destruction in 1952. The current owner, Darrell Brand, in an effort to ensure it would be preserved into the future, sought to gift it to the city of Port Clinton. The Port Clinton Lighthouse Conservancy was created to fund and supervise the restoration work and facilitate the lighthouse transfer.

In December 2011, following a recommendation by the Parks Committee, the city council voted to accept the gift of the lighthouse. The expectation then was that the lighthouse would be placed in Waterworks Park near the end of a planned Adams Street extension. However, with the transfer of power to a new administration these plans were shelved. In April 2012 Mr. Brand met with newly elected Mayor Leone to discuss lighthouse placement. Mr. Brand wanted the structure to be located in the park near the Lake Erie shore while the mayor wanted it to be placed at the corner of Perry and Jefferson Streets, on the site of the recently demolished Waterworks building. They failed to reach an agreement.

The mayor’s chosen location was discussed at length by the Conservancy and found to be neither acceptable nor suitable, for these reasons: First, as the mayor knows, Mr. Brand rejects this location for aesthetic reasons, preferring a waterfront location close to its original location. Although some have claimed intransigence on his part, Mr. Brand has in fact worked tirelessly with the Conservancy to craft a proposal that allows the city great flexibility with placement while honoring his wishes. It is the mayor who refuses to consider any other options. Second, according to state officials, placing the lighthouse at Adams and Jefferson would preclude its inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, while any of the waterfront locations identified in our proposal likely would be approved. Third, this location is aesthetically inconsistent with the historic nature of the lighthouse, particularly one whose purpose was as a pier-head light. For all of these reasons, we could not support nor recommend to Mr. Brand the adoption of the mayor’s proposed location for the lighthouse.

In June 2012 the mayor declined an invitation to meet with the Conservancy. Frustrated with the lack of action, the Conservancy decided this past January to initiate a grassroots campaign to educate the public about the lighthouse and its value to the city. We dubbed this campaign, “Bring Back the Light!” We held public meetings, spoke to local civic organizations, and distributed literature to educate the public. On March 1 the Conservancy submitted a comprehensive proposal to the city detailing the potential economic value of the lighthouse to the city and identifying three potential sites within a corridor of land on the waterfront in the Waterworks Park where the lighthouse could be placed without impinging on a proposed fishing lodge development.

After the Conservancy held a press conference to announce the release of its proposal, city officials indicated an interest in discussing the issue. Email exchanges followed, offering some hope the city might wish to work toward a solution. In a show of compromise, the Conservancy proposed placing the lighthouse at a location north of the Derby Pond, well outside the area earmarked for a future development. We invited city leaders and council members to view the site with us. We were encouraged when the safety and service director, chief of police, and some council members came out to the site and asked questions about our proposal. Their comments encouraged us to believe that we might yet have a deal.

Then in April, members of the Conservancy were summoned to a meeting with the Mayor, the City Council President and Safety Service Director. Our group went to the meeting hopeful that the city would now work with us toward a solution. Instead, we were presented with a list of reasons why the Derby Pond location was not suitable. These included a conflict with the annual fireworks, lack of ADA accessibility, interference with pending trail extension and Army Corps of Engineers shoreline work, environmental issues, and incompatibility with Mr. Rose’s proposed development scheme. The mayor considered these to be deal breakers. In our view, these were issues that could be worked through or were non-issues. For instance, according to a state website, the walking trail in the park, which would be adjacent to the lighthouse, is ADA accessible. The lighthouse itself, as a historic structure, is exempt from ADA rules. The fireworks could be moved to avoid conflicts, in which case the Conservancy could help to defray additional costs. The other reasons given were all addressable. The mayor again pushed for the Jefferson and Perry location.

Despite this disappointment, we left the meeting still hopeful of an agreement and buoyed by assurances from the mayor that he believed the lighthouse was a desirable asset. We thought that if the objections of the city could be overcome, an agreement might still be possible. Two week later, however, we received word that the city would not under any circumstances accept this gift unless there are “no strings attached” to its transfer. In other words, our Derby Pond location proposal was dead on arrival.

After long reflection and discussion we believe the mayor has not acted in good faith. We believe his intent all along has been to place the lighthouse at the Adams and Perry location and that he only gave lip service to other options in order to appear accommodating to us and reasonable to the press, the council, and members of the public. We do not believe the mayor sees the lighthouse as a part of the city’s historical heritage or future vision, but rather as potential window dressing for future Waterworks Park development.

We have gone out of our way to reach an agreement. We believe the Derby Pond location is a fair compromise, one that serves the people of the city. We are convinced that it will not conflict in any way with the proposed development (at least insofar as that plan has been portrayed to the public at large) and we believe there is broad support from the business community and the public for the Derby Pond location.

Frustrated that the city will not work with us and united in the belief that the lighthouse is too important to the people of Port Clinton for a select few to decide its fate, we are now making a direct appeal to the people of Port Clinton and to their direct representatives, the members of the city council, to take up this cause.

The lighthouse belongs to the people of Port Clinton and deserves to be placed in a location befitting its historic and iconic status. Its image graces the seal of the city of Port Clinton, as well as the logos of the Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Port Clinton. It reflects, as no other structure can, the city’s rich maritime heritage and unique character.  We intend to see it gifted to the city and placed in the Waterworks Park on the lakeshore, either during this administration or a future one. Too many dedicated volunteers have selflessly devoted too much time and energy to quit now.

We want to make it clear that we are keeping the door open and the lights on. We remain ever hopeful for a resolution to this matter. We are ready to work with the city at any time the city decides to work with us. But we can no longer wait for the fulfillment of empty promises. Please join us in this effort to return the lighthouse to the waterfront now, for the betterment of the city and its people.

Respectfully,
Richard J. Norgard, President, Port Clinton Lighthouse Conservancy
Board Members: Darrell Brand, Rev. Robert Butcher, Doug Garrett, Joan Hickman, Debbie Hymore-Tester, Kyle Johannsen, Bill Moon, Commander Jerry Nauert, John Smothers, Alex Thomas

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Dear Readers, (Port Clinton Lighthouse)

Ever been given a gift and never received it? Ever been promised a gift and then told how you have to use it? That is where the City of Port Clinton is on the gift of the lighthouse.

Sometime ago Mr. Darrell Brand offered to the City of Port Clinton one of the two remaining beacons that guided boaters into the Portage River from Lake Erie. The City Administration and the City Council voted to accept the gift.  Then came the contract. The contract stated that the beacon had to be placed at the end of Adams Street, based on a conceptual drawing that had Adams Street come across Perry and through Waterworks Park. The contract mandated that the beacon be placed at the turnaround that was included in the drawing.  Since this was a conceptual drawing and the fate of that project was unknown, the City declined and offered to place it at the site of the former Waterworks building. Mr. Brand declined.

Several months later the City was approached by the Lighthouse Conservancy Committee, asking why we did not want this gift. Wanting the beacon has never been the issue, only the placement. Again the City offered the Waterworks building area and were told “no”. Then the committee began having public meetings insinuating that the City did not want the beacon. Nothing is further from the truth. Again, this is about placement.

The Mayor has a review Committee that oversees projects that individuals and groups would like to do for the City. These groups bring their plans; we approve, tweak and at times reject these projects. 

The Committee has reviewed this particular project numerous times and has done a great deal of work. The Conservancy has accused us of throwing "red herrings" into the project. The Committee sees these as issues that any city faces when a building is going to be placed on City land. It is the right and the obligation that we look at all the issues that face the City when taking on a project. This one in particular is taking place on a piece of land that is in play for numerous projects, some that have been on the burner for quite some time.

The City committee has asked one thing consistenly from the Lighthouse Committee and that has been time, time to allow us to look at projects on the block and those that may be forth coming and see how the placement of the beacon will affect those. Each time we have been told no, the Lighthouse Committee wants the beacon placed by Labor Day and the City will not guarantee that. Again, each time we have offered the Waterworks building site. The waterworks Building site is build ready, it is in proximity to the River and provides a gateway into the River area. 

Have both sides buried their feet in the sand? Yes, they have. However, the beacon is not homeless. It can be taken back to Brand’s Marina.

The City would like to solve this but for us there are only two choices, place it on the property that is willing and waiting or step back and let us put a plan together.

Sincerely,
City of Port Clinton Review Committee
Mayor Leone
Linda Hartlaub
Tracy Colston

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Tuskegee Airman Dr. Harold Brown announces return of the RISE ABOVE exhibit

68 years ago last month Harold Brown, now a resident of Catawba Island, was 20 years old and in Moosburg P.O.W. camp in Germany. “I recall it very well,” said Brown last week on the anniversary of VE Day, “We had been in Nuremberg P.O.W. camp and were moved as the Allies advanced. 10,000 of us had walked the 12-13 days to Moosburg, where we joined 25,000 other P.O.W.’s.”

At the event last week at Liberty Aviation Museum to announce the return of the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, Brown talked of his plane being shot down on his 12th mission, of the crash of his P-51 after a bombing run on his 30th mission and his subsequent capture by German soldiers, of how grateful he was to the German soldier that protected him from being killed by angry civilians and soldiers, of General Patton’s triumphant and colorful arrival to liberate the camp at Moosburg, of the long journey home (it was another six weeks before he boarded a ship for the U.S.) and of his 23-year career in the Air Force as a pilot and flight instructor.

Brown, 88, is one of only 40 Tuskegee Airmen still living of the 450 who served in combat duty in World War 11. He plays golf several times a week, is fit, charming, engaging and an excellent raconteur.

At the Erie-Ottawa County Regional Airport from Aug. 29-Sept. 1, Dr. Brown will be hosting the return of the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit. Brown and Jeff Sondles of the Liberty Aviation Museum are putting out the call for volunteers to enlist as corporate or private sponsors to help underwrite and defer the costs required to bring the exhibit to Port Clinton. “We are reaching out to the community for sponsors so we don’t lose this piece of history,” said Sondles.

For more information or to enlist as a sponsor, contact Liberty Aviation Museum at 419-732-0234 or www.libertyaviationmuseum.org.

About the exhibit:

The goal of the exhibit is to share with everyone the inspiring legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their crewmen.  Their courage, determination and ability to triumph over adversity during World War II can serve to inspire others about how to succeed today. The exhibit teaches the six guiding principles of the Tuskegee Airmen.  Every school student who visits the exhibit and watches the RISE ABOVE movie is given a free dog tag with these principles inscribed on it:

AIM HIGH
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
NEVER QUIT
BE READY TO GO
USE YOUR BRAIN
EXPECT TO WIN

“I think it gives our kids a great boost, the sayings on the dog tags,” said Erie-Ottawa Regional Airport’s Stan Gebhardt.

This exhibit will offer the following:

A rare P-51C Mustang, one of only four like it still flying. It has a bright red tail and it is a key part of the mission to help people, particularly young people, understand and appreciate the history and legacy of the special group of black pilots who flew airplanes sporting bright red tails as they fought the Nazis during WWII.

The RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is housed in a 53-foot-long semi rig. It contains a 30-seat temperature-controlled movie theater with a 160-degree panoramic screen.  The RISE ABOVE movie highlights who the Tuskegee Airmen are, how they overcame obstacles to be allowed train and fight as U.S. Army Air Corps pilots, how more than 10,000 other black men and women also trained hard to support the pilots, and what the courage and determination they exhibited then still means to all Americans today.  The movie will also give viewers a feel for what it’s like to pilot a Mustang.

This exhibit is free to the public.

Autographed commemorative Tuskegee Airmen merchandise is being sold in the museum’s gift shop with proceeds to support this mission.  Raffle tickets to win a custom and autographed P-51C Mustang will also be sold throughout the summer season.

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