2016-10-06 / Front Page

Crib now part of infant nonprofit

New owners plan access for public
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

THE CRIB lighthouse has been purchased by a nonprofit created by downstate couples who plan to open it up to the public. THE CRIB lighthouse has been purchased by a nonprofit created by downstate couples who plan to open it up to the public. Dan Oginsky made his first trip to North Manitou Island this summer.

He’s likely to see a lot more of it in the near future.

Oginsky, his wife and three other couples will soon be the proud owners of the North Manitou Shoal Lighthouse, purchased for $73,000, offered for sale by the U.S. General Services administration.

Their bid was the highest of four submitted by the Sept. 27 deadline. Closing is expected to take place in November.

“We’re really excited about winning and taking over stewardship of the lighthouse,” said Oginsky, an attorney who lives in Brighton but also owns a summer home near Elk Rapids. “ I grew up visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the Leelanau Peninsula. I’ve always stared out at the Manitous and loved them.”

Oginsky, friend Dave McWilliam and their 14-year-old sons were on North Manitou Island for a three-day Boy Scout backpack and camping trip just days before the federal property clearing house posted information about the lighthouse coming up for sale.

After returning from the trip, news of the auction made papers statewide and his phone began to ring.

“Within a five minute period I had two different friends contact me about it,” Oginsky said.

Oginsky and his wife, Anna, formed North Manitou Light Keepers, Inc., a nonprofit corporation. Owners are McWilliam and his wife, Sherry; Todd and Natalie Buckley, also of Brighton; and Jake and Susan Kaberle of Traverse City.

Oginsky and McWilliam toured the lighthouse on Sept. 2 prior to submitting their bid. They know it will take a lot of work to bring the lighthouse back to life.

“There are sheets of paint hanging down from the ceiling and even more bird guano than I had seen in photographs,” Oginsky said.

Built in 1935, the lighthouse continues to serve an important role in keeping the Manitou Passage safe for Great Lakes shipping traffic and pleasure boats.

But it’s been unoccupied for years — unless you include colonies of cormorants and legions of spiders now making homes on the structure, which marks the narrowest and one of the shallowest parts of the Manitou Passage.

The lighthouse consists of a white, square, steel structure situated atop a concrete crib. The square base contains two stories, and was previously used as a Coast Guard living quarters with side rooms, small closets, and evidence of a bathroom.

On top of the two-story structure is a three-story square steel tower containing ladders and steps to access the automated light, which is still an active aid to navigation.

“We’re anxious to get in there, clean it up and make it pretty again,” Oginsky said. “I see great potential as a walkthrough for visitors.”

The lighthouse, known locally as “The Crib,” was typically manned by a three-person Coast Guard crew, each of whom served two weeks at the station followed by a week off.

Charlie Hannert was among the Coast Guardsmen who lived in the crib from May through December in the 1960s. Now living in the Philippines, memories of the immense power of the Great Lakes remain with him 50 years later.

In November 1966, he recalls securing a steel-plated door near water level as a strong storm took hold. But the strong wind and waves were more than the door could take.

“It broke loose and the force was so powerful that it bent it like it was made of tinfoil,” Hannert said.

In May 2015, the lighthouse was declared excess to the needs of the United States Coast Guard and made available to eligible nonprofit organizations under the provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act of 2000.

An amendment to the National Historic Preservation Act states that no submerged land will be conveyed in the quitclaim deed for the property.

That will require North Manitou Light Keepers, Inc. to secure a “private use agreement” to occupy the Great Lakes bottomlands.

Oginsky’s intention and that of the non-profit is to restore the lighthouse to its previous condition and to make it available to the public.

He knows it will mean a big financial commitment — possibly more than $1 million. Another issue left to be ironed out is how to get visitors from the mainland to the lighthouse.

“We’ll be using some of our own funds to get the effort going, ” he said. “But we hope that with grants and some fundraising we’ll be able to get it completed in the next few years.”

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Outstanding! Good luck in

Outstanding! Good luck in your efforts to restore this Lighthouse. I'm jealous.