Lighthouse group plans symposium
While many are worried that the U.S. Coast Guard will decide to remove the handcrafted Fresnel lens from Winchester Bay’s lighthouse, Friends of Umpqua River Light is going ahead with plans to host a 116th birthday bash for the lighthouse and its famous red and white lens next month.
The event is shaping up to be a major celebration of the lighthouse’s 153-year history, and a special recognition of the first-order Fresnel lens that was commissioned into service on New Year’s Eve, 1894.
The Sept. 24-25 event will include a dinner, a silent auction, a reception at the lighthouse and boathouse, special museum exhibits, at least half a dozen expert speakers and evening tours of the lighthouse.
“It is our intent to raise public consciousness about the sentinel that has protected our shores for years, and in the process, to preserve our cultural heritage by forming partnerships for the continued maintenance and preservation of the Umpqua River Lighthouse,” said Jim Akre, a member of Friends of Umpqua River Light and of the lighthouse advisory board to the county commissioners.
“Plans are well under way and we are seeking assistance on the days of the event, and ideas to make the event a better one — all with the mission of preserving the lighthouse and the lens where they are as operating navigational aids for the Umpqua River mariners,” said Friends member Joe Coyne.
The Douglas County Cultural Coalition awarded a $500 grant in late July to support the symposium.
Akre noted that seating will be on a first come, first served basis, but admission is free for the public to listen to the symposium speakers, who will speak for about 45 minutes, and answer questions for another 15 minutes. So far, he said, the lineup of speakers includes:
• Garner Chappell, director of the Douglas County Museum, will discuss county and lighthouse history.
• Bill Hannable, director of Northwest Heritage Consultants, will speak on the importance of historical heritage in Oregon.
• Don McMichael, marine artist will speak on the inspiration his tour of duty at Station Umpqua gave him to make a career of art.
• Dave Pinyerd, author of “Lighthouses and Life-Saving Stations on the Oregon Coast,” speaks on lighthouse history.
• Ned Reed, Oregon cartographer who charted shipwrecks up and down the Oregon Coast, will speak on the history of wrecks that cover the coastline.
• U.S. Coast Guard representatives will discuss the history of the USCG in Winchester Bay and on the Umpqua River.
While many elements of the 116th Birthday Celebra-tion and Symposium have already been arranged, more ideas and volunteers are still being welcomed.
The Friends have scheduled a symposium steering committee meeting at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 26, at the Reedsport Coffeehouse and Bistro. Anyone interested in working on this project is invited to attend, Coyne said.