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Guest Editorial / Capt. Chris German

Published 9:48 am, Sunday, June 23, 2013
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The pace is a little slower up here. The morning rush hour consists of a few puffs of diesel, the putting off of dock lines and the slap of wakes against the hull. Things aren't all that complicated on a quiet Maine Island. The silence could be maddening if not for the wail of the fog horn.

And when the throngs of I-95-scarred visitors come flocking up here in August, the locals will play their part for a few weeks for show and suffer the snarky comments about their rusty pickup truck, but for the rest of the year, they enjoy their monastic lifestyle in relative obscurity -- and they love it.

For us, the cellphone addicted, Mercedes-clad warriors who make our living wrapped in consumerism, thinking we are so advanced because we model our green lifestyles and traditional fashions after those we claim to tower over so fully, could learn a great deal from the Maine lobsterman.

The residents of Greater New York City now sit poised, ready to sell off some of our most historic and lovely public treasures, Connecticut's lighthouses, all because we are so enveloped in our own complicated lives.

Three Connecticut lighthouses, including the Saybrook Breakwater Light, a Connecticut icon displayed proudly as a message of environmentalism on the Connecticut state license plate, are slated to be sold to private interest because we can't find the funding to protect them for the public interest. If they are not put under the banner of a protective force definitively now, they will be sold or worse yet forgotten for another half decade.

These Long Island Sound icons have set upon the sea for generations, often unknown and unheralded because of their remoteness, and certainly forgotten because of their cost. Congressional leaders, ever hopeful to save a buck while spending a fortune, have found ways to do only the minimum to comply, while cutting the hell out of the heart of the thing for decades. The rot and degradation to these structures is left as testament.

The lights have been up for transference, sold off, claimed back and auctioned off again so many times that the deed for them is 75 pages long. But every time they change hands, something comes up, and nothing happens for the lights. Residents stand up and complain, state and federal political leaders pass emergency bills, the gnashing of teeth, law suits and check books reaches a fever pitch and once again the lights pass through yet another season without care, without remembrance and without benefit.

But up here in Maine, where the water is cold and the men are colder, where lobster is still king and a person is judged by the sweat of their brow and the holes in their sweater, they have figured out a way to save their lights. They did it by working together with private interests balanced with public benefit. Not always without difficulty, but when all is said and done, the lights remain. Goose Rock Light is an example of that success -- glowing all night, standing guard all day, while being preserved and saved for the ages.

The lights of Long Island Sound protect untold billions in wealth along Connecticut's Gold Coast and light the way for ships of commerce to make their way to the city that never sleeps. The lights never sleep either, standing guard all the while, but for some reason, we can't manage to keep them painted and protected.

At Connecticut Community Boating, we have a plan that will use what we learn at Goose Rocks here in Maine this summer to affect a positive outcome for the lighthouses of Connecticut. By creating the Connecticut Light House Service, we will balance private interest with public benefit and save these structures for the public for years to come. We have the know-how, the vessels and the organization to do it, but we need the will and the support of the public to do it. We're working to learn new ways to prevent the stalled progress of Connecticut's Lights using the success they have seen at Goose Rock in Maine so that we might save their Connecticut counterparts.

Wake up Connecticut and New York, we're losing a national treasure because of neglect. And every day we fight to wake the hearts and minds of the people of Long Island Sound so that they might help us save the Lights, we get one day closer to seeing the Lights sold off or worse yet, forgotten. It's time we work together to save the Light Houses of Connecticut for all time. So that they may once again, serve mariner and the community and protect the shores of Long Island Sound for all time. Please help us. Thank you.

Capt. Chris German is the CEO and founder of Connecticut Community Boating, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting and protecting Long Island Sound through boating and sailing. He is working with Goose Rock's Light House preservationist Dr. Casey Jordan in North Haven, Maine, this summer so that he might develop his plan to save Penfield Reef, Saybrook Breakwater and New London Ledge Light as they go up for sale this summer through the U.S. Government Surplus Administration.