Rep. Cyndi Stevenson will try again to secure funding to preserve the St. Augustine Lighthouse tower.
Since 2017, the St. Augustine Republican has unsuccessfully pushed for the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars for preservation and repairs each session.
“It’s really important to St. Augustine, St. Johns County and Florida that we maintain this important historical resource,” Stevenson said.
And while the Legislature faces tighter budget constraints this Session, Stevenson remains hopeful the museum will see a cut.
The 165-foot lighthouse, now 145 years old, is a Smithsonian affiliate and accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Each year, 216,000 people visit the museum, operated by staff and 266 volunteers.
Half a million dollars every five or six years since 1980 go toward preserving the building. The nearly $485,000 in Stevenson’s bill (HB 4757), filed Wednesday, would go in part toward repainting the tower stairs and some metal restoration.
“The work is recommended to protect the public and to protect the oldest brick structure in St. Augustine,” according to the budget request.
Most years the museum pays for its own renovation and maintenance work, including the annual brick stair repainting, through donors and ticket revenue. Last year’s bill (HB 4029) would have covered the same work.
Funding would in part reimburse the museum for lost admissions revenue during the two to three weeks it would need to close. Those estimated losses total nearly $200,000, according to the budget proposal.
The museum website states that its mission is “to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port, as symbolized by our working St. Augustine Lighthouse.” The current lighthouse stands on the site of the state’s first, which was built in 1824.
In 2016, two casement windows were sucked out of the lighthouse when Hurricane Matthew struck St. Augustine and the Atlantic Coast. Less than a year later, Hurricane Irma struck the region.
Stevenson bid unsuccessfully to secure funding for permanent repairs at the lighthouse ahead of the 2018 Session.