Replacement of Protective Fencing at Historic Point Reyes Lighthouse
Contact: John Dell'Osso, 415-464-5135
A significant quantity of chain link fence replaced during the rehabilitation of the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse in 2002 is deteriorating structurally. This project will replace this failed fencing but will cause intermittent closure of the stairs to the public.
The fencing used was residential grade chain link which has not performed well in the severe marine environment found at the Lighthouse. The viewing areas are open to the public year-round, seven days a week. Superintendent Don Neubacher stated, "The Historic Point Reyes Lighthouse complex is a significant National Historic structure constructed in 1871 and was a prominent navigational aid until 1975. It is visited by over 300,000 people annually and is the westernmost point along the west coast of the United States. This critical project will provide a safety barrier between the visitors and the cliffs below. This funding could not come at a better time."
The stairway will be closed to visitor access during removal and replacement of the fencing along the stairway. This project is scheduled to begin the week of October 12 and last for approximately 4–6 weeks. The stairs will be open on weekends and holidays during this time. Winds at the site often exceed 35 mph; the recorded maximum wind speed was 133 mph. The trail is flanked by vertical cliffs dropping several hundred feet to the ocean and rocks below.
Access to and use of the stairway is essential for visitor activities at the Lighthouse. The deteriorated stairway barrier fencing that leads down to the Lighthouse is in need of repair and imposes a safety risk. The length of the stairs is 736 feet composed of 308 steps, equivalent to thirty stories. Due to deterioration of the barrier fencing and the failure of the post and anchors that support the handrail, the area has become unsafe for park visitors and employees. In addition, fence replacement and rehabilitation work is severely needed on the fence securing the lighthouse cistern, the lighthouse mechanism, and around the historic buildings.
The barrier chain link fence runs around an observation deck at the top of the concrete steps, a resting platform further down, along both sides of the descending steps and around the perimeter of the Lighthouse proper above sheer rocky cliffs.
The fence has been paramount in protecting the resources of the area, particularly the threatened and endangered lichen species trentepohlia, which clings to the rocky walls and cliffs.
The Point Reyes Lighthouse is one of the most significant cultural sites in the park and a favorite visitor destination. The Lighthouse and Lighthouse Visitor Center have an annual visitation in excess of 300,000 visitors. During the months of December through April, park visitors flock to the Lighthouse to observe gray whale migration, and during the months of January and February they come to observe the Northern Elephant Seal colony along the Point Reyes Headlands. Even though the whale migration is a major draw to the area, most park visitors plan their trip with the intent of seeing the historic Lighthouse. Visitor numbers often exceed the capacity of the site during whale watching season, making the need for stable, strong fencing of utmost importance for visitor and employee safety.