Couple offer to jump-start lighthouse project


By Meg Olson

Darrel and Dorothy Sutton are passionate about having a real lighthouse at Lighthouse Marine Park, and willing to back up their dream with their money.

“We want to see that lighthouse built,” said Dorothy Sutton, a member of the Point Roberts Lighthouse Society.

The society has raised approximately $20,000 so far, and has commissioned a conceptual design and blueprints to build the lighthouse. HB Hansen gave the society a rough estimate of approximately $500,000 to build it.

With the community feeling donor fatigue after the vigorous library construction fund campaign, the Suttons have offered to put up the money. “Darrell and I will give it and if we get some of that back through future fundraising that would be nice, but we don’t want this to wait,” Sutton said. The U.S. Coast Guard has agreed to have the light currently on a metal tower moved into the proposed lighthouse.

Mark Robbins, treasurer and secretary for the society, said it is currently working with the county parks department under a draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) “… that basically says we’ll raise the funds and you’ll build it as a public works project.”

County parks director Michael McFarlane said the department is currently consulting with their legal staff to see if a less cumbersome alternative – the society would build the structure and gift it to county parks – would be feasible.

McFarlane was very cautious about the pace the project would take, and said when county parks commissioners were presented with the proposal for the project they came away with a lot of unanswered questions.

“They did not walk away with the idea this project was ready,” he said. “We don’t want a structure that would be a liability to the county,” so they want to ensure the ongoing maintenance of the structure is covered. The original MOU said a fund would be set up with the Whatcom Parks and Recreation Foundation.

The next step, McFarlane said, would be to set up a meeting and determine a plan for permitting. He added he hadn’t yet seen blueprints for the project and county planning and development services would need to determine their adequacy. “It’s headed in the right direction, it’s just very early in the process,” he said.

Sutton said with funding secure she hoped to “get some excitement going” and get the project moving quickly.

“We want to give you a lighthouse with a whale watching platform and you’re hesitant?” she asked.

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