Through the COVID-19 pandemic that saw the temporary closure of the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, keepers of the New Dungeness Lighthouse have kept the Sequim landmark fully staffed and maintained.
The efforts maintain a tradition that started in 1994 when local volunteers formed the nonprofit New Dungeness Light Station Association to preserve and protect the lighthouse and surrounding light station area by having “keepers” on watch at the station 24 hours a day, each day of the year.
Greg MacDonald, president of the New Dungeness Light Station Association, said that at the beginning of the pandemic several keepers were forced to cancel because of travel restrictions and other closures. The gap was filled by other volunteers who, on short notice, were able to fill in — one coming from as far away as New York.
After all buildings were initially closed, keepers agreed to keep the restrooms open with repetitive cleaning.
And while the museum and light tower remain closed to the public, association members say that didn’t keep scheduled maintenance projects from getting completed this year. Earlier this summer, a small work party poured a 1,500-pound base to support the new addition of a 1936 Coast Guard Fog Bell at the entrance to the light station. A week later, volunteers carted the 1,200-pound bell out and installed it.
Recently another work party of 10 volunteers spent the week replacing plumbing and electrical fixtures, doing annual maintenance on the irrigation system and emergency generator, building a landscape structure for the Fog Bell, and scraping and painting buildings and fences.
Additionally, all new interpretive panels were installed in the museum, which will reopen just as soon as Clallam County enters Phase 3 of the COVID-19 protocols, MacDonald said.
Last month, Wind Rose Cellars unveiled the third edition of “The Keeper,” a special edition wine that sees a portion of proceeds of support the NDLSA. The new label features a photo by Dr. Kip Tulin and was designed by volunteer NDLSA member Jim McCauley from InsideOut Design.
The projects were made possible by the support of volunteers and several grants that helped the NDLSA offset losses from keeper cancellations early in the pandemic.
Association members, MacDonald said, appreciate assistance of a number of local organizations, including: the Sequim Lodging and Tourism Advisory Committee; Clallam County Lodging and Tourism Advisory Committee; Humanities Washington; U.S. Lighthouse Society, and the Clallam County Heritage Grant Program.
“Without their support it would not have been possible to continue our regular maintenance schedule,” MacDonald said.
The New Dungeness Light Station Association hosts its annual meeting online this year, with updates on the organization’s budget, maintenance project updates, COVID-19 issues and more. The Zoom meeting will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17; get the link at www.newdungenesslighthouse.com.