Over the past seven years the Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse have worked extremely hard to preserve the 1871 Pomham Rocks Lighthouse located in the upper reaches of Narragansett Bay.
This grand beacon has seen its exterior restored to former luster, and a new docking system established at the island over which it presides. In addition, volunteers have been dedicated to keeping the landscape in pristine shape while spending untold hours ‘bringing their offshore lighthouse to land” through a variety of educational and community outreach efforts.
Raising the profile of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse through physical site improvements and public awareness initiatives are wonderful achievements, but such success also spawns an increased curiosity for the light station’s allure.
Long concerned about safeguarding the island and the historic structures that grace the grounds of this magical place, the Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse (FPRL), a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, have been busy planning to address the inherent challenges with keeping a watchful eye on the offshore site.
To this end, FPHL took another step forward with their stewardship of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse by completing a project in mid-March 2012, which is a vital part of a multi-phase plan to enhance security at the island.
The project entailed installing solar panels atop the oil house roof at the site and a battery bank system inside the building as part of an effort to provide electrical power for present and future security measures.
Though not a huge project from a scope of work standpoint, the effort did prove challenging from a compliance and logistical aspect. For no project – big or small, just happens. This is especially true on at offshore sites like Pomham Rocks Lighthouse.
“We could not have installed the solar system without having many facets come to together at the same time,” said David Kelleher, chairman of the Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse. “FPRL worked with both theRhode Island’s Coastal Resource Management Council and City ofEast Providenceto obtain the necessary permits for the project, while also obtaining approvals from the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission and ALF before moving ahead with things.”
But the planning work didn’t stop there. FPRL volunteer Joe Estrella, who helped spearhead the solar project for the chapter, proved tireless in his efforts to research the best company for the system’s installation. Once FPRL settled on Hamilton Ferris Company of Bourne, MA, as the contractor of choice, Estrella then worked with the firm to provide roof measurements and photographic documentation, all of which required making a number of trips to the island.
As David Kelleher pointed out, Joe Estrella’s thorough planning work “allowed the Ferris Company to prepare the project materials beforehand, which enabled the installation process to go very smoothly.”
Prior and during the solar system installation, the group effort by the FPRL volunteers proved invaluable. It is one thing to successfully install such a system, but before that can occur at an offshore lighthouse, much in the way work must be carried out to ensure boat transportation is ready and reliable.
To this end, volunteers like Rob Charbonneau and Nate Wroblinski, as well as Estrella and Kelleher, came up big. The early start to the work season meant that the Pomham Rocks’ boats had to be made ship-shape a bit sooner, with engines firing on all cylinders and all of the prudent boating and safety elements in place.
“Getting our two boats ready for the project was no simple task,” said Kelleher. “FPRL needed to purchase a number of new items to ensure we could continue to maintain compliance with our Coast Guard boating certifications. We then tackled the logistical aspects by making arrangements to transport members of the Ferris Company, and all of their work materials, to the island.”
In the end, thanks to the dedication and planning on the part of FPRL volunteers, and the expertise and professionalism of the Ferris Company, the solar project was completed like clockwork.
“We had been concerned for a long time about the security of the island, and even more so of late since the dock improvements have been made,” said David Kelleher. “Having electricity at the site now will allow us to install lighting in and around the property, including motion detectors. Our next step is to further research viable options for security cameras.”
The exciting news for both local East Providence residents and lighthouse preservationists at large is the fact that the new enhanced security measures at the island will help better safeguard Pomham Rocks Lighthouse – and for that, we can all celebrate another ‘win’ for lighthouse preservation!