BARNEGAT LIGHT – Anyone with plans to trudge up 217 steps to capture views from inside the top of Old Barney will need to wait until October.
At Barnegat Lighthouse State Park a week ago, a couple of moms appeared very disappointed that they could not keep a promise to their small children off on spring break.
“The lighthouse is being fixed right now,” said one of the mothers to her kindergarten son. “We’ll come back as soon as it’s done and race to the top.”
As the youngster stomped his feet in disappointment, the mom suggested it wasn’t a good time to interview him or take his photograph.
The project can’t be finished quickly enough for the multitudes of visitors who will soon descend upon Long Beach Island with plans for their annual ascension to the top of the lighthouse. Despite recent announcements that the structure is closed for repairs, many won’t know they need to change plans.
Workers shrouded the exterior of the iconic lighthouse in scaffolding weeks ago in preparation for the series of renovations. The area surrounding the Barnegat Lighthouse remains fenced off approximately fifty feet around the structure.
When the lighthouse is open, visitors typically take a left turn after they enter the park to get in close proximity to the faded red and white building. Then, with that area cordoned off, people head right to the walkway that overlooks the inlet. Large dark boulders complement the landscape and sandy beach.
The spiral metal staircase inside Old Barney leads to the very top and allows visitors to pinpoint other area locations on the Barnegat Bay. Even without the benefit of taking in sights from the lighthouse beacon, it’s possible to see Island State Beach Park in the distance.
Boats pass by the state park, and the United States Coast Guard monitors the Barnegat Bay waterways.
Fantastic views of Old Barney itself can also be found from both the Barnegat Bay Beach and docks, as well as Waretown’s Bryant Road Park.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection announced in a press release that the state allocated $1.3 million for the estimated seven-month restoration project. Funding for the improvements comes from the Corporate Business Tax.
“For 165 years, the Barnegat Lighthouse has stood as an important beacon to sailors, ships, and Jersey shore visitors,” DEP Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette said. “This critical restorative work will ensure that the historic lighthouse remains a bright and welcoming landmark for future generations.”
Most of the work scheduled for repair focuses on the lighthouse’s exterior, located on the very north side of Long Beach Island. Last week, two men positioned themselves at least 100 feet high on the scaffolding to begin the project’s initial phase.
Spartan Construction General Contracting, Inc. of South Amboy was awarded the contract to perform masonry recoating and repairs to the brick façade. The contractor will also work on the interior lantern steel platform repairs and install new windows.
A non-profit organization formed in 2007 named the Friends of Barnegat Lighthouse State Park plans to literally add further illumination with respect to the renovations. And – this isn’t the first time the group has come together for the structure.
In addition to new security fencing, the non-profit intends to once again donate a new beacon light to the lighthouse, affectionately known as Old Barney.
For decades after World War II, the Barnegat Lighthouse was dark. As part of a restoration project in 2009, the Friends of Barnegat Lighthouse raised funds to provide a beacon that relit the structure after so many years.
The relighting of Old Barney occurred on the 150th anniversary of its opening in 1859. Reportedly, thousands of people huddled together in the cold weather to see the magnificent structure relit for the first time this century on January 1, 2009.
According to the State of New Jersey, the light erected in 2009 can be seen as far away as 22 nautical miles when the beacon is in operation.
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park remains open for fishing and trail walks.