Coast Guard May Replace Century-Old Lighthouse Lens In Door County

Plum Island Lighthouse Will Undergo Lens Change For Aesthetic, Navigational Purposes

Plum Island and its lighthouse, off the tip of Door County. Photo: Dan (CC-BY-NC-ND).

The U.S. Coast Guard is planning to replace a lighthouse lens that’s more than 100 years old in Door County.

The Coast Guard Plum Island runs the automated lighthouse located on the uninhabited Plum Island, which lies off the tip of Door County. The light house, which is still used for navigational purposes, currently has what is believed to be a 19th-century Fresnel glass lens.

The lens change is reportedly being done for aesthetical and practical purposes. Wayne Kean, a Coast Guard civil engineer, said that exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can degrade old glass lenses. Years ago, lighthouse keepers would have covered and protected the lenses during the daytime.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“They’re beautiful, they’re fragile and … quite frankly, we don’t have the expertise to maintain them anymore,” said Kean.

The Coast Guard is taking public comments on the replacement of the lens. The plan is to take it out and donate it to a local historical museum — such as one on Washington Island — where the public can visit it. The comment period is open until Oct. 8.

If and when the lens is replaced, it will be with a light-emitting diode. Kean said LEDs emit a brighter light than the “glow” of the old Fresnel.

“On the positive side, sometimes the navigational lights are obviously obscured by fog, haze and dust which makes it a little more difficult to see,” said Kean. “So we’ve had some mariners that actually have given us positive feedback, that say, ‘Hey, we’re glad to see the LED lights are installed because now we can see them more easily through these obscured conditions’”

The Coast Guard is also planning to replace two Fresnel lenses in lighthouses in Michigan.

Related Stories