The Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association and Toledo Lighthouse Society are offering a reward of $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of vandals who stole the dock, ramp and lift of the Toledo Lighthouse at some time between April 9 - 11.
The 4’ by 40’ aluminum ramp, which weighed 1,200 lbs., and the 8’ by 28’ dock, installed in October, 2008, allowed public access to the historic lighthouse. They remained in an elevated position throughout the winter.
The Romanesque, three-story lighthouse sits on a crib about five miles off shore from Maumee Bay State Park. The 4,000-square-foot structure, which stands 64’ high, is considered unique because it is made of buff brick and has a rolled edge steel roof. “It is the only lighthouse like it in the world,” said Sandy Bihn, president of the Toledo Lighthouse Society. Bihn has led the effort to restore the lighthouse, which was built on May 23, 1904.
“We have a really unique place here,” she said.
The lighthouse marks the Toledo shipping channel where the waters of Lake Erie meet the shallow waters of Maumee Bay.
On the afternoon of Thursday, April 9, the dock and ramp were still intact at the lighthouse. On Saturday, the dock, ramp and lift were gone, according to Bihn.
“The dock, ramp and lift were in very good condition and weathered the winter very well,” said Bihn. “I was worried that the ice would have done some damage, so from late March to April 9t, people who knew I was worried called me to say not to worry, that everything’s fine. Then all of a sudden, they called to say the ramp, dock and lift were gone. I was shocked. Then I went out to see the lighthouse with the Coast Guard. Sure enough, they were gone. The Coast Guard saw the items the Thursday before. They didn’t understand it, either. They thought maybe we had dismantled it for maintenance, which of course, we did not.”
The stolen items are substantial structures that took a very large boat and gear to dismantle, said Bihn.
The Toledo Lighthouse Society had planned to install security measures at the lighthouse before the thefts, said Bihn.
“It was in the budget for this year. It did not occur to me that anyone would take such a massive structure,” she said.
The items’ high grade aluminum, which can be converted into cash, may have prompted the thefts, said Bihn.
“Of they may have wanted to use the dock and ramp for their own use,” she said.
Marinas, yacht clubs, sports fisherman and boaters have joined in the effort to find those who are responsible, she said.
The items are valued at $40,000, which was paid for through a grant, festival proceeds and member contributions, said Bihn.
The Toledo Lighthouse Society is an all volunteer organization with nearly 400 members from across the country. Many worked hard to have the dock and ramp purchased and installed so that the public could get in to see the lighthouse as it is restored, according to Bihn
“We’re now working on finishing the infrastructure so we will actually have a project that is ready to go to bid, which would have professional design plans and specifications. Ultimately, we would like to have people stay in the lighthouse who would actually man it as keepers all summer for three or four days per week. It would maximize the number of people who could see it,” she said.
The theft is a setback to the ongoing million dollar restoration, said Bihn.
“Everyone was excited last fall because people could dock boats for easy entry to the lighthouse. It was everything we wanted it to be. Obviously, it’s not good now. The thefts will delay getting people into the lighthouse. We were hoping by the Toledo Lighthouse Festival on July 11 and 12 that we could do that,” she said.
Tax deductible donations to help with the reward and the dock can be made to any Fifth Third Bank. Just ask to make a deposit to the Toledo Lighthouse Society reward/dock benefit fund.
Information regarding the theft can be reported to the Lucas County Sheriff detective’s office at 419-213-4921.