A hoped-for soft opening may not happen this weekend, but by the time the Scallop and Music Festival rolls around in a couple of weeks the Cape San Blas Lighthouse should be ready for any intrepid climber.
Port St. Joe city manager Jim Anderson said Tuesday that efforts to open the lighthouse tower for climbers this weekend are likely to fall shy of the target.
Members of the St. Joseph Historical Society and city officials had been working to try for a “soft” opening this weekend in preparation for full readiness for the Sept. 12 Scallop and Music Festival.
However, securing a final sign-off from a structural engineer based out of Jacksonville has proved problematic due to distance and schedules.
The city has liability insurance in place and only an okay from the engineer is standing in the way of opening the tower.
“We are not sure we are going to get there (by Friday),” Anderson said. “But it is close.”
The tower survived the move from Cape San Blas to George Core Park with no issues and the city’s fire department has performed a kind of pressure clean of the tower, Anderson said.
The stairs have also been examined and appear sound, though the structural engineer must perform a final inspection before climbers are allowed.
“We are going to open it up when it is safe,” Anderson said.
Regardless, the plan is to have the tower open for the upcoming festival, which is centered at George Core Park.
The two keepers’ quarters and oil house are in surprisingly good shape, Anderson said.
The buildings had been unused and somewhat open to the elements for more than a year.
However, Anderson said there appear to be few structural issues and the primary work left is cosmetic – fresh paint and cleaning in particular.
“The potential is there for a really nice facility,” Anderson said.
Mayor Mel Magidson said a next step would be coordinating with the Historical Society on a fundraiser campaign to rehab the buildings to use.
The lighthouse gift shop, now located at the nearby Maddox House, was situated in one of the keepers’ quarters.
Charlotte Pierce said the Historical Society had the expertise for raising funds and performing the work.
In the prior decade the organization undertook the effort to secure state historical preservation grants and contract out the work to renovate one keepers’ quarter and the tower.
“We know what needs to be done,” Pierce said, “and we know how to go about it.”