CAMBRIDGE — Observant visitors to the Choptank River Lighthouse in Cambridge this season will note that the metal legs on the nine-year-old replica beacon look brand new again. That’s because the nonprofit Cambridge Lighthouse Foundation recently contracted with a top marine engineering firm to complete the welding, scraping, and re-coating necessary to return those legs and the rest of the understructure to near-pristine condition.
The project’s history dates back more than two years. In early 2019, commercial real estate and construction consultant Ed Colaprete of the Neck District in Dorchester Country volunteered his services to the Foundation, conducting a meticulous inspection of the Lighthouse with an eye toward identifying top-priority jobs that would help ensure the structure’s long-term health and viability.
Colaprete identified rust at the waterline of the undercarriage as the top such priority. While the level of rust was neither unusual nor unexpected for this type of structure in a marine environment, Colaprete emphasized that doing nothing about the situation could lead to very expensive problems down the road. Around the same time, the nonprofit that manages the Thomas Point Lighthouse near Annapolis was dealing with just such a problem, which necessitated the launch of a six-figure fundraising campaign. Lighthouse Foundation President Cassie Burton sought reached out to her colleagues at Thomas Point for advice.
“We are so grateful to both Ed Colaprete and Thomas Point — everyone we spoke with about this issue was incredibly generous with their time and expertise,” Burton said.
That research led the Lighthouse Foundation to Marine Solutions Inc., an engineering firm with six offices around the country, including one outside of Baltimore. That office works frequently on high-profile projects at the Port of Baltimore, as well as on bridges managed by the Maryland State Highway Administration.
In addition to scraping and re-coating, the job here in Cambridge involved underwater welding just below the waterline and the installation of oversized anodes to prevent future corrosion. In the estimation of Colaprete and Marine Solutions, the work will likely need to be done again in the future, perhaps every seven to 10 years.
The Choptank River Lighthouse is owned by the city of Cambridge, which handles many routine maintenance tasks in partnership with Oasis Marinas, the private firm that manages the Cambridge Yacht Basin for the city on a contractual basis. The Lighthouse Foundation tries to step up and contribute on maintenance issues relevant to a key part of its mission — the long-term viability of the structure as an icon and tourism draw for Cambridge and Dorchester County. The foundation and its volunteers manage the museum inside the lighthouse.
The foundation devoted much of its fundraising efforts over the past two years to a pair of ambitious preventive maintenance issues — the undercarriage project, and a resealing and repainting of the tender boat Miss Polly, which hangs off of the side of the Lighthouse. The Miss Polly project was completed in the spring by local craftspeople at Ruark Boatworks.
“When people ask me how the Foundation gets expensive projects like this done, I always tell them the same thing — that we’re just very lucky to be doing the work we do in such a generous community,” Burton said.
The Foundation’s next fundraising effort is the “Light Night” gala at the Cambridge Yacht Club on Saturday, Aug. 28. More information is available at LightNightCambridge.com.