CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg told a group of eighth graders Wednesday their efforts to restore the state’s only offshore lighthouse off the coast of Portsmouth have paid off.

“These students decided the lighthouse, which was falling into disrepair, needed fund-raising support,” Gregg said. “It came to our attention in Washington due to their efforts … and we were able to put in the appropriations bill that was signed by the president in January.

“It just shows what you can get done when you’ve got a bunch of folks that get into an issue, no matter what their age,” Gregg said. “It’s going to benefit the people of New Hampshire and the whole seaport area.”

Gregg, R-N.H., said the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to spend $250,000 to restore the White Island lighthouse.

The pupils are part of a North Hampton elementary school service group called Lighthouse Kids, which has been trying to raise public awareness of the problem and raise money for three years.

Four of the pupils took part in a telephone conference from Washington D.C., where they were visiting with Gregg.

Dylan Leavitt, 14, said she was excited when she first joined the Lighthouse Kids, but skeptical that their efforts would succeed.

“When I joined I put my best effort into raising awareness about this piece of history … and it actually worked,” she said. “We have had so many people that supported us and it’s amazing … I’m very pleased.”

White Island is one of the nine Isles of Shoals. The lighthouse was built in 1859 and has suffered damage in recent years from harsh weather and erosion.

North Hampton teacher Sue Reynolds said she started the service program after finding out about the lighthouse as a boat captain in Rye Harbor.

“I guess when it first started I didn’t know if it was something the kids could do or not. I thought at least it could raise a little awareness,” Reynolds said. “It took part luck and part perseverance for the kids to succeed.”

Sky Hooper, 14, said when the group visited the island on separate occasions it noticed the cracks in the structure were widening.

“We saw that there were big chunks of the lighthouse missing, and around the window it was really disgusting and all rusted and beaten up,” Hooper said.

The lighthouse, which is listed on the national registrar of historic places, guided boats during both world wars and was home to New Hampshire author and poet Celia Thaxter.

Thaxter, who grew up on the island in the mid-1800s, once wrote: “It was at sunset in autumn that we were set ashore on that loneliest, lovely rock, where the lighthouse looked down on us like some tall, black-capped giant, and filled me with awe and wonder.”

Gregg was involved with the lighthouse when he was governor and helped it change hands from the Coast Guard to the state Parks and Recreation Division in 1993. He said he did not know it was in disrepair until the pupils brought it to his attention.

Torene Tango-Lowy, recreational resource specialist for the division, said they hope to get a consultant this summer and to begin restoration next spring.

AP-ES-04-30-03 1714EDT

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