Visitors explore Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland during Maine Open Lighthouse Day on Saturday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

SOUTH PORTLAND — Becky Armstrong, who lives full time in an RV and hails from Florida, drove from Washington, D.C., to see a Maine lighthouse on Saturday.

Her tour on Maine Open Lighthouse Day wasn’t the easiest.

Like hundreds of others, she entered the breakwater greeted by a “Caution: Hazardous Footing” sign. The breakwater, made up of huge granite boulders, leads to the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.

Visitors walked, jumped or carefully stepped over 875 feet of boulders to get to the lighthouse.

“It was terrifying!” Armstrong said with a laugh. But she said she soon got used to jumping from rock to rock. “The rocks are stable.”

Once near the lighthouse, she and others stood in line for a turn climbing up a ladder and into the lighthouse built in 1897. Nearby were volunteer greeters and Coast Guard officers. Visitors were rewarded with the chance to explore the keeper’s quarters, learn nautical history and take in beautiful views of Casco Bay while boats sailed by.


The effort was worth it, said Armstrong and others.

Kayla MacLean, of South Portland, climbs a ladder inside Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse on Saturday. Once a year, the public can view the beacon from the inside. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Saturday was the annual Maine Open Lighthouse Day, sponsored by the Coast Guard, the Maine Office of Tourism and the American Lighthouse Foundation. The day attracts between 15,000 and 18,000 visitors each year.

Maine is home to 66 lighthouses, and not all are open to the public. The most famous lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth’s Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park, is limited to 300 visitors on Lighthouse Day, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Saturday was the first time Linda Gouzie, of Gorham, climbed up and into the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.

“I never would have done it without help from my sister. She helped me across the rocks,” Gouzie said, standing next to her sister, Jeanne Holivan, also of Gorham.

Holivan was exuberant after going through the lighthouse. “It was great,” she said. “I love all lighthouses.” It’s fun, she said, to have the opportunity to go inside iconic structures that are usually seen at a distance.


She’s a fan of Fort Williams and once was able to climb up the stairs inside the Portland Head Light. “That was our dream. We got up there. Now I want to see all the lighthouses,” Holivan said.

The Spring Point lighthouse, near the campus of Southern Maine Community College, is unique. The Coast Guard maintains the light and fog signal, while the structure is maintained and owned by the Spring Point Ledge Light Trust, said trust chairman Art Greene.

“We’re straight out,” Greene said Saturday. “We have three Coast Guard helpers with us. We need them. Our volunteer base is really stretched. We’re using every one of them,” he said, adding that there were a lot of visitors Saturday. “We love it. People are here from all over the world.”

Visitors take in the sights at Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, which features an 875-foot-long breakwater, on Saturday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Lighthouses are important to Maine tourism and the state’s nautical heritage. The Spring Point beacon “is the only lighthouse of this style,” Greene said. Walking out to it can be a challenge, he said, because you’re “going across 3- to 5-ton blocks of granite. There are spaces between them. And the more storms we have, the bigger spaces we have. The ocean is moving the blocks.”

The Spring Point Ledge Light Trust relies on volunteers and donations to preserve the structure. Both donations and volunteers are needed, Greene said.

When asked if lighthouses are still important to navigation now that we have satellites and GPS, Greene said: “Well, GPS will tell you where you think you are. A lighthouse tells you where you are.”

Watching visitors climb into the lighthouse, Coast Guard Petty Officer Chris Lakin agreed that lighthouses, especially Spring Point, are critical to safe navigation. The lighthouse and breakwater protect boats from ramming into an underwater ledge.

“Boats coming into the Portland harbor first see the Portland Head Light,” Lakin said. After that, without the Spring Point beacon, the ledge would be dangerous to boats. In the late 19th century, the underwater ridge was the cause of many shipwrecks. “Boats used to hit it all the time,” he said. “That’s why they put a breakwall in.”

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