News Story

Benzie County Nonprofit Gets $5.2M In State Funds For Shoreline Project

Point Betsie Lighthouse in Benzie County received $5.2 million in what is known as an “enhancement grant” from the recently passed state budget.

Benzie County owns the lighthouse and related buildings. It has relied on a nonprofit, called the Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse, to restore, preserve, and maintain the lighthouse and open the grounds to the public. The nonprofit runs a gift shop, conducts tours and offers overnight rentals, but taxpayer funds are a significant part of its income.

Total revenue for the nonprofit was $244,000 in 2017. The figure was $206,000 in 2019 and $1.3 million in 2019. In an email, the nonprofit states that the recent $5.2 million distribution from state taxpayers will be used for its shoreline protection project. Early estimates, it says, show that the project could cost between $6 million to $10 million.

The Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse note “the scope of this project is outside the general expectation of what can be accomplished through a private donor base.”

The organization has made significant renovations to the lighthouse and its grounds since 2004. Funding sources include a “Save America’s Treasures” award from the federal government, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and private donors, according to the website.

Several lighthouses in the Midwest, including those located on the Great Lakes, have been purchased and renovated, with total costs ranging from $1.1 million to $1.9 million, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Point Betsie Lighthouse’s past major renovations include the exterior and two significant storage buildings, completed in 2006. New utility components were installed, the interior walls and floors have been restored and the tower and lantern renewed. The Victorian staircase has also been restored and new radiators were installed, funded with donations. Donors have contributed vintage furnishings, and the first-floor exhibition area is now accessible through an electric lift.

The interior and exterior of the tower structure had a major overhaul that involved sandblasting, power scraping, and painting. The fog signal building was completely renovated. A new boathouse was completed in 2014, which includes a gift shop, an exhibit room and indoor restrooms.

Point Betsie Lighthouse was built in 1858 as a beacon for a major shipping channel on Lake Michigan. The shipping lane is no longer used by commercial vessels, according to the state of Michigan. With GPS and modern technology, many lighthouses are no longer as crucial to the safety of ships as they once were.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.