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10/19/2011 - Barnegat Light May Operate "Old Barney"

BARNEGAT LIGHT — Though the Barnegat Lighthouse has stood as a beacon to sailors and beachgoers along the Jersey Shore for almost 150 years, the state’s fiscal constraints might force a local agency to take control of the park.

During the last two weeks, a variety of groups, including the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce and the Borough of Barnegat Light, have expressed an interest in operating the Barnegat Lighthouse State Park. The state Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Parks and Forestry runs the park now.

“We would love to see it stay as is,” said Kirk O. Larson, mayor of Barnegat Light. “But if there is a change, we would be more than willing to figure out a way to keep it and make sure it is left as is. We are preparing for what is going to happen.”

During a recent Borough Council meeting, the council adopted a resolution asking the department, the agency that now runs the park, to consider turning over its management to a local group. Officials said the group would include municipalities on Long Beach Island and a variety of different civic groups that include the Friends of Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, a volunteer group that helps raise funds for the continued operation of the park.

State officials are willing to listen to any idea of outsourcing the operation of the park, but they are not just going to off-load the park, said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the department.

“We are willing to entertain discussions about the management partnerships for the park that would help in stretching resources during this time,” he said. “But we would not be interested in giving the park away.”

Serena White, president of the Friends of Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, said if state officials asked them to take over the park, they would.

“We would if we were asked, but right now it’s too early in the process,” she said.

Barnegat Light’s interest in operating the park comes on the heels of representatives for the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce talking to state officials about the idea of running the park. 

“We had exploratory talks with them (state officials), but it was no more than that,” said Rick Reynolds, executive director of the chamber. “We want to keep in control locally rather than an outside vendor or management company coming in.”

According to the chambers’ plan, a fee would be charged for parking and entrance into the lighthouse. Reynolds said the fee would only be “a couple of dollars.’’ Currently, there is a $1 fee to enter the lighthouse during the summer.


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