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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 24, 2004

Contact: Elaine Makatura
(609) 292-2994
Dana Loschiavo
(609) 984-1423

DEP UNVEILS NEW EXHIBITS AT BARNEGAT LIGHTHOUSE STATE PARK

(04/107) BARNEGAT LIGHT-- Illuminating the story of one of New Jersey's best known landmarks, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today unveiled a brand new exhibition featuring the Barnegat Lighthouse at the recently renovated Interpretive Center at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park.

"The Barnegat Lighthouse shines its beacon on New Jersey's maritime history," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "The new exhibits will showcase the significance of the lighthouse for more than 100,000 visitors each year. This landmark is one of the many treasures that make the coast a premier destination."

The new exhibition chronicles the rich history of the Barnegat Lighthouse and its continuous struggle with the encroaching sea. The exhibit also explores lighthouse technology and the relationship between the people, the lighthouse and the natural resources of the Barnegat Bay.

Once used as a shower facility for visitors, the building was adaptively renovated when the changing shoreline no longer accommodated swimming at the park. The building has undergone a complete transformation from a shower facility to a bright, attractive Interpretive Center - complete with exhibits and classroom space for educational programs for the public.

The renovation of the Interpretive Center was accomplished largely through the cooperative efforts of the DEP's Division of Parks and Forestry project managers, superintendents, maintenance and interpretive personnel.

Last summer the DEP completed a $500,000 restoration of the Barnegat Lighthouse that included the repainting of the historic tower and other minor restorations.

Future plans for the exhibit space include a scale model of the lighthouse keepers' quarters, and a working model of Barnegat Lighthouse's Fresnel lens.

The site of Barnegat Lighthouse on the northern tip of Long Beach Island in Ocean County was regarded as one of the most crucial "change of course" points for coastal vessels. Vessels bound to and from New York along the New Jersey coastline depended on Barnegat Lighthouse to avoid the shoals extending from the shoreline. The swift currents, shifting sandbars and offshore shoals challenged the skills of even the most experienced sailor.

In 1927, Barnegat Lighthouse and surrounding land were transferred to the State of New Jersey and the lighthouse was decommissioned. The U.S. Lighthouse Service reserved the right to maintain a light for navigation. During World War II, the lighthouse was used as a lookout tower for enemy ships by the U.S. Coast Guard. In January 1944, it was taken out of service. The site was returned to New Jersey in 1946 and five years later it was designated a state park.

In addition to the lighthouse, the panoramic views and public recreational access along the inlet, Barnegat Lighthouse State Park contains one of the last remnants of maritime forest in New Jersey. The forest, which is dominated by black cherry, eastern red cedar and American holly, is an important resting and feeding area for migratory birds on their long journey to and from their breeding sites. A short self-guided trail leads visitors through the forest.

The Interpretive Center and exhibits will be open on weekends through the end of October, and will reopen again in the spring. Daily visiting hours at the lighthouse are Memorial Day through Labor Day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The spring and fall hours for the lighthouse are 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.


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