G.N. Historical Society boat tours to give history of waters

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Great Neck Historical Society president Alice Kasten said the society has always looked for ways to better educate the community on the places of interest surrounding the Stepping Stones Lighthouse.

The  society’s newest idea, Kasten said, is to take people on a boat tour around the lighthouse.

“The truth is that the lighthouse is in the center of a huge amount of history,” she said. “There are islands all around and other things all around that people don’t know about and they should be made aware of.”

On July 10 and Aug. 21, the historical society will be hosting “Circle of History” boat tours to the areas surrounding the Stepping Stones Lighthouse.

Kasten said there would be two tours each day, one beginning at 1 p.m. and the other starting at 2:30 p.m.

She said the boat tours would be  narrated by a guide and will show passengers historically significant areas such as the lighthouse itself, Hart Island, City Island, the Merchant Marine Academy, the various bridges in the area and more.

“We thought this would be a good thing to do and a good thing so that people who were interested in the area can realize there is more to it,” Kasten said.

She said the  society would like to take passengers to the lighthouse itself, but because it is in disrepair and unsafe, the group can only bring people close to the structure.

The lighthouse was built in 1877 and was updated in 1944.

The Town of North Hempstead acquired ownership of the lighthouse, which sits about 1,600 yards off the shore of Kings Point, from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2008 as part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, agreeing to submit yearly reports to the National Park Service on “any capital improvements to preserve and restore the structure within its historical accuracy.”

In April, Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth announced that the town was awarded a $165,000 National Park Service grant for the restoration of the Stepping Stones Lighthouse.

Town officials have said problems with the building include the outward shifting of the base’s foundation blocks and a crack in the basement floor leading to open water.

Additionally, the brick and granite on the top of the northern side of the lighthouse are leaning outward and roof damage caused by deteriorating gutters has affected the structure significantly.

Kasten said proceeds from the boat tours will go towards matching the park service grant.

She said the society will use Port Washington Water Taxi boats for the tours, which hold up to 30 passengers including the tour guide.

Tickets cost $50 per passenger to go on the boat tour and $40 for Great Neck Historical Society members.

Those interested in going on the  tour can purchase tickets by calling the Great Neck House at 482-0355 or going to its location at 14 Arrandale Ave.

While tickets are almost sold out, Kasten said the historical society is looking at adding a third day to the boat tours if there is enough interest.

She said that to add a third day the  society would need to find more sponsors due to the costs of operating a boat.

Currently, Kasten said, the boat tours have received funds from AvalonBay Communities, First Capital Equities, Stepping Stone Sailing Club and Port Washington Yacht Club.

She said the tours were open to people across the town, not just those from Great Neck.

“The lighthouse belongs to all of us in the town,” Kasten said. “The ride stresses the history of the whole area around the lighthouse and we’d love to have the community support.”

She said that she hopes the immediate interest the historical society has gotten for the boat tours can lead to a continuation of the program in the future.

“We love that people are so interested,” Kasten said. “I’m sure we will do it again next year with different sites.”

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