ROCKLAND — The historic Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse is now back in the hands of the city of Rockland.

The lighthouse has been owned by the city since 1998 but it has leased the iconic building since 2001 to Friends of Rockland Harbor Lights, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation.

Mayor Ed Glaser said he was informed by the Friends group that it did not want to renew the lease, which expired last month.

Bob Trapani of the Friends group said after “accomplishing many great things over the past 20 years at Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, the Friends of Rockland Harbor Lights simply ran out of steam so to speak. The primary reason is the dedicated group of volunteers who gave so much in time and talents to the project aged-out. The effects of the pandemic these past two years played no small part in this decision too. A number of volunteers were just not comfortable yet in returning to pre-pandemic activities.

“Similar to all efforts in life like this type of project, we are stewards for a period of time — and then we must pass the baton to others to carry it forward. After two decades, the time has arrived for the Friends of Rockland Harbor Lights to pass the baton to others,” Trapani said.

“The group is honored to have played an important role in the preservation (investing nearly $300,000 in the historic site) of Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse — and being able to share with the public over the years,” he said.

Glaser said the city has had a Breakwater Lighthouse Advisory Committee but it has largely been inactive because the non-profit Friends group had done such a good job of operating the lighthouse. There have been no open houses during the past two seasons but prior to that, the building was often opened to the public on summer weekends.

The mayor is seeking additional volunteers to serve on the committee and then that panel will look at options. That could include seeking proposals from other non-profit organizations or the city, including the lighthouse under the auspices of the municipal harbor department.

The committee is to consist of the harbor master or a designee, the chair of the harbor management commission or designee, the president of the Rockland Port District or designee, and two citizens at large. Stephen Carroll is the one citizen at large on the committee.

The lighthouse was completed in September 1902 and the light itself was automated in 1965 and is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Samoset Resort maintained the building for years until 1989 when a nationwide program turned lights over to municipalities and organizations. Rockland accepted ownership in 1998.

The breakwater, an eight-tenths of a mile long path of granite locks, and the lighthouse are the number one tourist attraction in the city and draw locals out there throughout the warmer weather.

Rockland breakwater lighthouse Photo by Stephen Betts