Visitors to Presque Isle State Park may have noticed the construction project underway at the historic Presque Isle Lighthouse. Crews are renovating and putting on a big addition onto a 1970's era garage on the property, turning it into an operations center for the lighthouse.

Ticketing and an education area for lighthouse tours will move from the lighthouse, into the new operations center by next spring, along with the gift shop, offices, and a space for the organization's 100 volunteers.

The changes are coming in response to how busy the lighthouse has become.  Three years ago, it was still a home, occupied by a lightkeeper, or park staff.  Hours expanded to 7 days a week for the first time last summer. The lighthouse attracted  45-thousand-visitors, and more than 16-thousand climbed the tower, making things quite congested. 

According to Presque Isle Lighthouse Executive Director Michael Sullivan, the new operations center will help with traffic flow. "We really kind of had a log jam, if you will, at the light house, when you put that many people coming through the house itself, it’s not a large structure and the changes will spread people out," Sullivan said.  "We’ll have the flatscreen TV in the operations center, it’ll tell the history, the story of the lighthouse, so it’ll move people around."

The project is costing about $300,000.  When the operations center opens next year, that will clear the way for restoration of the 1872 lighthouse property itself.  Strategic planning is underway on that project right now.  Presque Isle Lighthouse board vice president Jack Watt said the expansion into a new operations center is needed.  "We certainly needed a little more permanent spot for volunteers, for our executive director, so that’s going to help a lot so that we can then concentrate on this building to get it back to where it was," Watt said.