Local conservation crew works on lighthouse

Sean Brownell, a member of the Great Lakes Conservation Corps, works to restore the Peninsula Point Lighthouse. He and other GLCC members took part in the project last week. (Photo courtesy of the Superior Watershed Partnership)

RAPID RIVER — Conservation work can involve a little — or a lot — of scraping and painting.

The Superior Watershed Partnership’s Great Lakes Conservation Corps is partnering with the Hiawatha National Forest and HistoriCorps to work on much needed historic renovations of the Peninsula Point Lighthouse.

Members of the GLCC were at the Stonington Peninsula last week to perform that type of renovation at the lighthouse, which sits at the tip of the peninsula along the shores of Lake Michigan in Delta County.

The lighthouse was constructed in 1865 and in 1937 was granted custodianship by the U.S. Forest Service.

A popular destination for tourists, anglers, bird watchers and monarch enthusiasts, the lighthouse was in need of upgrades. The GLCC, along with volunteers and HNF staff, worked to restore and refresh interior paint, and replace deteriorated brick masonry of the lighthouse structure.

Peninsula Point, Peninsula Point Lighthouse.jpgThe Superior Watershed Partnership’s Great Lakes Conservation Corps has partnered with the Hiawatha National Forest and HistoriCorps to work on the historic renovation of the Peninsula Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse is located at the tip of the Stonington Peninsula. (Photo courtesy of the Superior Watershed Partnership)

GLCC Program Director Emily Leach talked about the crew’s renovation work, which they performed with HistoriCorps, the USFS and other volunteers.

“It hasn’t received much attention recently,” Leach said.

The lighthouse, though, got a lot of attention attention last week, mostly through painting.

“I think that was probably 75 percent of the work,” Leach said.

The rest of the work involved masonry.

Ingrid Lindquist and Sean Brownell, members of the Great Lakes Conservation Corps, work to restore the Peninsula Point Lighthouse. Lindquist, Brownell and other GLCC members took part in the project last week. (Photo courtesy of the Superior Watershed Partnership)

“The whole outside is brick, so they put up scaffolding and fixed some spots that were crumbling apart,” Leach said.

Although she noted some things probably still need attention, the project basically has been wrapped up.

The GLCC’s work at Peninsula Point was made possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, which was for nature tourism in Marquette, Alger and Delta counties, Leach said.

The GLCC also partners with the HNF at Peninsula Point and other sites on the Stonington Peninsula for monarch butterfly habitat restoration. Peninsula Point has interpretive trails and monarch habitat openings that the GLCC has helped to maintain through native pollinator planting, invasive species removal and more over the last few years.

Late summer to early fall, visitors can see thousands of monarchs migrating through the Great Lakes region.

Peninsula Point is a good spot to observe the migration since it’s located 19 miles south of U.S. 2 and near Lake Michigan.

According to MonarchNet, Peninsula Point has been surveyed each day from Sept. 1 through Oct. 30 since 1996. The census involves an early morning roost count near the lighthouse followed by two walking censuses daily along the nature trail around the peninsula.

Peninsula Point acts as a funnel for monarchs as they migrate, providing a good opportunity to estimate migratory populations from the north in the fall.

In fact, the entire Stonington Peninsula is a huge birding and monarch viewing spot, Leach said.

Monarch watchers, though, might have noticed the large plethora of monarchs that have been seen in Marquette this summer.

That hasn’t always been the case.

The SWP’s website,, reads in part: “Research suggests the population of monarch butterflies in the eastern U.S. has declined by 90 percent — a figure so staggering that one researcher commented: ‘in human terms it would be like losing every living person in the U.S. except those in Florida and Ohio.’ The decrease, many scientists believe, is due to threats experienced on the butterflies’ migration.”

When they start their journey each year, monarchs rely on specific plants for food and reproduction, particularly common milkweed — a native plant that is valuable to butterflies, wasps and bees, but is of little use to farmers, who use herbicides to keep it in check.

While en route to their wintering grounds, scientists also believe monarchs are facing more extreme weather conditions including higher-than-normal temperatures and storms, according the SWP. The current global collapse in monarch populations has reinforced the meaning and importance of efforts like the SWP/HNF collaborative monarch restoration project, most of which has taken place on the Stonington Peninsula.

Beginning in 2016, an expansion group of the GLCC called the Climate Conservation Corps began a project in which milkweed as well as other wildflowers were planted to enhance the path along U.S. 41 near the Michigan Welcome Center in Harvey to the mouth of the Carp River in Marquette. The path encompasses three overlapping trails: the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, the North Country Trail and the Iron Belle Trail.

The goal was to enhance and restore the diversity and abundance of important coastal stopover habitat used by migratory bird species and the monarch butterfly.

The recent proliferation of monarchs, though, could be due to weather.

“I think because it’s been so dry that there hasn’t been as much damage due to parasites or mold,” Leach said.

However, she said the SWP would like to take a little bit of credit for the monarch infusion with its involvement in various projects such as seed orchards and a local seed distribution undertaking.

“We had the big initiative where we gave out over a million milkweed seeds,” Leach said.

Those seeds, it is hoped, will grow into more host plants for monarch caterpillars that in turn will morph into butterflies.

The GLCC’s work, at least with historic restoration in the Upper Peninsula, isn’t finished.

Leach said the GLCC will partner with the HistoriCorps in September to perform restoration work on the Nesbit Lake Camp Cabins in the Ottawa National Forest.

The Peninsula Point Lighthouse renovation work might not attract any more butterflies, but Leach believes the project has a greater meaning.

“It’s such a good opportunity for the crews to be involved in the community and really see where the work is getting done and have people be involved and active,” Leach said.

Ingrid Lindquist was one of the GLCC crew members involved in the lighthouse project along with crew leader Camila Dul, Sean Brownell and Cullen Bothwell.

“I just felt really great helping restore part of the U.P.’s history and making it so more people will be able to visit it for a longer time in the future,” Lindquist said.

She also believes the project will make it easier for people to watch the butterflies.

“It’s a good viewing spot for the monarchs, so they’ll be able to go up there and enjoy it with their family, their friends,” Lindquist said. “It was just really cool to just learn how to do that and what historic restoration is all about.”