NEW ORLEANS - The new Canal Lighthouse is taking shape. It's raised 18 feet now, but three of the four stories are in place, the outer walls are being painted white, the red roof is about to be added, and the historic green shutters that were part of the original lighthouse are ready to be installed.
"It's an amazing feeling, an amazing feeling," smiled Dr. John Lopez, Executive Director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. as he stood on the raised first floor gallery.
The Katrina and Rita hurricane storm surges smashed the lighthouse that had stood on the lakefront since 1890. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation salvaged as much as possible, and then began raising funds to rebuild it.
"On August 29, we're going to for the first time re-light the light that was extinguished seven years ago in Hurricane Katrina," grinned Lopez.
Nearly $800,000 in donations have made it possible to rebuild the lighthouse. But they won't be able to open it to the public until they finish that rocky, muddy patch. They have to finish it, turn it into public access, so they're making one last fund raising push.
"Basically we're looking for an additional $300-350,000 to complete the grounds and the entire project," said Lopez.
So August 29, they'll host the Re-Light The Light Two Mile and Half Mile race for runners and walkers.
"The run is going to bring people out to the Lakefront, which is another one of our goals, raise some money for this lighthouse that we still desperately need, and have everyone come out and enjoy the 610 Stompers, a beautiful evening on the lake, and at a quarter to eight, we're actually going to light the light," said Sheila Englert, race coordinator for the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.
And inside the new lighthouse will be a museum.
"We're on the main floor," said Lopez. This will be the museum level of the lighthouse, and what we'll have is displays coming all the way around, artifacts about the lighthouse, the history of the lighthouse, Lake Pontchartrain, we'll have a section here,a monitor that talks about water quality, we'll talk about the coastal issues in this corner."
And at the top, a brand new housing for the light. For more information about the lighthouse, or the Re-Light The Light Race, call the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation at 836-2215, or visit their website at www.saveourlake.org