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Update: Bids rise to $170,000 for ownership of Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse

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Update: Bids rise to $170,000 for ownership of Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse

CAPE ELIZABETH — Bidding continued this week for ownership of Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse. As of Sept. 9, the highest bid was $170,000.

The auction, run by the U.S. General Services Administration, was opened on June 30, and did not see any action until June 9 when a $10,000 bid from "jlucas" was placed. In the two months that followed, the lighthouse has attracted national attention and serious bidders to the auction.

Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse is an active, solar-powered navigational aid about 1 mile offshore from Portland Head at the entrance to Portland Harbor. The lighthouse is not manned, but is maintained remotely. The five-story lighthouse is for sale in the private sector, as it exceeds the needs of the United States Coast Guard.

In July, Paula Santangelo, public affairs officer for the U.S. General Services Administration, said the lighthouse property was first made available to government agencies, education institutions and non-profit organizations at no charge in 2008 under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. Since no one came forward, it was placed under auction for ownership in the private sector.

One interested bidder, Robert Muller of Brunswick, threw in a bid for $15,000 on August 17 under the name Maineguy. From there, the bidding war took off, with bids from nearly half a dozen people outbidding each other by $5,000 increments between Sept. 2 and Sept. 8. As of Sept. 9, the highest bid was $170,000, posted by "abcdefg" at 8:20 a.m.

Muller said the lighthouse auction sparked his interest. He created the Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse Website to generate financial and community support. He used a historic preservation social network model to generate donations in order to purchase the lighthouse after he heard about its sale. For $49, each person who donates money to the lighthouse becomes a founding charter member and receives a mini granite block, a certificate, deed and bill of rights, and can participate in lighthouse decisions, visit the landmark, and assist in running the property.

"We can't save a piece of land without community or economic support," he said. "Preservation and conservation go hand in hand with community and economic support."

While the bidding has gone beyond the funding level of Muller and his social networking group, he said he feels they have not failed.

"We didn't end up with the lighthouse, but we proved the model worked," he said.

The model combines economics with community and nature, he said. It is perfect for a lighthouse, or an island off the coast of Maine, or a piece pf property where a group of people own the coordinates, are able to maintain, conserve and preserve the property, and share the joys of that property with others.

He said in the few days he set up the Ram Island Ledge Light Community site, he had communication from people in 20 states and more 200 people made contributions.

"Visiting the lighthouse was an emotional experience for me," he said. "I am not a lighthouse aficionado, but it is the gateway to the Portland Harbor. It has been there for years, and it is our turn to take care of it."

"We can only sit on the side and watch what we created through all our efforts and press explaining our people’s option," he wrote on his blog Wednesday night. "The best we can hope for it is that whoever wins will give us a call and we can come to a deal and still work our model. We have no other option unless a very very significant sponsor walks into our life tomorrow."

Unless there is another bid placed before 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept 9, the lighthouse will go to "abcdefg" for $170,000.

This story was updated at 1:20 p.m. Sept. 9.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net

Photo: Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

Ram Island Lighthouse, off Cape Elizabeth.