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Trinidad Lighthouse to become more accessible to public

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TRINIDAD- A historic landmark of Trinidad, the Trinidad Lighthouse, will now be open for visitors more often.  This is because of the United States Coast Guard relinquishing the land to the public. 

The Trinidad Lighthouse, built in 1871, guided lumber and other kinds of ships into Trinidad bay for years.  Then, the Coast Guard took it over and used it in World War II to search for Japanese submarines and aircraft.  But the land the lighthouse is on, Trinidad Head, is a sacred spiritual and cultural location for the Yurok people.

"This place takes us back to the beginning of time," said Thomas O’Rourke, the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe.

A ceremony on Friday made the United States Coast Guard’s relinquishing of most of Trinidad Head to the public official.  The Bureau of Land Management will take that land over.

"We're super excited.  We all know this is a gorgeous piece of real estate.  We used to have houses up here, people lived up here, and the view is awesome.  We don't have the feasibility that BLM does to open this land up so we're very excited this is finally happening," said Chief Warrant Officer Curtis Barthel of the United States Coast Guard.

BLM officials say they're going to make sure to work with the community to best preserve Trinidad Head.

Input from people in the community, tribal members, officials with the Trinidad Museum, and school officials input will all be used.

"This is a place where community-centered conservation makes sense.  This is a place where lots of folks have a long history, they have interests that need to be respected and protected.  So we wanted to do this in a way where we're all moving forward together," said Jimm Kenna, the Director of the California Bureau of Land Management.

BLM officials say Trinidad Head and the lighthouse will be open to the public significantly more than once a year, as it has been.  Meanwhile, Coast Guard officials say they would not have been able to guarantee the lighthouse’s longevity if they did not give up the land.

"If times got tough, the lighthouses are a bit expensive to maintain, we could actually just stick a pole up here and put a light on top of the pole, and not necessarily worry about the lighthouse.  It's a balancing of the budget and now we know they're going to preserve that lighthouse.  They're going to maintain it," Chief Warrant Officer Barthel said.

Trinidad Head will be open, as it is every year, during the fish festival in June. After that, BLM officials will work to determine how much increased access people will have to the land.