- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2006

CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. (AP) — The red-and-white striped Assateague Island lighthouse, a beacon to tourists as well as sailors, is closed indefinitely because a piece of the structure’s top catwalk fell off.

The trail leading to the lighthouse also is closed for safety reasons, said Sue Rice, acting manager for the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, which surrounds the lighthouse on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

“The best we can tell, a small segment became loose and probably came down to the lower level,” she said this week. “At this time, I couldn’t speculate why or how it happened.”

An engineer is to inspect the structural integrity of the lighthouse Sunday.

Miss Rice said the U.S. Coast Guard, which maintains the light in the lighthouse, told her the missing metal would not affect the light.

Miss Rice declined to comment on how soon the lighthouse would reopen.

“This lighthouse was pretty well-built,” she said. “It’s not as though the metal on the catwalk was just bolted on. It comes all the way into the building.”

The 140-foot-tall lighthouse was completed in 1867.

Ownership was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2004 and, for the first time in years, the lighthouse was opened to the public for tours.

The keeper’s quarters are used as seasonal housing for temporary refuge employees, volunteers and interns.

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