A lighthouse-like structure at the Newport Harbor entrance may welcome sailors in the future, as one local described at a meeting this week.
Keith Yonkers presented the idea to the Newport Beach Harbor Commission on Wednesday. He is proposing a public-private project to build a more substantial structure as a navigational light on the west jetty.
Commissioners voted 6-0 in favor of tentatively moving forward with the idea. Commissioner John Drayton was absent.
He is suggested a fairly basic structure, with access to electronics and equipment, but no space for a keeper. Nothing too decorative, its main purpose would still to function as a navigational aid. It could possibly be a stone or granite structure, similar in height to the current post.
The important aspect of this private-public project is to have Newport Beach citizen input, including from sailors, boaters, surfers and other groups, Yonkers said.
The cost is estimated at approximately $350,000, Yonkers noted in his presentation.
Yonkers recommended placing the structure on the western jetty, which extends out further than the eastern rocky breakwater off of Corona del Mar State Beach.
The current navigational aids have served Newport Harbor well over the years, but they are getting pretty weathered, he noted.
The U.S. Coast Guard is contemplating an upgrade to the posts sometime within the next two years or so, Yonkers said, so the timing works out well.
“We would be able to assist them in selecting something that would be a lot more welcoming,” Yonkers said.
Newport Harbor is a global destination for pleasure craft, yet the two “rusty poles” welcoming sailors at the entrance don’t convey that, Yonkners noted.
The further offshore the more difficult it is to see the navigational post that is the guide back to the jetty, Yonkers said. Boaters would be able to see a more substantial structure, rather than just a pole, much easier.
The “lion’s share” of boaters going in and out of Newport Harbor don’t use GPS or chartplotter, Yonkers opined. It’s also helpful for inexperienced boaters, he added.
It would be nice to get locals to come forward and contribute to the project and have some “skin in the game,” he said. Public input is needed for the design as well, he added.
“It’s important to get the community involved,” Yonkers said.
This structure is currently equipped with a fog horn feature set for a three-second safety blast every 30 seconds as well as a light that flashes green every five seconds from a height of 36 feet. The two Jetties east and west are located 275 yards apart.
Resident Michael Lawler was all on board with the idea. While he thought it could be a bit grander, the concept of something 20 feet high or so that is a bit more welcoming is great, he said.
In 2017, Lawler presented an idea about statues as navigational aids in the harbor, including one at its entrance, to the Chamber of Commerce Marine Committee. The statues would be of local celebrities, influential people or characters with a tie to the community, like John Wayne, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo (first European explorer to sail the California coast), Vasco Núñez de Balboa (the famous Spanish explorer), or a sailor and/or sea king. (click here to read the original story about Lawler’s proposal)
Len Bose noted a concern of the project possibly delaying the Coast Guard’s replacement plan.
The next step would be to contact the Coast Guard, noted Assistant City Manager Carol Jacobs. They first have to find out if USCG is even interested in this type of partnership, she said. At some point it will move on to City Council for review as well.
Yonkers emphasized that this is just the taking off and there would be plenty of opportunity for public input and community meetings.