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Multi-million dollar restoration planned for northern Michigan lighthouse

North Manitou Light Keepers plan to rehabilitate 'The Crib' in Lake Michigan (Courtesy: North Manitou Light Keepers)

LEELANAU COUNTY, Mi (WPBN/WGTU)-- Big plans are in store for a historic Leelanau County landmark.

Within five years, 'The Crib' lighthouse is expected to open for tours.

To this day, 'The Crib' safely guides vessels through the Manitou Passage. Since lighthouse keepers left for good in 1980, it's fallen into disrepair.

The make-over is set to begin soon for a proposed two million dollar project at the North Manitou Shoal Lighthouse or better known as 'The Crib.'

The nickname comes from the way it's anchored to the lake floor, 26 feet below the water's surface.

It's a crib of steel filled with large stones and cement.

'The Crib' is a 15-minute boat ride from Leland in Leelanau County.

At the end of this projected five year endeavor, visitors to the 81-year-old lighthouse will see views of the surrounding area.

"Being out there it feels right. It may sound cheesy but it feels like this is what we're meant to do," says Anna Oginsky with North Manitou Light Keepers.

The idea to buy a lighthouse started a few miles from 'The Crib'.

While driving home from a camping trip on North Manitou Island in August 2016, Dave mentioned to his friend Dan that he's always wanted to own a lighthouse.

Coincidentally soon after that conversation, Jake, another friend of Dave's, passed along a news article saying 'The Crib' was up for auction.

"Five minutes later, our other friend Todd emailed the same article to us so we started talking about it and we started talking to our wives about it," says North Manitou Light Keepers President Dan Oginsky.

"At first I thought it was a joke," said Anna.

"It took a little bit more for them to get on board but once they did we started rolling," said Dan.

'The Crib' almost slipped through their fingers because their first bid wasn't high enough.

"I went to the website and saw the lighthouse and something just said don't give up, and in that moment, all of the worries just kinda faded away and it felt like this is a really amazing opportunity for all of us, and our families, and the community, and the state and it represents everything we love," said Anna.

The group submitted another bid for 'The Crib' for $73,000 and won.

With the purchase from the government, the group named North Manitou Light Keepers is making plans to rehabilitate the lighthouse and make it available to the public for tours and maybe overnight stays.

The soon-to-be owners of 'The Crib' live in several cities throughout Michigan.

It's a project that makes the Leelanau Historical Society and Museum very happy.

"Seeing it preserved and knowing that the steps are being taken to make it accessible to the public is really exciting news, and there's kinda this very positive buzz amongst the community about it," said Kim Kelderhouse, Curator of Collections with the Leelanau Historical Society and Museum.

The group is using that momentum to open the lighthouse to the public on July 4th, 2021.

They say it's a doable goal that holds a lot of meaning.

"We all have young families and we're all looking for our future and to leave a legacy behind. We all thought this is something that our children will really look at and say 'wow, these guys did something.' It's a cool project," said Jake Kaberle with North Manitou Light Keepers.

The team says they expect to close on the lighthouse in the next few months.

That's when they'll officially become owners of 'The Crib.'

Get connected with the North Manitou Light Keepers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can also reach the group by emailing NorthManitouLightKeepers@gmail.com.

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