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State parks: Rock Island will reopen as tourist attraction in June

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FISHERS LANDING — With the million-dollar renovation nearly complete, Rock Island and its 166-year-old lighthouse are set to be reopened to visitors in June, according to state parks officials.

It took the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation region nearly three years to transform the state-owned island into what it believes will become a popular tourist attraction.

“We’re very optimistic about the interest surrounding Rock Island,” said Kevin A. Kieff, Thousand Islands region state parks director. “We think it’s going to be a very big new tourist attraction in the Thousand Islands.”

Already, he said, Clayton Island Tours plans to make three trips to Rock Island — which had been accessible only by private boats — daily starting the weekend of June 21.

While the restoration of the landmark lighthouse was an integral part of the project, it wasn’t the only island facility to get a significant makeover.

The historic keeper’s house has been turned into a self-interpreted maritime museum and gift shop. Rock Island’s old carpenter’s shop now has public bathrooms, and new, removable floating docks will be installed to accommodate small tour boats and up to 16 transient boats.

Also on the scenic, three-acre island are newly built pathways and picnic areas.

Although visitors to the island would never notice, one of the bigger challenges during the $1.3 million of work, Mr. Kieff said, was running a 3,100-foot sewer pipe along the river’s bottom from Fishers Landing to Rock Island for public sewage treatment.

Facilities on the island will draw electricity from a nearby private island that gets power from the mainland, he said.

While the 40-foot-tall lighthouse no longer serves as a navigation aid, it will be open to visitors who are interested in learning the history of the structure and the surrounding region.

The U.S. government built the lighthouse in 1847, reconstructed it in 1882 and gave it to the state in 1977. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Rock Island will be open to visitors seven days a week from June through Labor Day and a few “shoulder weekends” in May and October.

A self-guided tour of the lighthouse will cost $3 for adults and $2 for children ages 6 to 12. Children under 6 will be admitted for free.

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