MENOMINEE — Locals watched and waited as the North Pier Light at the mouth of the Menominee River was wrapped in plastic and scaffolding, undergoing a transformation during the past year.

Now, with repairs completed and trimmed with new red paint and refurbished features, the lighthouse is almost ready to have visitors.

The goal is to have the lighthouse, the walkway leading up to it and the road, Harbor Drive, ready by August, said Menominee City Engineer Val Mellon.

This week, the workers from Biehl Construction will finish the prep work that will add 12 feet of pavement on the bay side to Harbor Drive, from the parking lot off 1st Street that ends at the Marinette water intake facility, up to the parking lot at the boat launch.

Mellon said the 12 additional feet will allow the city to create a biking/pedestrian path that is 8 feet wide — with 4 feet of the pavement being striped to separate vehicular traffic from those people on bike and on foot.

“Biehl will be paving the week after the Fourth of July, and then Dun-Rite Asphalt will come in and do the striping immediately after,” Mellon said Thursday. The creation of the new path will mean people can no longer park their vehicles on the bay side of the road, but it will create a safe trail for those walking out to see the lighthouse.

Funding for the project, from the renovation of the North Pier Light to the addition of the trail and landscaping near the boat launch on the river, has come from an anonymous local donor.

Mellon and the city worked with the Department of Natural Resources, which owns the land where the path will be installed as well as the parking area and small park near the river, to determine what could be done to beautify the area without compromising the structure of the shoreline.

“Our crews started by cutting out some of the brush and smaller vegetation,” Mellon said, adding that the DNR wanted the trees and some of the plants growing in the rocks to remain as stabilizers.

Signs will be installed along the path to share the history of the lighthouse, which was originally built in 1877, and was moved several times as the breakwall was extended father out into the bay. People starting the walk or ride on the trail will travel 1,500 to reach the pier, and another 1,300 feet to reach the lighthouse.

The distance is important to know, Mellon said, because people choosing to go all the way to the lighthouse and back will travel about a mile.

Even though Menominee’s North Pier Light is a popular favorite for locals and visitors, Mellon said the plan was to make it more of a destination and to give it the dignified approach it deserved. More than $350,000 was spent to strip the lighthouse inside and out of the lead paint and dirt that accumulated over the years; and now, another $65,000 will go into the walkway, signs, new lighting and landscaping.

Getchell Builders has been working on the lighthouse project since 2016, and was putting the finishing touches on the interior when Mellon and the EagleHerald toured the lighthouse Thursday. Chris Getchell was using a special acrylic primer paint on the floor of the concrete block room that was added below the structure in 1927. Improvements made to the pier and lighthouse in 1927 cost the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers $100,000.

The 24-foot by 19-foot concrete building (approximately) was built in 1927 to house a new electric Type C Diaphone foghorn. The lighthouse, which was moved off the pier during construction, was moved back to sit atop the new structure. During that time, the Corps also replaced 350 feet of the timber pier with a concrete pier.

The U.S. Coast Guard eventually took over the duties of the lighthouse in 1939, and in 2008, turned over possession of the North Pier Light to the City of Menominee.

Mellon said renovations to the historic structure had to meet the specifications of SHPO, of the State Historic Preservation Office. That meant that the new chain fencing and poles atop the concrete base had to be located where they originally existed, even though it is not symmetrical.

A DNR-funded grant was received to study the history of the lighthouse, and the city had to make “all improvements in accordance with the study,” Mellon said. That meant setting the fence posts off-center to accommodate the space that previously held a ladder.

The windows were built out of special glass, and constructed to fit the look of the original round and paned windows.

The area that previously housed the foghorn had a small kitchen area, a storage closet and a bathroom with a toilet. Steps leading to a second floor reveal the original wooden door that opens to the roof of the square, concrete base. Above the octagon-shaped section are circular panels with thick glass, that allow light from above to enter the space.

Mellon said the panels were so caked with years of dirt and dust that the glass was hidden. Above that chamber is the light, which is reached by climbing an iron ladder, which was installed in 1927 to replace the original wooden ladder.

The Menominee County Historical Society did much of the research on the lighthouse, she said, and Mike Kaufman will offer tours of the structure once the work is completed.

“By the Waterfront Festival, we should be offering tours here,” Mellon said.

She said the donor wants to eventually see a public restroom added to the site, which would require bringing water and sewer service to the park site. It is something that can be done, but like the other work done to restore the lighthouse and the approach, it is unlikely it would come about without the contribution of the donor.

“We will stay on this,” Mellon said the other changes that could be made in the future. “The city couldn’t have done this without the donation. We would not be anywhere near what is happening here if someone hadn’t stepped up.”