Throughout the month of December, the “Angel Lights” shine from the top of Angel Island State Park (AISP). Those lights may be “adopted” providing support for the work of Angel Island Association (AIA). Adopt a light and send a message and a gift: a simple thanks to a friend, mentor, or leader; a remembrance of a loved one; or recognition of someone who makes this a better place to live. An Angel Light card and a commemorative certificate will be mailed to those you designate.
After the Angel Lights were destroyed by the dramatic fire in October of 2008, Angel Island was without its annual “Angel Lights” for the first time in over 50 years! AIA volunteers and Park staff immediately began work to bring back the lights and decided to install solar powered LED Lights to be consistent with one of AISP’s highest priorities – the “greening” and sustainability of the island. PG&E generously stepped up to the challenge with a gift of the equipment that provides the Bay Area with the new lights.
As part of the design, the new beacon flashes “dot-dash” then “dot-dot”, Morse code for “AI” (Angel Island). Although this feature was initially designed in part to allow the solar power to last longer, it also speaks to the Island’s military history and to the period when there was an active lighthouse on the island. In these tough economic times, some think of this as a general “Save our State Parks” SOS signal, reminding our community that AISP needs our support now more than ever.
For over 50 years, there have been lights on top of AISP during the month of December. There are lovely stories of the first lights that were placed up there. Some say a big wooden star decked with red, white, blue and yellow lights was placed there by a group of enlisted men in the Army serving on the island. Some say an electrician who was working on the island after the military left got lonesome around the holidays and put up a tree. Since the earliest days, and up until they were destroyed in the fire, the lights were powered by electricity that had previously powered the Nike Missile installation located on the island during its military days. The Park staff and AIA kept this tradition alive with small changes through the years to a pole with hanging cables of lights (pictured below – photo by Suzanne Badenhoop).
The new solar powered lights are similar to those of a modern day lighthouse, with 2 rows of LED lights that send out a 360 degree beacon to the Bay (pictured below – photos by AIA).
As a longstanding tradition, the “Angel Lights” mean something different to nearly everyone and those of us involved in supporting AISP are glad there’s a sense of ownership throughout the Bay Area. The new lights have received mixed reactions from some of our neighbors. Although saddened that the old lights were destroyed, some are thrilled that we “turned lemons into lemonade” and were able to create a “green” alternative to the old lights. Some miss the fact that the old lights were powered by the former Nike Missile control system, loving the cold war to peace and hope transition. Some like the LED beacon lights, and some miss the tree-like configuration of the old lights. Some enjoy the flash and its message and are glad that it draws our attention to the park’s challenge to stay open and continue valuable programs. Others find the blinking of the lights distracting and even annoying.
AIA and AISP want everyone to love the Angel Lights. This is our first year with the new lights, and AIA and the AISP park staff welcome your feedback. Because of some reports from those living close to the island, we have already dimmed the lights. So that in future years everyone will be happy to see the lights, we are encouraging feedback and working with AISP to revisit the exact way in which the Angel Lights will be displayed in the future. Please watch this website for more details as we work through these questions. We are committed to finding creative solutions that our friends around the Bay Area will enthusiastically support. For more than fifty years, the Angel Lights have been a holiday symbol of joy, hope and many other positive feelings, and we intend to ensure that it stays that way.
Thanks again for your interest and support!