URGENT - North Wildwood Mayor has recently and without provocation initiated a hostile takeover of
Hereford Inlet Lighthouse & Gardens


New Update:

Catherine McCabe became the new Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection January 16th replacing Bob Martin.

We need to ensure that the new Commissioner understands that the Mayor of the City of North Wildwood initiated a hostile and unsubstantiated takeover of the light in October apparently for his own benefit - certainly not for the benefit of this iconic landmark.

At the very least, one would have to question the motives and competence of a Mayor and Council who would risk the loss of the skills and dedication of such a well tuned body of volunteers - the Friends.

Your support and letters were instrumental in getting the DEP aware and engaged in reviewing the current lease of the Lighthouse and Gardens.

Please let her know that the lease of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse would be best recast directly between the State and the Friends removing the City from any involvement.

Commissioner Catherine McCabe
State of New Jersey
Department of Environmental Protection
P.O. Box 420
Trenton, NJ 08625-0420

Keep up the good fight - time to write.

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse is in peril.

The mission of the Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse has been to protect and promote the preservation of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse and Gardens for the education, grounding, inspiration and wonder of those that visit from around the world.

BUT - Hereford Inlet Lighthouse is in peril. Successfully saved, operated and renovated by the Friends for over 30 years, the North Wildwood Mayor has recently and without provocation initiated a hostile takeover and his immediate plans for the lighthouse and grounds include:

-the beautiful gardens purged,
-the majestic mature trees leveled,
-artifacts removed, and
-the dedicated lighthouse staff replaced by “city recreational employees" taking valuable space and knowledge away from the story of Hereford.
It has already begun to happen! Help stop this disgrace. There is a solution but we must move quickly.
Please read on.

Some historical perspective:
Hereford Inlet Lighthouse was built in 1874, and through the years its beacon protected untold numbers of lives. Decommissioned in the 1960’s and replaced by an auto-beacon, Hereford was left to demolition by neglect – sadly a fate of too many of our historic sites. In 1986, then Mayor of North Wildwood, the late Anthony Catanoso, and his wife Phyllis stepped in with a small group of like-minded volunteers, and with the full approval of the USCG and State of New Jersey, began the arduous task of breathing life back into the lighthouse.


[In 1982 through the long and painstaking efforts of Mayor Anthony Catanoso and his wife Phyllis
a lease was signed and preservation began]

It’s truly amazing that many of the original volunteers – chief among them Friends of Hereford Chairman Steve Murray – have labored continuously and doggedly for the 30 years since to create this treasure – a world-class landmark, sanctuary, award-winning gardens and first rate maritime museum. Hereford Inlet Lighthouse is once again the official beacon – the light in the tower that shines for all each night.

[Steve Murray, Chairman of Friends of the Hereford Inlet Light House, Sits At the Top of the
Hereford Inlet Lighthouse in North Wildwood, NJ on November 20, 2017-Photo By Gregg Kohl,]

As you can well imagine, the task was not an easy one – but labors of love seldom are. The volunteers were first organized as the Lighthouse Commission, and charged with writing grants, collecting donations, researching design history then arranging contactors, etc. etc. and providing much of the grunt work themselves.

The City served only as the lease holder from the State of New Jersey. The work of the volunteers provided a gem not only for North Wildwood but for the region and state as well. In 2011, the Lighthouse Commission formally organized into the Friends of Hereford Lighthouse, continuing their work, unabated, maintaining, preserving and manning this wonderful place.

Until now.

In October, Mayor Patrick Rosenello had already moved to take over the lighthouse and terminate the agreement between the Friends and the City effective December 31, 2017. He cited management issues – a difficult claim to reconcile considering the evidence of a well-run facility for all to see and enjoy. [For more details about Mr. Murray’s response to the Mayor, read below]

At the very least, one would have to question the motives and competence of a Mayor and Council who would risk the loss of the skills and dedication of such a well tuned body of volunteers. But there is more: not waiting until the end of the year, this Mayor changed the locks, making the preposterous claim that the Friends were about to loot the museum. Many of the members’ personal and donated possessions remain under lock and key, inaccessible to their owners.

In the Mayor’s plans for the lighthouse, the beautiful gardens would be removed, the majestic mature trees leveled, the dedicated lighthouse staff replaced by “recreational employees.” The mission of this landmark would be redirected from preservation to City Tourist Center, with much of the space now dedicated to the history of the lighthouse – which was both beacon and home – removed to make way for office space. While the history of a City is important, this is not the place for it: despite the Mayor’s overreach, Hereford Inlet Lighthouse belongs to the people of the State of New Jersey not the City of North Wildwood.

What to do:

The Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse deserve and desperately need your support – TODAY.
Time is quickly running out. Please consider doing three things today:

1) Send a letter to
Catherine McCabe, Commissioner, Department of Environmental Protection, PO Box 402, Trenton, NJ 08625-0402. Voice your request for consideration in a change of the lease terms for Hereford Inlet Lighthouse properties directly to those that have restored, furnished, cared for, and maintained the Lighthouse and gardens for decades; the non-profit organization "Friends of the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse"

2) Please SHARE this story with as many folks as you can, as quickly as you can and

3) Consider a donation to help our legal team defend this iconic landmark.  Please add your voice to this cause. I’m certain you believe that Hereford is more than a building and grounds. It is living history.
Click the link below to donate.


For further information:
As reported in the Press of Atlantic City: Click here to read.

As reported in the Star Ledger: Click here to read.

YouTube Link: The Lens

The state and federal grants over the years surely were not
earmarked to bolster a mayor’s political aspirations.

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 Hereford Inlet Lighthouse
111 North Central Avenue
North Wildwood, New Jersey 08260

Rebuttal to the Mayor of North Wildwood's plans for the Lighthouse.

December 2017          
                  Having read North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello’s statements in the November 28 edition of the Cape May County Herald, I have to offer my comments on his future plans for the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse.
              It is very upsetting to me that he wants to unravel 22 years of improvements and progress to return to an arrangement similar to the early years of the Lighthouse’s resurrection.
            With no disparities to those involved at that time, they did the best they could with the little resources and scarce information about the history of the building or it’s former residents.
            It was originally set up as a tourist information center with the various rooms used to display a collection of mostly unrelated North Wildwood pictures and memorabilia. Visitors would leave the building confused, many thinking that Dr. Margaret Mace (a revered local physician) had lived in the Lighthouse and other similar misconceptions.
           Many years of research enlightened us about the information we needed, not only to restore the missing architectural elements of the building, but also of the Lighthouse Service use of each room. Deeper and much more research revealed the names and details of the keepers and their family members who lived there.
           All of this historical information had to be showcased and properly interpreted throughout the building. Approximately 22 years later and with much work, we now have a first rate lighthouse museum, that we think is second to none in the State.  But as yet, our plan is far from being complete.
           Our long term goal is to present the Lighthouse as a “living history museum”.  We feel that this is the most correct way to showcase this gem of a lighthouse in a way that presents, first hand, and in an intimate way, the lives and duties of the keepers.
           In order to accomplish this, the gift shop would have to be relocated to re-create the 1874 kitchen: many of the Coast Guard, Life Saving Service, and the local commercial fishing industries displays would also have to be moved. This brings us to the last part of the plan: To acquire the 1939 US Coast Guard Life Boat Station Complex and convert those structures to a maritime history museum. The Lighthouse and Life Boat Station combined would become "Historic Anglesea Maritime Village”.  All of that being said, there is hardly room in the Lighthouse now to display the Lighthouse history let alone anything else.
         The Mayors proposed plan of also including North Wildwood history AND including North Wildwood tourism offices would truly destroy the integrity and intent of the Lighthouse.
         In regards to the management of the site, although the Mayor tries to give the impression that the Friends are a group of people, new to involvement with the Lighthouse, in fact some of the founding members were there from the very beginning. The late Phyllis Catanoso, our past President, is the person credited with originally saving the Lighthouse.
         The Mayors statement that there are already employees on payroll who could take over the Lighthouse responsibilities at no extra cost to the taxpayers, is very misleading. The current staff is made up of seasonal employees whose salaries are paid by the Friends. During the off season the Lighthouse is staffed by volunteers.
         Regarding the grounds and gardens surrounding the Lighthouse, these are maintained by myself and a group of volunteers. These extensive, very specialized, “estate like” gardens require care 7 days per week for much of the year, unlike most of the other City landscaped areas. These gardens require a substantial budget each year to replant, feed and maintain, all paid for by the Friends.  In addition, the weekly grass cutting is done without charge by a company owned by one of our trustees. They also provide us with snow removal during the winter.                                                                                                                                                      
          Furthermore, two years ago a local paint contractor who is a Friend of the Lighthouse, painted the entire exterior of the building at no charge. This was an incredible savings at a time when grant money was not (and still is not) available.
          More proof in many ways that it does not benefit the Lighthouse or the taxpayers in the least, to have the City Of North Wildwood have any connection to the Lighthouse.
                                                                                                           Steve Murray
                                                                                 Chairman Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse

November 2017

Dear Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse,

     Our organization, the non-profit  “Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse”,is scheduled to be removed as stewards of the Lighthouse by the Mayor and Council of the City of North Wildwood.  We need the help of all of our members and supporters, now more than ever. We are being forced to vacate the property by the end of the year. Here is the situation.

     The State of New Jersey, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection – Division of Parks and Forestry, owns the entire Lighthouse property and leases it to the City. Our organization, the non-profit “Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse” in turn, has a management agreement with the City. This is a highly unusual situation because most lighthouses are directly leased to a non-profit organization.

     The core of our founding trustees were the persons responsible for the initial saving of the Lighthouse, its early renovations and finally the historically accurate restoration from 1999-2011. These same people were also the ones who developed the museum, tours, gift shop, special events, gardens and everything else connected with the Lighthouse. The “Friends” first began as “the Lighthouse Commission” and evolved into what it is today.

     Relations with the previous four mayors and their councils have been fairly good, until now. Occasionally however, even under some of the past administrations, interference by elected officials has created some problems for those running the Lighthouse.

     Because this situation has always had the potential to cause problems, the late Mayor, Bill Henfey, spoke of his desire to see the eventual transfer of the lease from the City to the “Friends”. Unfortunately, the exact opposite situation has been brewing for the last year. The current Mayor, with vague and unfounded accusations of management problems, as well as so-called liability concerns, has asked City Council to pass a resolution terminating our original management agreement. This will expire December 31, 2017. They have also drafted a new document which will turn almost all authority and duties regarding the Lighthouse and Gardens over to the City.

     In a nutshell; this politically motivated move would restrict our organization to only running tours and the gift shop. Our trustees would no longer be able to oversee the restoration or maintenance of the Lighthouse or Gardens. New people, with no experience with or knowledge of the history of the building or its restoration background, would then be running the Lighthouse.

     The new management agreement is so restrictive in every minute detail, which even our ads, posters, brochures and signs would have to be approved by the city.

     The Mayor has even hired a horticulture consulting firm that has a plan that would call for the removal of all the trees on the Lighthouse property, as well changing the plant varieties to what they think are more appropriate. This in itself is heartbreaking to us.

     We have sent our response to the Mayor and council in October. It stated that we cannot sign this agreement, and went on to say we will only sign one that is similar to the original or ideally, work with the State for the transfer of the lease.
     We just received a reply on November 14th acknowledging that there will be no agreement between the City and “Friends” for the year 2018. Our organization will have to vacate the property and the “Friends” organization will probably have to dissolve sometime in the New Year.
     As many of you are aware, I am the author of the history of the Lighthouse, “Guardians of the Hereford Inlet”. If you read it, you know that for 143 years the only villains of the Lighthouse were wind, rain, snow, fire and the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Now its very different - the villain for the first time is human.

     We have always felt we are the modern day keepers of Hereford and we have to stay vigilant, guarding it to the end. We consider this place, with its history of great dedication and sacrifice and numerous lives both saved and lost, to be sacred and should not be treated as a political football.  If you are happy with the work we have done restoring and running the Lighthouse, building and maintaining  the gardens, hosting special events, producing the newsletter, developing our tours and museum displays, running our “Buy a Brick Program” etc. etc., Please send a strong letter of support (and outrage) to     …..

On January 16th the new commissioner will be:

Commissioner Catherine McCabe

Department of Environmental Protection
PO Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

               Thank you for your long support. Remember, there is not much time left. Your prayers will help as well. Remember, we need to respond quickly.
                                                                                                  Thank you,
                                                                                                Steve Murray

                         In response to the statements and charges made by Mayor Rosenello of the City of North Wildwood about the Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse. His statements are found on both the official North Wildwoods Facebook page and its Tourism page, as well as being sent out to all those that sent a letter of complaint to the Mayor or an email.                               Steve Murray 

             I would like to offer the true facts regarding the Mayors charges, the majority of which are misleading or untrue. The Mayors mission is to remove our organization from being stewards of the Lighthouse, obviously for his own political gain.
                   First of all, there have not been “talks for over a year” regarding a new management agreement. Several months ago we received a copy of a council resolution ending our present agreement as of December 31. In October we received a new proposed agreement that would essentially take all the responsibilities away from the people who have been maintaining, restoring and operating the historic site since its earliest days. Our board members could neither sign nor negotiate this outrageous contract which was hurtful and insulting to some people that have given up most of their personal lives helping to make Hereford what it is today.
   The Mayors statement that the City has been the primary organization behind the preservation, rehabilitation and operation of the Lighthouse is not just misleading, it is false.
   When it was first acquired by lease through Mayor Catanoso, he set up the ”Lighthouse Commission” which would be a board of volunteers that would restore, operate and maintain the site without local tax dollars. It generated its own funds that were kept in a Trust account. The Commission wrote and applied for all the restoration grants we received, not the City.
    The City’s primary involvement was that it paid the various stages of the work as it progressed, and then was reimbursed by the grants. This is how grants work. All matching funds and other costs were either paid for by the Commission or by the non- profit Friends. History is history—you can’t re-write it to suit you like some people try to do.
    Mayors Catanoso, Vinci, Palumbo and Henfey were all enthusiastic supporters of our work at the Lighthouse. Other than them however, ask any of our current or past employees, how many times they have seen a City official at the Lighthouse or at any of our special events and fundraisers. Many will say Zero. And its not for lack of trying.
            In regards to the Mayors charges against us.                            
                            Improper communications on behalf of the City
                  Several years ago a resident of an adjoining property, one evening, cut through a wire fence belonging to the Lighthouse and cut down a mature pine tree.( State property) When discovered in the morning the Police were called and the person admitted to doing this. He was given a warning not to do so again (even though this was trespassing and vandalism). We told the police we did not want any further action on this. A few years later someone from that same property cut another tree on the Lighthouse side of the property line again. The police were not called this time but out of frustration, a letter was sent to the property owner that the next time this occurred, which would be the third, the police and legal action would follow.
       I have to note here that since he has been Mayor, I have told him that private landscapers, hired by neighbors, have been spraying herbicides on large areas in the wild, wildlife habitat section of the Lighthouse property (State owned) and also on the open space areas behind that (County owned). Despite my complaints, he apparently has never had these people notified by City officials. That’s why we had to finally send a letter to the tree cutters.
                                         Unilateral action regarding a City event
               The annual Christmas tree lighting was never a City event.( I almost have to laugh at this because for the last 25 years it was just mostly me decorating, planning and donating a lot of decorations). The event was begun by long time Commission chairman and volunteer Mr. Al Mouklas. When I took it over I was basically copying an event from my hometown area in Pa. at Rose Tree Park. Each year I always invited the current Mayor to light the tree.
           Now, the reason we cancelled last year was this. Sometime in early Fall, I was asked by the Mayor's office to attend a meeting at City Hall in regards to the landscaping at the Lighthouse. The City Administrator was there (not the Mayor) and a Mr. Lomax of Lomax Consulting (Horticulture) that the City had hired for planning/consulting. I was handed a report by them that was very negative and critical of the landscaping and gardens of the Lighthouse. Lomax recommended removing all the pine trees and also replacing most of the other plants on the property with what he recommended. What a blind side shot this was, with all the awards hanging on the walls and all of the books and magazines it was featured in.
      I went back to my board with this report and everyone thought that we would have to get ready for a fight to prevent this. The thought of chainsaws and front end loaders leveling the property was dis-heartening. We started to organize a letter writing & email campaign as well as calling all of the environmental & historical organizations. One group began to get a picket line together. Anyway, so focused on this threat, we figured we would have to cancel the Tree Lighting. Our press release simply said, “due to unforeseen circumstances”. We didn’t want to begin a controversy until it happened.  To paraphrase the Mayor however, his statement to the papers was “ the Friends have management issues that the City has to look at more closely.
                                   Improper abusive treatment of city employees
       Last November I pulled into the lighthouse parking lot to see a huge city truck in the courtyard on top of the area where the engraved pavers are.  It was not built for the weight of vehicles and the long time employee knew this. He didn’t see anyone at the Lighthouse this day and just went ahead. There are over $100,000 worth of pavers with the names of loved ones that we have been so careful with. I’ve done the work myself not just to save money but to be more careful with these special bricks. I went ballistic when I saw this and anyone else would have too. It was careless and irresponsible and now there are many areas that have sunk out of level. Too expensive and difficult to repair.
                                Inconsistent public access provided to Lighthouse grounds.
          I’m not sure what the Mayor had in mind by this. We have always allowed small intimate weddings with certain rules and restrictions for a fee. The only problem I remember having was several times certain Mayors told us we had to allow some weddings here that were bigger than we allow ( friends of those Mayors) or not to charge a fee. We allow wedding photos here but we have guidelines for the group, photographer and limo driver.
                                                  Annual report/Annual plan
             Last year at a meeting the Mayor said the City did not receive several reports & plans that are due every year. As Chairman I do these every year and hand them personally to the City Administrator or the Administrative assistant. I insisted I handed in the so called missing reports. I assume they were misplaced “by accident”. At the end of the meeting I returned within a half hour with copies of those reports. Since then, I ask for a receipt for everything. Last week I called the City administrator Kevin Yecco, and asked if those charges were dropped from the record because I obviously had the reports to make copies so quickly. He said they certainly were.
                                                   Certificate of insurance
         These certificates were not only in the annual plan but are also handed in three more times a year, with each special events application I turn in to the tourism department.          
                                             Phase four grant closing problem  
           The Mayor accused the Friends of not closing out the last grant properly, costing the City $17,000. Here is the full story.  In the Fall of 2011, representatives from the NJ Historic Trust and The NJDOT, both of whom awarded the Lighthouse grants for phase four of our restoration, came to Hereford to get a first hand look at the completed project. Our project architect Hugh McCauley and I were there to walk them through. The project was considered well done and closed without any problems and there was a photo taken of this special day for our newsletter. Approximately five years later a representative from the DOT called the City and said that as far as the DOT grant, the project was never closed out properly. I spoke to the City administrator and asked why after so much time did the DOT say it was not complete? Was it discovered through some in-house audit on their end? The administrator said it probably was.
      The Friends had hired Hugh McCauley to administer the grant work (this is separate from his work as architect.) The very complicated paper work involved with this did not pass through the hands of the Friends because that was solely Mr. McCauley’s responsibility. He wrote the grant for us, by the way, and over the years committed more time and effort than he ever received compensation for. Well, after receiving this communication from the DOT, I informed them they would have to get in touch with our architect. By this time however, Hugh was retired and had some serious health issues. When the DOT contacted him though, they said they really didn’t know what was missing in the closeout. The persons that we dealt with at the DOT during the work had retired. So Hugh was perplexed - just tell me what you need, he said. Finally, after weeks the DOT was able to state what was missing. Because of his illness, his retirement, the time that had gone by, and the fact that the DOT now had a new and more complicated electronic filing/reporting program, Hugh was stalled for many months, with his health starting to get worse again. The grant writing company, Triad Associates (the president who is an old associate of Hugh’s and a friend of mine and another board member) was brought in to try to help to do some “forensic” work in tracking down the missing items. They were finally successful. Triad’s fees to the City was just several thousand dollars but because of the time lapse, the City was not reimbursed the $17,000 in grant money.
        The mayor complained about this and said it may jeopardize future grants, but the Lighthouse, having received $1.5 million in grants over the years, with great success, awards and kudos to the work, helped the City’s grant eligibility much more in the long run. At a meeting between the Mayor and our trustees, I mentioned Hugh’s health being a factor in this dilemma. The Mayor said, “I can’t worry about his personal problems”.
          It was discovered that the City itself was in violation of its management agreement with the Friends because for two or three years it neglected to give the Friends organization  $5,000 each year towards utility costs as stated in the agreement. Our board of trustees forgave the City for this debt, for the sake of good relations.
                                                                                                                                                    Steve Murray

        Background art courtesy of Donna Elias