The lighthouse at Anclote Key Preserve State Park has served as a guiding light for mariners in the area since it began operation on September 15, 1887. The 110-foot light and two lighthouse keepers residences were constructed for the price of $35,000. The lighthouse was tended to by two lighthouse keepers who kept the light lit until it was automated in 1952. Without keepers on the island to protect the light, vandalism to the lighthouse and keeper’s residences became a common occurrence. The cost to keep making repairs became too great and in 1984 the federal government abandoned the lighthouse and the light was extinguished.
The State of Florida acquired Anclote Key except for the small parcel of land that the lighthouse sits on from the federal government in a trade for land within Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel, Florida in 1960 and in 1971 the land was turned over to the Florida Park Service.
In 1996 the Florida Park Service was granted a lease to the .17 acres that makes up the lighthouse compound. The lighthouse continued to fall in to a state of disrepair until a group of local citizens banded together to what was to become the Gulf Islands Alliance. These citizens raised 1.5 million dollars to rehabilitate the lighthouse and on September 13, 2003 the Anclote Key Lighthouse was re-lit.
The light is currently maintained by the Florida Park Service as a private aid to navigation.
Preserving Our Natural Resources
The islands of Three Rooker sit at the southern end of Anclote Key Preserve State Park. These islands are known globally for their significances for shore bird nesting. During spring and summer over 7,000 pairs of nesting shorebirds will come to the island to lay their eggs and raise there young. Five of the species that nest here are listed as either threatened or endangered. From May 1st until August 1st of each year an 1,800-foot section of beach is closed off to visitors so that the nesting birds are not disturbed.
Park staff are also busy eradicating invasive exotic plants on the island. Their efforts have resulted in the removal of most of the mature Australian Pine from the islands. Since the removal of these plants native species are now becoming abundant once again in those areas.