People walk near the closed Fire Island Lighthouse as the...

People walk near the closed Fire Island Lighthouse as the government shutdown continues, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Starting Saturday, Fire Island’s 168-foot lighthouse tower will be open to the public again, ending a three-week hiatus as researchers conducted tests to determine the beloved structure’s long-term viability.

Officials installed monitoring devices and examined the impact that years of primarily weather-related damage has had on the structural integrity of one of Long Island’s most popular attractions.

“The initial phase of the project closed the tower for three weeks to allow for the removal of bricks, mortar and shotcrete,” the National Park Service said Thursday in a news release. “These materials will be sent to a laboratory to test for compressive strength, moisture migration, absorption, permeability, and salt content.”

Monitoring devices will be kept in place for about a year so analysts can observe in real time any vertical and horizontal movement of the tower, as well as humidity, temperature, and moisture levels, officials said.

“Information gained from the structural testing project will help inform a long-term preservation strategy for this iconic Lighthouse," James Dunphy, Fire Island National Seashore facility manager, said in the release.

The data collected may help park officials gauge how well the tower holds up during the four seasons and how to prevent leaks while also flagging other problems, Dunphy said.

The Keeper's Quarters Museum, gift shop and Fresnel lens building have remained open throughout the testing on the lighthouse, which is located at the west end of Fire Island National Seashore.

The lighthouse is operated by the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society under a cooperative agreement with the National Park Service, officials said. It has undergone periodic repairs since superstorm Sandy, which struck Long Island in October 2012.

Repair work and recent federal government shutdowns, such as the most recent one what lasted from Dec. 22, 2018, to Jan. 25, have also affected access to the attraction.

Last winter, workers restored the tower steps and watch room ladder, as well as floors in the Keeper's Quarters Museum and gift shop.

In 2017, a $1.2 million project shored up the lighthouse terrace and its underpinnings, weakened by Sandy, the National Park Service said.

The upgrades also strengthened the terrace substructure, repaired parts of the exterior brick wall, reset the Connecticut Bluestone terrace pavers, improved drainage and made the entranceway safer, the agency said.

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