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Universal outrage" is how a spokesman for the state parks department described reaction from Oregonians to the vandalism of the lighthouse at Cape Meares.

After an unknown gunman shot out 15 windows overnight Saturday and damaged the lighthouse's irreplaceable Fresnel lens, the $1,000 reward posted by the Friends of Cape Meares grew almost overnight to $5,000. Contributions continued to pour in Tuesday.

But nothing can replace the lens brought from Paris by ship around Cape Horn in 1889 that has been at the center of the lighthouse's lantern room for 120 years.

"It never is going to get back to what it was," Chris Havel, a spokesman for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, said Tuesday. The agency manages the park and the wildlife refuge where the lighthouse is located, 10 miles west of Tillamook.

Havel described the lighthouse as an emblematic Oregon landmark on a human scale. At 38 feet, it's the state's shortest lighthouse, located on a towering cliff above the Pacific.

The lighthouse guided ships into safe harbor between Jan. 1, 1890, and its decommissioning in 1963 with 30-second bursts of fixed white light from the primary lens, followed by a 5-second red flash from the bull's-eye in the middle, once every minute. That was the lighthouse's signature. Ships could see it from 21 nautical miles.

Havel was an 8-year-old from Illinois when he first saw the little lighthouse with the beautiful beveled-edge glass Fresnel (pronounced "Fraynel") lens.

Tuesday he said that if there is a bright spot in this senseless damage, it is that so many people both in and from outside of Oregon are showing how much they want the lighthouse - closed indefinitely right now - repaired and the lighthouse reopened.

Contributions to the reward fund - and tips to the Oregon State Police (800-452-7888) - continue to pour in.

OSP spokesman Lt. Gregg Hastings said that tire tracks left at the scene will be analyzed at the OSP crime lab. At a minimum, whoever fired those shots could be charged with first-degree criminal mischief, a class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $125,000.

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But we can't help remembering what happened to the vandal who was convicted of the 2008 theft of the 5½-foot bronze statue of Sacajawea from Fort Clatsop National Memorial Park. The $20,000 work of art was cut into $200 worth of scrap metal to try selling it for drug money.

Because of Oregon sentencing guidelines, the leader of the four-person group involved served only a 50-day jail sentence.

That kind of thing needs to change. Vandalism against historic or "venerated" objects should carry more serious consequences.

About a month is left to celebrate Oregon's 150th birthday before our state turns 151 on Feb. 14. We suggest that when the Legislature convenes Feb. 1, its members should add enacting legal protection for Oregon's historic places to its agenda.

And here's some added incentive:

An estimated 460,000 people visit the lighthouse each year. We suspect many among them are voters.

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