Just two days apart, these headlines in the Times Colonist couldn’t have been more unalike or, alas, more illuminating.
Friday, May 29: Deadline looms on heritage status for surplus lighthouses.
Sunday, May 31:
Historic lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard survives painstaking move.
The Martha’s Vineyard hint aside, do I have to tell you which article refers to the Canadian government’s approach to our heritage lighthouses and which tells us about the American approach?
Here, we have "scores of Canada’s surplus" lighthouses up for disposal or, may wonders never cease, possible heritage designation. Even this list isn’t complete, according to Barry MacDonald of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society. For 17 years he has worked to protect historic lighthouses across the country and he believes that the federal government’s five-year plan to divest itself of "surplus" lighthouses is giving many of them with historic significance the bum’s rush.
Some of those 970 lighthouses and beacons that were declared
redundant in 2010 are intended (a la Sooke’s historic Sheringham Lighthouse) to be transferred to community groups and other levels of government for their preservation. But no fewer than 348 have sparked public petitions under the
federal Heritage Lighthouse Preservation Act which gives Parks Canada the deciding vote on which lighthouses stay and which go. So far, the government has granted heritage status to 74 lighthouses, of which 42 will continue in active service as navigational aids and 32 will be deactivated and transferred to other government levels or be taken in hand by various community groups.
Not good enough, says, MacDonald.
Last week, it was officially confirmed that 74 lighthouses in seven provinces (and possibly another 50 over the next two years) will be preserved under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (a story in itself) 21 of them in B.C. That may sound impressive but Marc Sequin, head of the non-profit group Save Our Lighthouses, considers it a good first step but no more (he’s quoted by Canadian Press) as there are "about 500 historic
lighthouses worth preserving in Canada".
In other words, even the combined total, 124, represents just a quarter of Canada’s heritage lighthouses. "That means 75 per cent…have really been orphaned," said the Ontario resident. He believes that Ottawa must come up with more money for funding the 150 municipalities and community groups that have submitted business plans to preserve their local lighthouses. The sums mentioned – $5 million to repair the historic lighthouses that
the government will retain and another $1 million in grants and contributions is to be divided between the public applicants.
This latter sum works out to an average of, if this figure is correct, all of $3,125 per lighthouse!
The 21 heritage-designated lighthouses for B.C. (11 of them are on Vancouver Island) are: Active Pass on Mayne Island; Boat Bluff in the Kitimat-Stikine area; Alerni-Clayoquot’s Cape Beale; Cape Mudge on Quadra Island; the west coast’s Carmanah Point (given in news
reports as being situated in the Cowichan Valley!); Dryad Point, B.C. central coast; East Point on Saturna Island; Egg Island, Port Hardy; Entrance Island, Nanaimo; Esteven Point, northwest of Tofino; Fisgard, Victoria (for years part of Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Park); Green Island, Prince Rupert; Langara Point, Masset, Haida Gwaii; McInnes Island, Milbanke Sound; Merry Island, Sunshine Coast; Nootka and Pachena Point, west coast of Vancouver Island; Pulteney Point, Port McNeill; Sheringham Point, Sooke; Trial Islands, Oak Bay; and Triple Islands in the Skeena district.
Conspicuously missing from this list is the province’s second and perhaps most famous lighthouse, Race Rocks.
Now compare this to late May’s news report from Martha’s Vineyard where they not only recognized a historic lighthouses’ heritage value but, at great expense, shifted the 160-year-old Gay Head Light 41 metres to where it will be secured to a new foundation. This was no simple task, the lighthouse being four storeys tall and weighing 400 tonnes!
How far, do you suppose, would $3,124 (Canadian) go towards that?