Let there be a light to shine far again atop Mount Prevost

At last report, plans to make the peak of Mount Prevost and its iconic lighthouse war memorial more accessible to the public remains a work in progress.

Among the i’s to be crossed are continued negotiations with the province over land accessibility and ownership, and consultation with Cowichan Tribes.

Sparked by the Duncan Daybreak Rotary Club, parks and recreation manager Ernie Mansueti has been carrying the ball for North Cowichan. He recently informed the Rotary’s Dave Darwin of the municipality’s ongoing discussions with the Provincial Legal Services Branch, Ministry of Justice, for a lease or a grant to purchase the site.

This is necessary because the legal title, originally acquired (gratis) from the E&N Railway by The Trustees of the Cowichan Mountain Memorial Society that erected the memorial shortly after the First World War, lapsed and ownership was returned to the province.

Mansueti noted there has been some reluctance on the part of Cowichan Tribes and stressed, "All parties are cognizant and concerned that a proposed park does not alter or destroy the cultural significance to the Tribes people or Hul’qumi’num group and continued dialogue is paramount."

Suggested park developments, likely to take several years and be paid for with public and private money, include road and trail upgrades and maintenance, increased parking, park "amenities" including washrooms, and safety restraints at both peak lookouts. The goal is to make Mount Prevost’s memorial and spectacular bird’s-eye views of the entire Cowichan Valley more accessible than is the case at present.

All this is fine – so far as it goes. But I think that North Cowichan and the Rotarians have overlooked a key element in Mount Prevost’s rehabilitation and upgrading.

Quite simply, the memorial, built to honour to the Valley’s casualties of the First World War, then expanded to recognize those of the Second World and Korean

wars, was built as a lighthouse not just for its symbolism but in actual fact. For years, it was illuminated at night with a flashing beacon that could be seen from afar. The memorial was, in fact, specially positioned so that its light could be clearly seen from three directions and ships at sea.

But repeated vandalism over the years took care of that. In fact, few people realize that this is the third memorial on Prevost, the first one, a cairn of loosely stacked stone, having crumbled, with the help of vandals, within a few years of its completion. Then the second one began to follow suit even before completion. Hence this one, 37-feet-high and consecrated on Nov. 11, 1929, is of concrete and stone, all hauled up the steep and winding road to the site on a stone-boat behind a labouring team of horses. The workmanship was done by members of the Great War Veterans Association and others.

In March 1934 it was reported that the gas-powered light acquired from the Dominion lighthouse service had been recharged for $12, thanks to an anonymous donor, and was expected to burn for another six months before requiring a refill. The light continued to burn until a coastal blackout was imposed during the Second World War. Subsequent attempts to relight the beacon have been defeated by idiots shooting them out and, in the 1980s, ripping off one of the bronze tablets and throwing it over the edge, a sheer drop; it wasn’t recovered until years later.

Thanks to Al Siebring, the memorial was repainted white in 2001 and, by day, reflects the sun’s rays as though it were illuminated. Plans to reignite the beacon were shelved because of the threat of vandalism.

Today, at least two Victoria manufacturers produce state-of-the-art lighting that would be ideal for this purpose. A public subscription could cover the purchase and installation and, surely, we can overcome vandalism, too.

It’s time for Mount Prevost’s memorial beacon to shine once more! www.twpaterson.com

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