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Heritage protection urged for lighthouses

Three area lighthouses could be protected from potential demolition or sale if they are  nominated for heritage designation.

Active lighthouses at Cape Mudge, Chatham Point and Nootka are eligible for protection through the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, federal legislation that keeps lighthouses safe from any possible changes or destruction.

The B.C. Heritage Branch recently informed the Strathcona Regional District it has until May 2012 to petition for lighthouses in its jurisdiction. The general public can also nominate a lighthouse by sending a petition, which must be signed by 25 residents of Canada 18 years of age or older, to Parks Canada.

“Time is of the essence,” said Pam Copley, community heritage planner with the Ministry of Forests (which holds responsibility for the Heritage Branch), in a letter to the Regional District July 12. “Landmark lighthouses may be threatened if new sponsors are not found to nominate them for federal heritage designation and/or take responsibility for their long-term upkeep.”

At the Regional District’s Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday, directors asked staff to prepare a report describing the best way for the regional district to support the petition process for the lighthouses to be declared heritage buildings.

So far only three of 30 historic lighthouses in B.C. have been nominated for designation under the heritage protection act and the government is encouraging more nominations.

Across Canada, 56 lighthouses have been nominated.

“The number of petitions received illustrates the depth of attachment and appreciation Canadians feel for these iconic buildings,” said Norman Shields, manager of the Heritage Lighthouse Program.

The Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act came into effect May 2010 when the federal government declared a number of light stations surplus to operational need.

The act allows the surplus federally-owned lighthouses to be transferred to new owners as long as the lighthouses, which can be used for other purposes, are properly maintained.

The act also protects lighthouses that are staffed and operational, not deemed surplus, such as the three in the Strathcona Regional District’s jurisdiction:

Cape Mudge

Located on the southern tip of Quadra Island, the Cape Mudge Lighthouse marks the southern entrance to Discovery Passage. It was built in 1898 to accommodate increased marine traffic as a result of the Klondike gold rush. Plans to de-staff the lightstation which has an automated weather-observing system and solar-powered light, horn and videograph fog sensor were put off pending further review after public protest in 2009.

Chatham Point

Marks the point where the Discovery Passage makes a sharp turn to meet the Johnstone Strait, about 25 kilometres north of Campbell River. The light was built offshore on a rock about five feet above water. A fog horn, two one-storey lightkeeper dwellings and a boathouse were constructed in 1957. The station remains staffed today and the lightkeeper’s duties include collecting marine and weather data as well as maintaining the lighthouse.

Nootka

Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island at the entrance to Nootka Sound, the history of the lighthouse dates back to 1906, when the storekeeper at Friendly Cove established a light to assist mariners in the area. Three years later a petition was sent to the federal government asking for a permanent light to mark Nootka Sound. Ottawa obliged and in 1910 a lighthouse was built atop San Rafael Island, lying off Friendly Cove. In 1952 new 32-foot, steel skeletal towers, were erected at Nootka and Cape Beale. The lighthouse remains active and nestled in an isolated spot.

Anyone interested in nominating a lighthouse for heritage protection can visit the Parks Canada website, www.parkscanada.gc.ca or call the Heritage Lighthouse Program, 819-934-9096.

 

 

 

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