In May 2008, legislation was introduced to “protect and conserve heritage lighthouses,” across Canada.
In May 2012, the petition period closed for nominations.
Last week, the first 74 heritage lighthouses in Canada were announced, and Quadra’s very own Cape Mudge Lighthouse was on the list, along with 20 others in B.C.
Located on the southwestern tip of Quadra Island, the octagonal concrete lighthouse was built in 1916, replacing the original structure that stood on the site – a square wooden house built in 1898.
The process wasn’t without its controversy, however.
In August of 2011, Chief Ralph Dick of the We Wai Kai First Nation, whose land is home to the lighthouse, asked the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) to “butt out” of their affairs, which is what the band felt was happening by seeking the heritage recognition for the site.
The SRD said they were only interested in ensuring the building itself would be preserved. The building is owned and operated by the federal government and operated by the Coast Guard, they said, and they wanted to ensure it was protected from the whims of the federal government.
“The Coast Guard is our worst enemy as far as light stations are concerned,” said Strathcona Regional District’s Quadra Island Director – now Chair – and retired lightstation-keeper for 25 years Jim Abram said at the time.
And he still believes that.
“This announcement means that the station itself will not only be be preserved, but also remain the same rather than being changed by the Coast Guard on a whim,” he said. “This is a big win for us. We’ve been fighting this battle for 25 years in regards to the preservation of these structures and the recognition of their importance to the nation,” he said. “There’s no more efficient or effective system in the country than light stations,” he said, noting that station keepers not only keep ships from wrecking on dangerous shorelines, but also provide vital science, weather and other record-keeping services as well as performing life-saving and search-and-rescue roles.
Abram sees the conservation announcement as a birthday gift to the nation from the federal government, adding it’s fitting that it also comes just before the Cape Mudge station’s 100th birthday.
“I’m ecstatic that it was one of the first on the list,” Abram said.
Abrams said one of the reasons that the Cape Mudge station is in such good shape, even after 100 years, is that it’s the only tower on true coast of B.C. – probably in Canada – that was made with fresh water. A well was dug on the property to make the concrete used in the continuous-pour, Abram said, which compared to concrete made with saltwater, is much stronger.
“It’s also an iconic structure for the area,” Abram said, noting that it’s the only light station on the coast that’s accessible to the public, so it has another role to play in terms of both education and tourism.
Abram said he’s not sure what the birthday party for the station will end up looking like, but he’s working on it.
“I’m hoping we can make it something extra special,” he said.