Regional District may help protect three lighthouses

The Strathcona Regional District may circulate a petition to save three area lighthouses.

The Strathcona Regional District may circulate a petition to save three area lighthouses.

Nearly one month after the Regional District board debated applying for heritage status for the landmarks, the board voted on whether to initiate petitions Thursday after the Mirror went to press.

Separate petitions would be required to protect lighthouses located at Chatham Point, Nootka and Cape Mudge. If the petitions were successful, the lightstations would be exempt from any future demolition or sale under the federal government’s Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act.

The Regional District recently learned a fourth beacon, an inactive lighthouse at Lookout Island near Kyuquot, is not eligible under the act.

“The lightstation facility on Lookout Island has been declared surplus and would not be considered for heritage status unless a sponsoring organization could be found to protect its heritage character,” said Brian Reardon, the regional district’s chief administrative officer in a report to the board.

The Canadian government is allowing individuals and local governments to nominate lighthouses for protection as long as petitions are received by May 2012.

Jim Abram, vice-chair of the regional board and a former lightkeeper, was made aware of the opportunity by former senator, and lightkeeper advocate, Pat Carney, a couple of months ago. He presented the board with Carney’s letters more than a month ago and has been frustrated by how long it has taken the Regional District to make a decision.

“The (August) report that came from staff didn’t tell us anything,” Abram said last month. “Because of that some of the other directors didn’t want to proceed until it goes back to staff for a full report that should have come to us the first time.”

Abram has been fighting for lighthouses for the past 25 years. The most recent battle came last year when the government threatened to de-staff lightstations. Around the same time, the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act was legislated (May 2010) after the Canadian government declared a number of lightstations surplus to operational need.