Communities work to save Canada’s lighthouses

Jordana Divon
Daily BrewMarch 19, 2012

Though many are no longer in active use, a number of Canadian communities are stepping up to help preserve the country's lighthouses.

More than 1,000 lighthouses, including the famous tower on Nova Scotia's Peggy's Cove, are in danger of extinction after the federal government added them to a surplus list two years ago.

As CTV News reports, this designation means they're in danger of being replaced with simpler, more cost effective structures.

"They can do that job just as cheaply, or a lot cheaper, just by putting up a steel tower and putting a solarized light on it," Barry MacDonald of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society told CTV News.

MacDonald's Preservation Society is just one of many similar-minded groups that want to see that these historic landmarks stay put.

They join The Heritage Canada Foundation and smaller groups like the Isle Madame Lighthouse Preservation Society in Cape Breton in gathering signatures for petitions to save the lighthouses.

These groups have until May to collect at least 25 signatures per petition and submit them to Ottawa. Under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, the government will be able to award some lighthouses heritage status.

But it's not as simple as collecting a few signatures. Communities and groups that want to preserve their lighthouses must also submit a business plan that demonstrates how the costs of upkeep and insurance can be maintained.

These expenses tend to run high and some structures, like the lighthouse on Race Rocks off Vancouver Island, are notoriously difficult to reach for regular repair.

For a number of well-meaning towns and organizations, the overhead costs are not tenable. "Small groups — cash-strapped community groups — are very reluctant to take on a big piece of infrastructure like that," MacDonald told the news channel.

The movement also has the support of a few politicians. Former senator Pat Carney told CTV it would be a shame to lose these important parts of our coastal history.

"They're wonderful stories of people surviving, they're wonderful stories of how communities developed on our coasts and we can't risk losing them," she said.

Click here to learn more about the Save the Lighthouses petition.