In addition, the auxiliary buildings at empty lighthouses are often boarded up and forgotten. As one example, the de-staffed Discovery Island lighthouse dwellings and outbuildings at Sea Bird Point, at the junction of Haro and Juan De Fuca straits, has lost their paint, weeds are colonizing the grounds and are growing cracks in the buildings’ walls. In some locations, the Coast Guard has demolished houses and auxiliary buildings. Although complaints have been loud, until recently, the public has had little impact on the future of lighthouses.
In 2010, a new law allowed communities to petition to preserve heritage lighthouses and to date, nine of B.C.’s 40 lighthouses have been nominated. A workshop on Saving Canada’s Heritage Lighthouses was held on October 15 in Victoria.
“Because of B.C.’s immense coastline and the remoteness of many of its lighthouses, they’re more vulnerable to degradation than those in Atlantic Canada,” said Dr. Patricia Kell, one of the workshop leaders and director of the National Historic Sites Policy Branch, Parks Canada. “In many eastern communities, lighthouses are in town and part of the community’s fabric. So they’re much easier to preserve.”
“We need many more applications,” added meeting chair Pat Carney. “Discovery, Trial Island and Race Rocks are among the lighthouses that should be on the list. We have many landmark lighthouses.”
Petitions must specify which lighthouse is being nominated and be signed by at least 25 residents of Canada who are 18 years of age or older. Any federally owned lighthouses can be nominated for heritage designation before May 29, 2012. After that closing date, applicants will have time to prepare a business case for how the facility will be preserved and how it will serve its community.