Groups call for petitions to save Canada's lighthouses
Published Sunday, March 18, 2012 8:34PM EDT
For generations, Canada's lighthouses have guided ships along the country's expansive coasts and beckoned newcomers to our shores.
Now, nearly 1,000 of them -- including the world-renowned Peggy's Cove lighthouse in Nova Scotia -- are in danger of disappearing off the map.
The federal government placed the lighthouses on its surplus list nearly two years ago, saying many of them could be replaced with simpler structures that are less costly and easier to maintain and operate.
"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.
Many of the lighthouses are inactive, no longer used as navigational aids.
Ottawa has offered the surplus lighthouses to interested municipalities, community groups or individuals, but time is running out to save the historic landmarks.
Those interested in preserving a lighthouse have until the end of May to submit petitions with at least 25 signatures. The Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act allows the government to designate some lighthouses as heritage sites.
The Heritage Canada Foundation, along with smaller groups like the Isle Madame Lighthouse Preservation Society in Cape Breton, are urging Canadians to sign the petitions.
Groups and communities that are serious about tackling a lighthouse project must also produce solid business plans.
But the costs of upkeep, repairs and insurance policies are high. Some lighthouses, like the one on Race Rocks off Vancouver Island, are also difficult to get to for regular maintenance.
"Small groups -- cash-strapped community groups -- are very reluctant to take on a big piece of infrastructure like that," MacDonald said.
Former Conservative senator Pat Carney hopes Canadians will step forward to preserve their heritage.
"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 told CTV News.
With a report from CTV's Todd Battis in Halifax