N.S. community fears historic lighthouse will tumble into ocean
Published Sunday, September 6, 2015 11:16AM EDT
Since 1890, a lighthouse has watched over Gabarus Bay in Nova Scotia, guiding ships and luring sightseers from its perch on a grassy cliff.
But after 125 years of Atlantic weather buffeting its base, the lighthouse is threatening to tumble into the water.
The cliff below the structure has eroded so much that, now, part of the lighthouse sits only two metres from the edge.
"That's not very far," chair of the Gabarus Lightkeepers Society, Janet McGillen, said. "We've lost five feet (1.5 metres) of ground in one rain storm."
And with fall rains poised to wash away more of the cliff, members of the Lightkeepers Society are rushing to try and save the landmark, which they say is an important part of their community's history.
The federal government formally recognized the lighthouse's historic value in 2007, when it designated it a "recognized federal heritage building."
The hexagonal structure features white walls and a red metal roof. It's topped with a glass lantern that can beam light up to eight nautical miles (14 kilometres), helping to guide boats through a shallow channel and to the harbour.
To preserve the landmark, the society wants to move the lighthouse away from the edge of the cliff and onto safer ground.
But locals fear the process is taking too long.
"The lighthouse appears to be leaning somewhat towards the water, which makes it even more perilous," Tim Menk, a nearby resident, said.
The society says bureaucratic delays are postponing its plans to move the structure.
It's already been awarded $50,000 to help repair the building, but society members say they can't access the money until they officially take ownership of the lighthouse. Right now, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans owns the structure.
McGillen says the society has applied for a license from the department, so that they can start relocating the lighthouse. But they've run into a number of obstacles.
In order to get the proper licenses, McGillen says the society needs to have insurance. However, the groups has been unable to find an insurance company willing to back them.
"Without the insurance we can't get the licenses. Without the license we can't get insurance. So it goes back and forth," she said.
With summer fading fast, the lighthouse's supporters are appealing to officials, asking them to help save the building before it slides into the ocean.
Standing in front of the structure, with the ocean behind him, Menk asked officials to co-operate "to every extent possible" to avoid losing the historic landmark.
"Take into consideration the urgency," he said.
With a report from CTV Atlantic