Seeing the light: Ottawa commits $1.5 million to save historic N.S. lighthouse
For more than 250 years, Nova Scotia’s Sambro Island lighthouse protected Canadians from conflicts and storms, but now it appears to be losing its own battle with time.
As North America’s oldest standing lighthouse, the structure has been guarding the entrance to the Halifax Harbour since 1759.
From its rocky perch two kilometres from shore, the lighthouse is striking. For many immigrants, it would be a first look at a new home.
For soldiers heading off to fight the world wars, it was the last thing they saw as Canada faded from view.
“I, in my heart, believe that this is Canada’s Statue of Liberty,” says Sue Paul, of the Lighthouse Heritage Society.
Despite a rich history, the lighthouse is falling apart.
Tom Gilkie, who’s lived all his life in the shadow of the lighthouse, says the structure is in “terrible” shape. “It’s all going to pieces.”
Slabs of concrete have broken off the lighthouse, which seemed doomed five years ago when the federal government cut funding for lighthouses.
While others have been adopted by community groups, distance and other difficulties have worked against the Sambro Island lighthouse.
“You have to fly staging out from the mainland by helicopter, set staging up all around the lighthouse,” says Barry MacDonald, of the Lighthouse Heritage Society. “Any repairs you do to a concrete structure like that is very time-consuming.”
But lobbying convinced the federal government to commit $1.5 million to keep Sambro standing in the short-term. Now there is a movement afoot to prolong its lifespan.
If passed, a private member’s bill in the House of Commons would see the lighthouse transferred to become property of Parks Canada. There appears to be some agreement over the bill for a number of MPs of all party stripes.
“So that that way, it’s assured that there will always be funding to maintain the structure of the lighthouse,” says Stephanie Smith, of the Sambro Lighthouse Heritage Society.
With a report by CTV Atlantic Bureau Chief Todd Battis