Canada's iconic Peggys Cove lighthouse and hundreds of others like it across Canada could face the wrecking ball if community groups don't step forward with plans to save them by the end of May.

Many of the Canadian lighthouses declared surplus by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans are covered with peeling paint and rust stains as they deteriorate without maintenance.

But would Ottawa or Nova Scotia sit by while the white and red towering Peggys Cove lighthouse is demolished, especially when it attracts 500,000 tourists per year?

"It's not beyond the realm of possibility," Barry MacDonald, president of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, told CTV's Canada AM Friday.

"We've been working for the last number of years to save not just Peggys Cove but a number of lighthouses across the country," he said in an interview from the cove, which is about 43 kilometres southwest of Halifax.

The province is mulling whether or not it wants to take over the lighthouse, but MacDonald said there's been no definitive answer to date.

When the federal government declared 490 inactive and 480 active lighthouses surplus in May 2010, it also created the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act that allows for the transfer of the structures to new owners.

The deadline for petitions and business plans for lighthouse retention is May 29, MacDonald said.

To date, 155-plus petitions are ready for Ottawa to consider, including one for Peggys Cove, he said.

Groups filing petitions must prove to the DFO that they have the ability to care for them going forward, MacDonald said.

If the province agrees to assume responsibility for Peggys Cove, then the business plan isn't an issue, he said.

Also a concern is the future of historic lighthouses such as Sambro Island – the oldest surviving lighthouse in North America built in 1758 at the entrance to Halifax Harbour.

MacDonald said such structures are "beyond the range of small community groups to care for . . . we've got lighthouses like that right across the country."

"It faces a very uncertain future because DFO has already made it very clear that it's not going to maintain these older structures any more," he said.

Ottawa is opting for cheaper steel towers to aid navigation and just letting the lighthouses go, MacDonald said.

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