Prince Edward Island

P.E.I.'s Blockhouse lighthouse 'falling apart,' community group calls for action

'I just can't understand how it got to be in this state of disrepair, it's just heartbreaking'

Nancy Russell - CBC News

September 22, 2017

The water side of the Blockhouse is visible to cruise ships entering the Charlottetown Harbour. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

A community group that wants to preserve the Blockhouse lighthouse at the mouth of the Charlottetown Harbour is calling for immediate action to stop the building from further deterioration.

"The first word that comes to mind is shameful and disgraceful," says Carol Carragher, a nearby resident and member of the Blockhouse Lighthouse Preservation Society.

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"I'm literally trying to save the lighthouse from falling down."

Carol Carragher takes a closer look at the wear and tear on the Blockhouse. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Carragher points to broken boards and holes in the wooden siding.

"I guess the worst is the outside of it has deteriorated, because now we have holes so the elements are now able to get in," she said.

"That's just happened in the last year."

Carragher shared photos of the decaying structure on social media and has received lots of attention. There is now a Facebook page called Save Our Blockhouse.

The holes in the wall of the Blockhouse are raising concerns about how it will withstand the upcoming winter. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"From far away it looks like, 'Oh gee, it could just get some red and white paint on that and it would look great,' but now we're talking about structural damage," she said.

"This is our history. When it's gone, you cannot bring it back — it's gone. And shame on those people who let it happen."

Still waiting

The non-profit preservation group, which formed in 2011 to petition to acquire the lighthouse, has been waiting to take over the lighthouse since it was declared surplus in 2010.

Carol Carragher says the lighthouse now needs more than a coat of paint because there is now structural damage as well. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

But in 2015, it learned that the Mi'kmaq Confederacy had staked a claim for the lighthouse, along with up to 19 other lighthouses and surrounding Crown lands across Prince Edward Island.

Carragher claims there has been almost no maintenance on the lighthouse since then.

"I think it's five to six years since the coast guard has done any maintenance other than look at the light," she said.

Carol Carragher, left, and Marie Stretch are part of a community group waiting to take over the Blockhouse lighthouse. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"And so, while negotiations are taking place, our blessed building, historic lighthouse, has been allowed to fall down and it is in a bad state."

'It's just heartbreaking'

Carragher's concerns are shared by Marie Stretch, who grew up in the lighthouse with her two brothers and two sisters while their father, Stanley Taylor, was the lighthouse keeper.

"My family is just so heartsick over the shape of our old home," Stretch said.

"I just can't understand how it got to be in this state of disrepair. It's just heartbreaking."

Marie Stretch says it's heartbreaking to see the state of the lighthouse where she grew up with her family, her father the keeper of the light. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Stretch has found it hard to watch other P.E.I. lighthouses being handed over to community groups, while the Blockhouse sits untended.

"I feel very jealous," she said.

"I really feel, how can that be when we're having such trouble with our lighthouse? I just don't understand it."

Call for action

Meanwhile, Carragher has been in touch with her MP, Wayne Easter, and with officials from Fisheries and Oceans, but said it's time for someone to step up and, at the very least, winterize the lighthouse to get it through until spring.

"If it falls down or something happens to it over the winter, it's going to be shame on the people who didn't do anything about it — and I'm talking about our politicians," she said.

Visitors to the Blockhouse are still eager to take pictures despite the faded appearance of the lighthouse. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

In a statement, the Mi'kmaq Confederacy wrote it would be "inappropriate to comment at this point," while negotiations for the lighthouses is ongoing.

"We are also not in a position to comment in the 'state of disrepair' that the Blockhouse lighthouse might be in."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Fisheries and Oceans explained that "aesthetic repairs are done on an opportunity basis as resources permit."

The spokesman confirmed it has received reports from concerned citizens, and a new assessment of the Blockhouse lighthouse will be done in the coming days.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy Russell

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water rowing, travelling to Kenya or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca

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