Seven Heritage Places will be added to the P.E.I. government list of protected heritage sites, including railway stations, a church, a house and — a rock.

The province designates locations as Heritage Places to preserve them for future generations. They are protected by the province's Heritage Places Protection Act.

The new sites include: St. Anne's Church, on Lennox Island; train stations in Alberton, Kensington, O'Leary and Emerald;, Lyle House in Birch Hill; and a unique spot, the West River petroglyph site on the Green Road in Bonshaw.

"It's a collection of different carvings in the rock, really a little bit like graffiti," says David Keenlyside, executive director of the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation.

glyph in Bonshaw

The graffiti-like etchings include the initials of early European settlers dating back to 1880. (Megan Harris)

It's a large piece of sandstone hidden in the woods with the initials of early European settlers dating back to 1880.

"In eastern Canada we don't see a lot of — in the Maritimes — a lot of petroglyphs but in this particular case, these are historic ones."

Petroglyphs typically consist of prehistoric carvings by aboriginal people, but heritage officials say these century-old etchings are historic too.

For now, officials are not revealing the exact location of the carvings to protect them from damage by the public.

"It's soft sandstone, and it doesn't take much to erode or destroy the surface, either through weathering or through human action, so they tend to be fragile," said Keenlyside.

The province finds itself caught between ... a rock and a hard place.

"Access to sites like this are always difficult because, on one hand, you're trying to preserve them, but on the other, the very fact that we're designating them means we're bringing them into the public domain and making people aware of them. So it's always a challenge between public accessibility and preservation and so on."

'Loved to death'

The local watershed protection group supports keeping a lid on the big rock's whereabouts.

"They're not always wanting to publicize where they are because they can get loved to death. People touching it. It all contributes to decay," said Megan Harris, West River Watershed Group co-ordinator.

"Some things are better just left to nature and we don't need to see it all or visit it all. Just knowing it's there is sometimes enough."

David Keenlyside, executive director of the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation

David Keenlyside, executive director of the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation says there's a plan to preserve the carvings. (CBC)

A plan to preserve the carvings is now in the works and may include interpretive displays along the hiking trails, featuring photographs of the rocks.

Tourism and Culture Minister Robert Henderson has a couple of other favourite heritage locations.

"Well, obviously, the O'Leary railway station is probably maybe a little more near and dear to my heart, just because it's in the riding of O'Leary-Inverness. But it was really the reason that the community of O'Leary established itself, said Henderson.

"I would say another one is St. Anne's Church in Lennox Island. It is kind of a landmark in the community. It's good to have those places identified that are worthy of significance and are designated as such. "

A site that is designated as a heritage place cannot be moved or changed without a heritage permit.

Anyone who objects to the designation has 30 days to voice concerns.