P.E.I.'s Blockhouse lighthouse getting overhaul after community group tells Coast Guard it's 'falling apart'

Members of the Blockhouse Lighthouse Preservation Society are delighted that Coast Guard has started extensive repairs to the building that they described as 'falling apart'.

'It's going to look like new again which is even more than what we had hoped for'

Carol Carragher was at the site Thursday as the crews from the Canadian Coast Guard set up on site and even brought muffins and coffee for the workers to express her gratitude. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

A community group that wants to preserve the Blockhouse lighthouse at the mouth of the Charlottetown Harbour is celebrating as the Coast Guard sets up on site to begin several months of repairs to the structure.

In September, members of the Blockhouse Lighthouse Preservation Society described the condition of the iconic lighthouse as 'shameful and disgraceful'.

"I'm literally trying to save the lighthouse from falling down," said the group's secretary Carol Carragher, who lives not far from the lighthouse.

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

Shortly after Carragher and her group went public with their concerns on a new Facebook group called Save the Blockhouse, a team from Coast Guard was sent to inspect the Blockhouse lighthouse.

In a statement this week, a spokesperson from the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans and Coast Guard says that as a result of those inspections, work will start immediately to make the structure more water tight.

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

"There's a smile on my face from ear to ear," Carragher said.

"I feel like it's the beginning of something great, I'm just so happy."

Crews from the Canadian Coast Guard will be on the site as weather permits until the end of December but some of the work may have to wait until the spring. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Carragher was at the site Thursday as the crews from the Canadian Coast Guard set up.

"I don't know why it's come to this point but all I am is just grateful that the people in charge, the people who could do something about it actually decided to do something about it," Carragher said. 

"It's going to look like new again which is even more than what we had hoped for."

A gate has been set up at the Blockhouse for safety reasons. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

The statement from Coast Guard says the work will include repairing windows, corner casings and the roof and deck of the front veranda. There is also lots of siding that needs to be replaced, which will be done with pre-painted shingles.

There is a gate now at the entrance to the site, for safety reasons. The grass has been cut and branches trimmed, and a dumpster and other equipment have been set up.

The veranda at the Blockhouse will be getting some repairs as the work begins. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

The Coast Guard says the progress on the lighthouse will depend, in part, on the weather but crews will do as much as possible before the end of December. However, some of the work may have to wait until spring.

Next step

Carragher says her group now hopes to resolve the issue of ownership of the Blockhouse lighthouse.

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

But in 2015, the community group 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.

"This work is being done to restore it, our next step for us as a group would be to acquire it and that's going to be up to six months," Carragher said.

The grass has been cut and a work site set up at the Blockhouse lighthouse. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

For now, Carragher plans to keep a close eye on the work and to update the many supporters who have been following her group's plea for help for the lighthouse.

"That is the amazing part, when we started out we felt like there was only of us that were really going to be moving this forward," Carragher said.

"The likes and the shares, that in itself was quite a moment to realize that many people were behind us."

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