Saskatchewan's only lighthouse gets a facelift

The Cochin lighthouse - yes, there is a lighthouse in Saskatchewan - sits atop a picturesque hill, overlooking Jackfish Lake. Visitors climb 152 steps to the top, and many sign their names when they get there.

Cochin lighthouse built as a tourist attraction in 1989, has garnered thousands of graffiti signatures

Harvey Walker, mayor of Cochin, says the lighthouse is a tourist draw for the town, but its graffitied walls have to go. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

The Cochin, Sask., lighthouse is receiving some overdue renovations, but it means the loss of memories etched into its sides.

The lighthouse — yes, there is a lighthouse in Saskatchewan — sits atop a picturesque hill, overlooking Jackfish Lake. Visitors climb 152 steps to the top, and many sign their names when they get there.

Saskatchewan couples have been engaged at the lighthouse, and later have taken wedding pictures at the top of the hill.

Others have inscribed smiley faces and the date of their first visit to Cochin.

"I guess I don't think of it as graffiti, which has a romantic touch to it," said Cochin Mayor Harvey Walker.

So, the village is covering it up. Municipal staff began repair on the lighthouse's deck and benches, and a request for proposals has been circulated to contractors for sheet metal installation on the structure's exterior.

Since the erection of the lighthouse in 1989, there have been "no repairs, just paint," said Walker.

"I would like to say it's pretty important," said Adam Avery, part of the four-person crew from the village replacing deck boards.

"Not a lot of lakes have lighthouses and a creek and a second lake to go to!"

The lighthouse is the pride of Cochin, but the structure hasn't been updated, save for a few coats of paint, since it was built. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

Land-locked lighthouse

Cochin, a village of 120 in the off-season located 35 kilometres north of North Battleford, Sask., is home to a lighthouse because of a trip former mayor Tom Archdekin took to Canada's east coast in the 1980s. 

"He had a eureka moment," said Walker.

"He brought the message back to council here and said, 'Let's build ourselves a lighthouse.'"

The village received provincial grants to construct the lighthouse. Its location, atop Pirot's Hill, was a special gift from a local family. Don Pirot, a local entrepreneur, leased the property to the village for 99 years. The land is still controlled by the Pirot estate.

The lighthouse does have a functioning light — it was illuminated for the first time July 1, 1989 — but it was constructed as a tourist attraction. Still, some boaters have used it to find their way across Jackfish Lake in a pinch.

"People who were kids at the time it went up come back, and one of the first things they do is make sure the lighthouse is still there," said Walker, taking his grandchildren up to the lighthouse for the first time.

"You hear people across Western Canada say, 'Oh, we know Cochin. That's the place with the lighthouse.'"

This view of Jackfish Lake awaits after the 152-step climb up to the lighthouse in Cochin. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)


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