For dozens of Nova Scotia communities the local lighthouse has been more
than just a beacon guiding their men and women to safe harbour.
They were a symbol of the life and vitality of a community. Now, Nova
Scotia lighthouses are an endangered species.
In 2008, the federal government declared more than 500 lighthouses across
the country surplus. 60 of them are in Nova Scotia.
Communities can petition the government to save their lighthouse. But there
is a catch. The community has to submit a business plan to show it has the
funds, resources and volunteers to maintain and protect the lighthouse for the
The deadline is May 29, 2012 and so far petitions have been submitted for
only 14 of the 60 lighthouses on the endangered list. The number, while low, is
Natalie Bull, Executive Director of the Heritage Canada Foundation admits
it may be "daunting" for community organizations to think about taking this
Preserving an aging lighthouse is a major -- and expensive -- undertaking
for any community. It takes a lot of dedicated and energetic volunteers to make
Sadly, in many Nova Scotia communities the volunteer pool is shrinking. The
last census confirmed what most rural Nova Scotians already knew: young people
and families are moving out, heading to Halifax, or out west to find work.
Volunteer fire departments, minor sports organizations and festivals, are
all finding it increasingly difficult to enlist enough volunteers to keep those
organizations, all vital to the health of a community, operating.
The prospect of finding enough people to attend board meetings and hold the
fundraisers needed to raise thousands of dollars to preserve the local
lighthouse is indeed "daunting". And the commitment isn't just for a few months
- it is for years.
It's not that people in those 40-odd other communities don't care about
their lighthouses. They simply don't have the resources to do anything about
In the prairies, grain elevators were the beacons that stood watch over
rural communities. As they disappeared from the landscape, so did family farms
and entire towns.
In Nova Scotia, the dismantling of so many of our lighthouses may be yet
another sign of the troubled waters facing our rural communities.