Community group hoping to make Shipwreck Point Lighthouse shine again
Local historic landmark deemed surplus by Fisheries and Oceans Canada
A local community group is still waiting for an official response from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to decide the fate of an Island lighthouse.
Shipwreck Point Lighthouse sits upon the fabled P.E.I. red-rock cliffs shining its light as a warning to maritime vessels.
It's on the Island's North Shore near the busy harbour in Naufrage, P.E.I., and a destination for many tourists seeking the traditional Island view.
A wooden boardwalk leads from the main road, up through the long grass and field flowers before coming to an abrupt end a few short metres from the lighthouse.
"This is the Shipwreck Point Lighthouse but unfortunately this is as far as our boardwalk is allowed to go," said Nathan Paton, chair of the Friends of Shipwreck Point Lighthouse group.
That's because the lighthouse still belongs to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. It was deemed surplus when the department implemented the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act in 2010.
Nine P.E.I. lighthouses have received federal heritage designations but the Shipwreck Point Lighthouse was among the dozens that did not.
This provided an opportunity for local community groups that wanted to take over ownership of the surplus lighthouses.
The Friends of Shipwreck Point Lighthouse was established in 2013 and submitted its plan shortly after to the department.
Paton said they want to be a partner with the federal government but over the years they have not heard much back on the status of their application.
"They are always polite when they tell us but they say it's still in consultation, still wherever," Paton said.
"It's frustrating to think it doesn't move and doesn't change and after seven years you have to think, who are they consulting and what's the issue."
Process with DFO
In a written statement to CBC, Fisheries and Oceans said "Divesting federal real property is a lengthy complex process that can take years to finalize."
It said the federal government needs to complete due diligence when it comes to the process which can include things like environmental assessments, Indigenous consultations, surveying and remediation.
"The process for the divestiture of this property is underway. No decision has been made yet," said the statement.
Marking local history
The original Shipwreck Point Lighthouse was built in 1913 and is now used as a private home. But the current automated lighthouse the group is trying to acquire was built just metres away in 1968 to replace it.
Gerald MacDonald's grandparents lived in the original block style lighthouse with their 12 children. His grandfather, Daniel O'Hanley, worked as the lighthouse keeper.
"The big house, the square house without the light on the top — that was the original lighthouse here," MacDonald said.
"The light was on the top of it and that's where my grandfather and grandmother — Danny and Mary Ellen O'Hanley — took it over in 1939 during war time."
MacDonald says it's important to have a place in the community where the local history can be told and remembered.
"You had to climb through a top hatch and come out in the top part of the light and then you are right on the light," MacDonald said.
"There was a railing around the light and you had a great view of the gulf to the back here and a set of binoculars and it was, it was nice."
Lighthouse tourism opportunity
It's a view that local businesses hope to be able to share with the tourists who cross the Island seeking lighthouses.
"P.E.I. is known as the province full of lighthouses and literally people come from all over the world to check out our lighthouses," said Matthew Doiron, owner of East Coast Paddle Adventures.
He rents out kayaks and paddle boards in the area, and supports the group in having the Shipwreck Point Lighthouse as a community hub and tourist destination.
He said the view from the water is something different all together.
"You really feel like you are on an Island when you see a lighthouse off in the distance," Doiron said.
"The red cliffs. The light shining. We have eagles flying over. You just can't beat it."
Paton said he hears from tourists who are looking for those iconic lighthouse views and a glimpse at the history behind them.
"It's one thing for us locals to want to preserve and protect the history but that is something that people from all around the world are interested in," Paton said.
"To see another summer go by where we don't get to share that with people it's — well as someone who just loves history — it's just kind of sad when I think about that."