PEI·Video

Community group hoping to make Shipwreck Point Lighthouse shine again

A communty group in Naufrage, P.E.I. is still waiting to hear if they will be able to take ownership of the Shipwreck Point Lighthouse from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Local historic landmark deemed surplus by Fisheries and Oceans Canada

A closer look at community efforts to reclaim Shipwreck Point Lighthouse

CBC News PEI

9 days ago
3:11
The Friends of Shipwreck Point Lighthouse has been applying for years to acquire the lighthouse in Naufrage, P.E.I., but is still awaiting a decision by the federal government. 3:11

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.

Nathan Paton, chair of the Friends of Shipwreck Point Lighthouse group, says they have been waiting for years to find out the status of their application to own the lighthouse from Fisheries and Oceans Canada. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

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. 

The automated lighthouse that stands today was built in 1968 and was deemed surplus by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2010. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

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.

Historical photos including the original shipwreck lighthouse, the first lighthouse keeper Frank and Sarah MacKinnon and on the right — Daniel and Mary Ellen O’Hanley — Gerald MacDonald’s grandparents. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

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."

Gerald MacDonald’s grandfather Daniel O’Hanley was the lighthouse keeper of the former lighthouse from 1939-1955. The family of 14 lived in the square house, which was the original lighthouse until 1968. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

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.

Matthew Doiron, owner of East Coast Paddle Adventures, says tourists come from all over to check out P.E.I. lighthouses. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

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."

Doiron says he hopes the community will soon be able to use the lighthouse as a hub and encourage more people to visit the area. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

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."

More from CBC P.E.I.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Robertson

Video journalist

Jane Robertson is a multi-platform journalist based out of Charlottetown. She has previously worked out of Edmonton, AB, and Iqaluit, NU, in her award-winning career that has spanned more than a decade with CBC. Jane.Robertson@cbc.ca Twitter @CBCJRobertson Instagram @CBCJaneRobertson

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