“People just keep coming forward with help,” says Gordon Wilson, chair of the Friends of Point Prim. “That’s the great thing; we haven’t pushed; we’re not even asking but people are really getting behind this.”
By “this” he means creating a more accessible and welcoming park around Digby’s lighthouse on the Bay of Fundy.
The Conway Workshop donated two picnic tables this week to the park. The sheltered workshop provides training opportunities (in woodworking for example) for adults with mental or physical challenges.
“We also think it is very important to support our community in any way we can,” says Jill Baxter, executive director of the workshop.
The Friends of Point Prim have applied to Heritage Canada’s Runciman Endowment Fund. Thanks to a large bequest, Heritage Canada will fund repairs and conservation of lighthouses in Digby, Annapolis and Kings Counties with a one-time grant.
Wilson says the Friends would use the funding to do some planning, to build a new entryway to the lighthouse property and to build a parking lot big enough for tour buses and cars.
Wlison says many people from away arrive at the gate to the lighthouse and believe they aren’t allowed to enter the property.
“We want to make it clear people are welcome and make the paths accessible for everyone,” says Wilson.
The Municipality of the District of Digby has agreed to take over ownership of the lighthouse property when it is divested and the Friends of Point Prim will be the site operators.
The Friends are also pursuing heritage designation and have been approved at the first phase of that process. Next they have to present a business plan and then the property will be evaluated to make sure it meets the criteria.
“If we meet that, there is money available for fixing up the lighthouse to ‘community standards’,” says Wilson. “So before we go ahead and paint the lighthouse with our money, we want to wait for some of that federal funding.”
Wilson says the Friends have already gotten a quote of $35,000 to fix up the lighthouse. The job would include repointing some cinderblocks, painting and replacing the damaged vinyl siding with cedar shingles.
As part of their business plan, the Friends have commissioned a donation box from local welder Robert Wilson.
Wilson grew up at Point Prim. He lived in a previous lighthouse there for 23 years. His father was the light keeper Frank Wilson.
They asked Wilson to make a steel box for coins and he went a few steps farther and built a lighthouse based on the design of the building he grew up in. He painted it white with Point Prim’s distinctive red stripe and he even installed a solarpowered light.
Wilson says now he figures he will be building three more lighthouses for his family.
The donation box will be placed near the gate for now, which, besides collecting money, Wilson hopes will also signal to people that it is okay to enter.
Locals have agreed to empty and count the donations. Wilson says the donation box could bring in a couple thousand dollars a year.
Christina Frater of England dropped in the first donation, a toonie, on Thursday, July 19 while members of the Friends and Wilson were talking about where to set up the box.