DIGBY - Three lighthouses will soon finally be under local ownership.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) formally and officially offered the Bear River lighthouse, the Point Prim lighthouse and the Boar’s Head lighthouse properties to the Municipality of the District of Digby in September.
“DFO sent us three large packages of documentation,” said deputy CAO of the municipality, Jeff Sunderland. “Council accepted the offer and signed it and we’ve returned those documents. The next step is we just wait to receive notice that we own the properties.”
DFO is also including $75,000, to be split three ways, for the upkeep and maintenance of the sites.
The municipality will own the properties but local organizations in each community will be looking after them.
Dorothy Gray is the secretary with the Bear River Lighthouse Preservation Society and she says it has been a long hard struggle to get ownership of the lighthouse.
“The federal government has just thrown up so much red tape,” she said. “We’re just exhausted now – it’s been 12 years we’ve been trying to do something to fix it up.”
[Bear River Lighthouse story from 2009 when indications they may have turned over the lighthouse in 2010]
Gray said the plans were to improve the road and clear back brush and open up some of the view to the Annapolis Basin.
“It’s a nice place with beautiful views to just go and eat your lunch, sit and relax, we just want to clean it up and maybe put a picnic table or some flower boxes,” she said.
Gray says the association will wait to hear the municipality has ownership for sure before they call another public meeting looking for volunteers.
Kendall Ossinger, president of the Tiverton Central Grove Heritage Association, also says they have been waiting “quite a few years” to start looking after the Boar’s Head lighthouse.
He says once the municipality acquires the property they need to sit down and draft an agreement for the TCGHA to look after the site.
“We don’t have a key to that lighthouse but I hear it won’t be long and we’ll be able to actually get in there and do something,” said Ossinger.
The TCGHA has a meeting with DFO and representatives of the Runciman Fund today Wednesday, Oct. 8
Heritage Canada’s Runciman Endowment Fund provides one-time grants for the repair and conservation of lighthouses in Digby, Annapolis and Kings County of Nova Scotia.
Heritage Canada intended the Runciman Fund to encourage local groups to come forward to acquire and preserve lighthouses.
The TCGHA already has an application into the Runciman fund and if successful they were hoping to use that money to paint the lighthouse, ditch and widen the road, add pull off spots to allow two way traffic on the road, and to build a small parking lot near the lighthouse.
The TCGHA also wants soil replaced around the Boars Head lighthouse to protect the concrete foundation from more cracking.
DFO hired Clean Earth Technologies of Halifax to remove 1,000 tonnes of soil contaminated with lead paint from the site in Sept. 2009 but none of that soil was ever replaced.
That is one of the items to be discussed at today’s meeting.
“They want to have a look at the site,” says Ossinger. “We want to know if DFO plans to replace that soil before divestiture or if we’ll have to apply to the Runciman fund for help with that.”
The Friends of Point Prim received $30,000 from the Runciman Fund in November 2012 which they used to put in a parking lot, gravelled trails and to shingle the wooden section and repoint and repaint the concrete tower.
Robert Hersey, chair of the Friends of Point Prim, says the association needs to examine the licensing agreement they have had with DFO and see if a similar one will work with the new owners.
“We have to look it over make sure everything is in there, see if anything should come out,” he said.
Hersey hopes the association will be able to fix the fence along the cliff edge, replace signage there and then put some money away for painting the lighthouse in the future.
“The divestiture is very good news,” says Hersey. “Now we have the job of maintaining the property, paying insurance and making sure the site stays open for everyone. We might be looking at fundraising.”