The future of the iconic lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia is uncertain.
With the federal government divesting itself of lighthouses across the country, this beacon for tens of thousands of tourists every year is effectively up for adoption.
The Nova Scotia government is certainly showing an interest, but preservationists are worried that it’s not acting quickly enough as bureaucrats continue to kick the tires.
“There has not been a petition by any group wishing to take it over,” Barry MacDonald, president of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society (NSLPS), told the Toronto Star Monday.
So the plan is for the NSLPS in partnership with Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia to submit a petition to Ottawa for the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse, built in 1923, as well as any other lighthouses in the province that no one has laid claim to.
MacDonald said his group has identified about 70 that are good candidates for the federal Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act and so far only 14 have been petitioned.
“The process is twofold. First is the actual petition for heritage status for the lighthouse and that’s submitted to Parks Canada . . . and the second part is a business plan, which is submitted to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans,” he said.
But MacDonald said the only reason the preservation society and Heritage Trust are doing that is to buy more time for the province to get its act together.
“It is our hope that the province of Nova Scotia is going to take Peggy’s Cove. There are several reasons for that. It is definitely a provincial icon. I’ve travelled the country in the last couple of years doing lighthouse talks and pretty much everywhere you go everybody knows that lighthouse,” he said, adding it gets about 600,000 visitors a year.
Darlene MacDonald, a spokeswoman for the provincial tourism department, said the province is negotiating with Ottawa “to potentially acquire Peggy’s Point lighthouse” if everything works out.
“We want to make sure that we identify any issues such as environmental clean-up, state of repair, any legal surveys, maintenance, stuff like that. We are making sure that we have that information available,” said MacDonald, who is manager of tourism development for the Nova Scotia Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism.
MacDonald said the deadline for nominating lighthouse properties under the federal protection act is May 29 and added that any Canadian 18 and older can nominate any surplus lighthouse for heritage designation.
For generations, Canada’s lighthouses have guided ships along the country’s expansive coasts and beckoned newcomers to our shores.
Now, nearly 1,000 of them — including the world-renowned Peggy’s Cove lighthouse in Nova Scotia — are in danger of disappearing off the map.
The federal government placed the lighthouses on its surplus list nearly two years ago, saying many of them could be replaced with simpler structures that are less costly and easier to maintain and operate.
Ottawa has offered the surplus lighthouses to interested municipalities, community groups or individuals, but time is running out to save the historic landmarks.
Those interested in preserving a lighthouse have until the end of May to submit petitions with at least 25 signatures. The Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act allows the government to designate some lighthouses as heritage sites.
Peggy’s Cove is one of the jewels of the east coast. Before it is lost to us, or becomes a Starbucks location, let’s all do what we can to save this piece of Canadian history. You can either join me by contacting Ottawa with a signature to save Peggy’s Cove, or you can leave your name and thoughts below in the comment box. I’ll be sure to forward everything you wish to share directly to the government.