By RACHEL KUPER, QMI Agency
KINGSTON, ONTARIO - The lighthouse at Nine Mile Point on Simcoe Island is the oldest Canadian lighthouse on the Great Lakes.
Yelda Miedema, a retired teacher from Kingston Collegiate and a part-time ferry operator, worries that it may soon fall into disrepair.
The Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, unveiled by the federal government in May, allows groups or individuals to “acquire” certain “surplus” lighthouses and assume responsibility for their maintenance, though the lights and equipment will remain in government hands.
“My first reaction was that the government was getting rid of heritage lighthouses,” Miedema said, adding that if no one acquires a lighthouse within two years, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will reclaim ownership.
“The subtext I heard was that they’d waste them away,” he said. “I was annoyed thinking, ‘What do we pay taxes for, if not to protect the lighthouses?’”
Nonetheless, Miedema decided to get proactive.
“The government said if we can get together 25 people to petition them to declare the lighthouse a heritage lighthouse, then they will consider it,” he said.
“We’re looking for a group of people to petition and fund the maintenance.”
He said he is currently unsure how much it costs to maintain a lighthouse or whether there is any cost to acquire it.
“The only number I’ve heard is for a lighthouse in Nova Scotia that was painted for $20,000 to $50,000,” he said.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the government agency responsible for the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Miedema said he would consider charging admission fees to the lighthouses or making it a museum but all of that would need to be discussed with the group petitioning.
The first meeting is tonight.
Regardless of how the initiative evolves, Miedema said the main thing is to restore public access to the lighthouse.
“About 18 years ago (the government) sold off the light keeper’s houses and most of the land,” he said, adding that they proceeded to fence off the area and put No Trespassing signs up.
The thing is, as one of the oldest lighthouses in Canada, Miedema said the people should have a right to visit it.
“It was built in 1833 from limestone that was gathered from the beach or quarries near there and it’s stuccoed over,” he said, adding that it’s red and white, like every other Canadian lighthouse.
“It had light keepers from 1833 until 1978,” he said. “It was automated in 1978 and then in 1991 they silenced the fog horn and then they sold the light keepers’ houses in 1992.”
He said it is currently one of 480 active lighthouses on the government surplus list. Also on the list is the lighthouse in the Main Duck Islands in Lake Ontario. There are also 490 inactive lighthouses.
This story was posted on Wed, July 14, 2010
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