KEEPERS OF THE LIGHT
Society working to make Sydney harbour’s only lighthouse part of new tourism route
Group wants Sydney harbour’s only lighthouse on new tourism route.
An historic lighthouse may soon become a popular destination for tourists visiting the Cape Breton.
The Low Point Lighthouse Society is aiming to make the lighthouse part of a new tourism route that will feature stops in Whitney Pier, Victoria Mines, New Victoria and New Waterford.
Debbie Lee Pearson, director of the society, said the new route will have a lot to offer visitors.
“The vision is one where tourists can enjoy the Whitney Pier Historic Museum, the Stone Church, Fort Petrie, Low Point lighthouse and Colliery Lands Park,” she said. “Each venue has something unique to offer and paints a clear picture of our collective cultural identity. Most people seem to be completely unaware of Sydney harbour’s rich history and heritage.”
The Low Point lighthouse has been in operation since 1832, located at the eastern entrance to Sydney harbour in New Victoria. The lighthouse is recognized as a heritage building by the Federal Heritage Building Review office.
Pearson said the lighthouse is an important part of the New Victoria community.
“New Victoria would not be New Victoria without the Low Point Lighthouse, just as Sydney harbour wouldn’t be Sydney harbour without its one and only historic lighthouse,” she said. “It’s greatly treasured by locals and tourists alike.”
Pearson said tourism has become an economic lifeline for Cape Breton, and with the addition of a second cruise ship berth in Sydney, tourism will only increase.
“Since tourists want the perfect photo-op and an authentic experience, we feel that Low Point lighthouse will become a premier destination for tourists to enjoy,” said the New Victoria resident. “We have major plans for this venue, but first things first.”
The long-term goal for the society is to have a campground, RV park, and two to three cottages near the lighthouse location. However, the committee is taking things one step at a time.
Pearson said other work needed on site will include parking lots, interpretive panels, as well as road signage to direct visitors to the location.
In July 2015, Low Point lighthouse won $75,000 through the online contest This Lighthouse Matters, an online crowd-funding competition created by the National Trust for Canada and the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society.
“Our society, along with the National Trust for Canada and the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, have been carefully weighing our options,” said Pearson. “After very careful consideration on how best to honour the lighthouse, the $75,000 prize money will be used to pay for lighthouse structural repairs and refurbishment.”
The lighthouse is in need of extensive repairs. The structure’s concrete exterior is riddled with swaths of missing concrete and superficial cracks. The lighthouse also needs painting as well as three new steel doors and new glass panes near the lantern.
“The lighthouse was badly vandalized about 15 year ago,” said Pearson. “Vandals kicked out almost every one of the lantern’s original curved glass panes. Lexan panes were installed, but these have oxidized and yellowed with time.”
The Cape Breton Post had the opportunity on Saturday to tour the inside of the lighthouse. The interior of the inside remains in fairly good condition, considering the age of the structure. It takes five flights of steep stairs to reach the lighthouse’s lantern, which is also in good condition.
“Our overall goal is to bring this historic lighthouse back to its former pristine, majestic beauty and grandeur for future generations,” said Pearson.
Aside from the structure repairs, she said a new seawall must be constructed to protect against the rapid erosion of the shoreline.
“We are in a race against time,” said Pearson. “It’s been estimated that Low Point Lighthouse has only four more years before the shoreline erosion compromises its structural integrity.
“Deemed surplus by the DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada), it will be torn down and replaced with a steel rod and light if we don’t secure the funding required to build a new seawall — we don’t plan on letting that happen.” said Pearson.
A new seawall is estimated at a cost of $400,000.
The seawall engineering assessments and shoreline protection study has yet to be written, but the society is expecting the lighthouse structural assessment report today.
Pearson said the society has received the necessary funding for both the lighthouse structural assessment report as well as the seawall and shoreline protection study.
“Our society is paying half the cost for the structural assessment with donated funds received through the crowdfunding campaign, and the CBRM is paying the other half,” she said. “The seawall engineering assessment and shoreline study is being fully funded by the provincial and federal governments.”
The total cost for the structural assessment is $3,450, while the seawall assessment and the shoreline study costs $7,187.50.
Repairs to the lighthouse itself will begin in the spring and the society is hoping to have them finished before the summer months, the peak of tourism season.
Members of the Low Point Lighthouse Society stand for a picture by the historic lighthouse lantern on Saturday. The society is working to have the lighthouse as part of a new Cape Breton tourism route. From left, are Danielle MacSween, Debbie Lee Pearson, Rob Murphy and Lawrence MacSween.
The Low Point lighthouse in New Victoria is seen in this file photo. The Low Point Lighthouse Society is working to make the lighthouse part of a new Cape Breton tourism route, travelling along Highway 28 from Whitney Pier to New Waterford.