Ef­fort un­der­way

Work is on­go­ing to re­pair the wharf and walk­way at Chan­nel Head in Port aux Basques.

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROSALYN ROY Roslyn.roy@tc.tc

East end res­i­dents of Por­taux-Basques have likely no­ticed the loud noises of heavy equip­ment and ex­ca­va­tion go­ing on across the wa­ter from the town’s iconic light­house.

It’s likely to con­tinue at least un­til spring, as the Chan­nel Head wharf and walk­way are be­ing com­pletely re­built.

The Chan­nel Head Her­itage Light­house So­ci­ety is work­ing with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to re­store a key part of the town’s his­tory. Es­tab­lished last fall and de­spite its name the so­ci­ety is not cur­rently fo­cused on the light­house.

“The light­house it­self was re­stored two years ago by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment,” said Scott Strick­land, the so­ci­ety’s di­rec­tor. “They did an al­most half mil­lion dol­lar ren­o­va­tion on that light. The wharf and walk­way, how­ever, be­came re­dun­dant.”

Since the De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans ac­cesses the light­house by he­li­copter now in­stead of boats, they de­cided to en­tirely de­mol­ish the wharf and walk­way at chan­nel head, cit­ing li­a­bil­ity con­cerns. En­tirely by chance Strick­land caught wind of the DFO’s plans and im­me­di­ately filed a mo­tion to try to save it.

With­out the wharf and walk­way, lo­cals would have nowhere to tie up their boat and reach the light­house. A pop­u­lar spot for pic­nics and sight­seers with res­i­dents who have ac­cess to a boat, Strick­land didn’t want to see the towns­folk and tourists cut off.

While he orig­i­nally tried to save the wharf, the DFO wouldn’t con­sider it, nor even con­sider leav­ing it to the town in such a state of dis­re­pair. Strick­land didn’t quit, how­ever, turn­ing to the com­mu­nity and so­cial me­dia for sup­port, and get­ting at­ten­tion from the me­dia.

Even­tu­ally the so­ci­ety en­tered into ne­go­ti­a­tions with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, who have now agreed to put back a wharf sim­i­lar to the orig­i­nal and an even big­ger walk­way.

“It will lead from that wharf al­most right up to the light,” says Strick­land. “This is not just a lit­tle float­ing dock. It’s a big un­der­tak­ing.”

To fur­ther fa­cil­i­tate ac­cess, a lo­cal tourism busi­ness will run reg­u­lar trips across the chan­nel for those want­ing to visit the light­house.

The So­ci­ety is also plan­ning to put in sto­ry­boards and other el­e­ments to draw in tourists and lo­cals alike to the area.

“We’re still in such early stages,” says Strick­land, who hopes to even­tu­ally see a boom­ing tourist at­trac­tion, a place for lo­cal small op­er­a­tors to set up shop, and even­tu­ally even an area to stage wed­dings.

In ad­di­tion to the so­ci­ety’s five vol­un­teers, the town is also pitch­ing in to help out, try­ing to find grant money for sum­mer staff. Strick­land is also work­ing hard at build­ing a web­site to help pub­li­cize the on­go­ing restora­tion and get more feed­back and per­haps even some folk­lore and sto­ries from the com­mu­nity. He’s hop­ing to launch it around Easter.

“So many peo­ple drive down around there,” says Strick­land of sum­mer tourists, “and there’s not even a sign that says Chan­nel Head Light­house.”

For Strick­land it isn’t only about res­i­dents or tourists. He has a strong per­sonal con­nec­tion to the light­house and is pas­sion­ate about keep­ing it open to the pub­lic.

“My grand­fa­ther was the last light­house keeper over there. His fa­ther was a keeper, and his fa­ther be­fore him was the first keeper over there,” Strick­land re­calls. “I grew up over there be­cause my fa­ther was ill at the time, so I spent the first seven or eight years of my life on that is­land.”

ROSALYN ROY/TC ME­DIA

Work is on­go­ing to re­pair the wharf and walk­way at Chan­nel Head in Port aux Basques.

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