Cape Bonavista lighthouse misses out on federal protection

Shawn Hayward
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Three Newfoundland lighthouses received protection under a federal heritage act last week, but Cape Bonavista Lighthouse was not one of them.
Fort Amherst, Cape Ray, and Long Point Lighthouse in Twillingate all received the designation of heritage lighthouses under the federal Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act.

The lighthouse at Cape Bonavista. — TC Media file photo

Only federally owned lighthouses are eligible for protection under the act. Despite being one of the province's oldest lighthouses, constructed in 1843, the lighthouse doesn't qualify for protection under the act.

The lighthouse was once federally owned but at some point its upkeep was transferred to the provincial government. Norman Shields, manager of the Lighthouse Protection Program for Parks Canada, says this probably took place in the 1970s.

"Cape Bonavista, because it was built in 1843, at a certain point the (Canadian) Coast Guard introduced a new modern aid to navigation and the decision was made to pass the lighthouse presumably on to the province so the province could take care of it for the future," he said.

Lighthouses designated as heritage lighthouses are protected under the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.

"It helps to develop and implement a maintenance plan that includes a schedule for regular inspection to proactively determine the type and frequency of necessary maintenance work," the second edition of the guidelines state. "This assures a high degree of user satisfaction with the historic place, slows the rate of deterioration, and maximizes the long-term protection of heritage value."

Lighthouses owned by the province government are governed by the same guidelines, according to an emailed statement on Tuesday from the Department of Tourism, Culture, and Recreation.

Last year and the year before, paint was chipping off the exterior of Cape Bonavista Lighthouse. Contractors hired by the province painted the lighthouse at the end of the tourism season once the bulk of tourists had come and gone, despite promises it would be done at the start of the year.

The province owns two historic lighthouses: the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse and another at Point Amour.

"The Provincial Historic Sites Division of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation undertakes regular monitoring and inspection of its sites and identifies requirements for maintenance and/or restoration," according to the email statement from the department.

The division works with the Department of Transportation and Works, the body responsible for all government infrastructure, to identify requirements for more significant maintenance work.

"The ongoing maintenance of heritage buildings is challenged by the age of the buildings, the detailed nature of the work, the specialized knowledge, skills, and materials required and associated costs, as well as the impact of weather (which is particularly the case for lighthouses)," according to the email.

The Packet

Organizations: Parks Canada, Department of Tourism, Coast Guard Historic Places Provincial Historic Sites Division Department of Transportation and Works

Geographic location: Canada

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