Entrance Island included with 74 lighthouses designated for heritage protection

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, July 14 2015

The lighthouse on Entrance Island, just off Orlebar Point on Gabriola, is among 74 lighthouses approved for heritage designation by Parks Canada.

The lighthouse, built in the 1870s, is described by Parks Canada as a “round, apple core” lighthouse, which guides mariners into the entrance of Nanaimo Harbour. Each day, thousands of people on ferries, cruise ships, shipping vessels, recreational boats, and floatplanes pass by the Entrance Island Lighthouse.”

The lighthouse will be protected under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act which was intended in 2010 to protect the character of heritage lighthouses.

Once designated, the Act requires that heritage lighthouses be reasonably maintained and that alterations be consistent with national and international standards for conservation.

In May 2010, the minister responsible for Parks Canada approved the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada to guide the maintenance and alteration of heritage lighthouses owned by the federal government.

Ivan Bulic, past president of the Canadian Lightkeepers Association, said the view of the Canadian Lightkeepers Association remains the same as when the federal government introduced the process in 2010. 

“That is, the Heritage Lighthouse Act process is the federal Conservative government’s plan for offloading the cost and responsibility for maintaining and preserving publicly owned lighthouses.

“The lighthouses were built with tax dollars on public land, and today have significant historic, cultural and heritage value. Instead of maintaining them as public assets for the benefit of all Canadians, the feds decided to offload them onto municipalities, non-profit community groups, individuals and corporate entities, and anyone who could raise the money to maintain and preserve the buildings.”

Bulic outlined how only 25 per cent of Canada’s lighthouses - 21 in BC - have been able to meet the criteria for heritage designation. 

“That doesn’t mean that the rest are not worth preserving, or have no historic value, it simply means there was no group, individual or municipality prepared or able to raise the money to take on the task of maintaining the structures and sites.”

The big question, according to Bulic, is to ask what will happen to those 75 per cent that were not designated as heritage sites and not adopted by a municipality or community group.

“Locally, Entrance Island has been given heritage designation, but because the site remains an active lightstation it is largely irrelevant as the site will continue to be maintained by the feds.

“Point Atkinson in West Vancouver is not so lucky. It has not been designated, the municipality of West Van has not stepped up to cover the upkeep, and local groups are reduced to bake sales and raffle drives to get money for paint and repairs, while the buildings and light tower slowly deteriorate.”

According to Bulic, Race Rocks, BC’s second oldest light (not built by Canada, but by the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island) has also not been designated a heritage light. It is run by Pearson College who are struggling to keep it running as a research station. He said, “What should have happened is for the federal government to recognize that these publicly owned lightstations are a public asset to be preserved as part of something like the Parks Canada system for the benefit of all Canadians.”