Essential to hang on to history

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People travelling the shores of Nova Scotia expect to see lighthouses. But if there’s any hope of preserving those left, it will take plans that add features and get people to stop, rather than just admiring them from afar.

Museums and such attractions are a possible use, but perhaps some brainstorming will provide alternatives to keep them vital.

Obviously, there’s no easy solution, but a lot of creative thinking is needed to save those of special historic interest as the federal government divests itself, with few any longer needed for navigational use.

Community groups and municipalities are among those showing interest in adopting them, but it will come as no surprise that maintenance will prove a costly venture.

The federal Fisheries Department five years ago declared 970 lighthouses across the country surplus. A deadline of June 1 this year had originally been set for groups to present plans to take them over – 29 have been submitted in Nova Scotia – but the department will allow leeway.

Some are of vast historical significance – one is the Sambro lighthouse near Halifax, built in 1758 and the oldest operating lighthouse on the continent. It fortunately is still on the department’s keepers list, as one of the traditional aids to navigation still in active operation.

But for those on the block, imagine the burden for a community – even with organizations in a given area pitching in – to maintain such structures.

Barry MacDonald, president of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, has called the federal Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act severely lacking, with only $1 million annually to help groups that hope to preserve them.

Like many historical features, once they’re too far gone, a rescue plan is too late.

The thing is for people to realize preserving them should a broad, province-wide appeal. Cast the net wide in identifying parties of vested interest. Maintaining historical and cultural integrity can’t be taken lightly.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Sambro, Halifax

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