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As the federal government prepares to transfer responsibility for lighthouses to communities in Nova Scotia, a new partnership has emerged to help shepherd the task—using modern communications technology to get the job done.
The National Trust for Canada (a national registered charity that has been helping Canadians protect places that matter since 1973) and the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society (a volunteer, non-profit organization that has been assisting community groups working to acquire local lighthouses since 1994) have joined forces to launch “This Lighthouse Matters,” an innovative crowdfunding competition that will help save the province’s historical beacons in ways that contribute to community economic renewal.
“The National Trust has built an online crowdfunding platform that will provide communities with the opportunity to showcase their local lighthouse projects, compete for cash prizes, and raise even more, much needed money for their projects,” explains Executive Director Natalie Bull.
Adds Joanne McCormick, President of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society: “This Lighthouse Matters is about raising public awareness and enabling a new social media conscious generation to make a real difference in the economic prosperity of our coastal communities. This unique and innovative initiative will draw attention and financial help to groups who are already rising to the challenge with their own exciting ideas of presenting their lights with pictures, history, quotes, and videos. We wish them all the very best of luck!”
In fact, the overall plan behind TThis Lighthouse Matters is both innovative and audacious. Beginning in June, coastal communities in Nova Scotia interested in protecting and restoring their lighthouses will have a chance to compete for $250,000 in cash prizes through funds secured by a group of champions: The Honourable Myra Freeman, The Honourable Margaret McCain, Jane Nicholson and the late Jalynn Bennett.
The competition will provide these communities with the opportunity to state their cases, promote their business plans and, raise money to support their lighthouse projects online and in their own communities.
The timing for This Lighthouse Matters is critical. Says Bull: “The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans declared almost all of Nova Scotia’s lighthouses—150 of them—surplus in 2010. To survive, these heritage structures need community groups and private interests to assume responsibility for maintaining them, protecting them, and adapting them to the modern world.”
She adds: “To date, 92 of the 150 lighthouses declared surplus have been nominated for heritage designation. Of those, community groups in Nova Scotia have submitted business plans indicating their commitment to acquire, repair and maintain only 35 of them. Much more remains to be done. These wonderful structures can, for example, be preserved as functioning cafes, museums, and gift shops. In fact, the possibilities are as endless as are the imaginations and will of those who embrace them.”
Says McCormick: “Happily, in our lighthouses, tradition and modernity can coexist. Where once these landmarks protected ships along our coastal waters, now they can help preserve our sense of who we were, who we are and where we are going.”
One example is Battery Point Lighthouse. There has been a lighthouse on Battery Point since 1864. The current lighthouse will be restored and become part of an ongoing plan to secure and revitalize the working waterfront in the historic Town of Lunenburg.
Another is the preservation and restoration of Gabarus Lighthouse on Cape Breton. Built in 1890, it is one of only two hexagonal lighthouses in Canada. It will have to be moved due to the threat of erosion.
Although modern technology—GPS systems, electronic navigational platforms, and the like—have rendered the swirling flash of incandescent light and the long, lonely groan of the fog horn relics of the past, there’s still bright life in the old lighthouse of yore.
Bull adds, “With This Lighthouse Matters we are excited about using modern technology like crowdfunding and social media to make sure our lighthouses still stand as reminders of our proud maritime heritage, and as new sources of economic renewal for Nova Scotia’s challenged communities.”
All Canadians can help save Nova Scotia’s lighthouses by casting their votes and contributing funds to participating lighthouse projects at www.thislighthousematters.ca.