Digest>Archives> February 1999

Wealthy Home Owners Deny Public Access to Lighthouse

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Point Abino Lighthouse on Lake Erie, Ontario, ...
Photo by: Wayne Sapulski

The conflict that swirls around Canada's Point Abino Lighthouse appears to be causing problems that will cause a rift in international relations.

Last month, the Canadian Federal Government declared the Point Abino Lighthouse and its keepers dwelling as a site of national historic significance. But Canadians who might want to visit the lighthouse will not be allowed to. The property the lighthouse stands on is landlocked, surrounded by land owned by the Point Abino Association, a group of wealthy, mostly United States citizens, who own the road to the lighthouse. The Association has denied access to all tourists and have even stopped access by reporters for the Toronto Star newspaper.

Edmund Stevens, president of the Point Abino Association, whose group of 54 owners of primarily summer homes said in an interview that "The road is really our driveway. We don't want people walking by our properties because they might be casing our homes for something to steal."

Native, Janet Truckenbrodt, a member of the Point Abino Lighthouse Preservation Society, formed in 1996, said the group has worked tirelessly to gain the lighthouse as an historic site and to secure its future as a public facility. She said, "Peggy's Cove doesn't hold a candle to our lighthouse." She went on to say that pictures of this majestic large lighthouse never do it justice.

Truckenbrodt and another member Jo Anne Columbus have taken the strongest position of all the Society's members in trying to get the lighthouse grounds opened to the public and having the road declared a public road. When they appeared at the security gate with reporters from the Toronto Star newspaper, the security guard said, "These two ladies in particular are not allowed on this property under any circumstances."

The local township tried to get ownership of the road as far back as 1923, but they were stopped in the Supreme Court by lawyers for the Point Abino Association. Now, even the Canadian Coast Guard must pay $750 a year for the right to use the road.

Lewis Anderson, who was keeper of the lighthouse from 1960 to 1989, said the lighthouse is now in urgent need of repairs. The Canadian Coast Guard agrees with him, saying that current estimates call for $40,000 in repairs, and then ongoing maintenance to keep the station in order.

The problem is that the Canadian Coast Guard no longer needs the lighthouse and has declared it surplus property.

The town of Fort Erie has offered to buy the lighthouse for $1 and assume its maintenance and continued operation. However, under Canadian law, the property must now be sold for its current market value, estimated to be around $400,000. The only way a sale of the property could be stopped is by a waiver from the Canadian Treasury Board.

Janet Truckenbrodt said that while the town's plan may look good on paper, their record on historic preservation is not good. She would rather see the property go to Parks Canada, but Parks Canada turned the property down.

If the lighthouse does go up for sale, Edmund Stevens said it would be highly likely that the Point Abino Association would buy it. And why not? They could afford it. One of their members is Bob Rich Jr., the multi-millionaire president of Rich Products, the frozen food empire.

In the meantime, the lighthouse sits neglected, waiting to see who will be its next owner. If it's the Point Abino Association, you can most likely bet, they will close it to the public forever.

This story appeared in the February 1999 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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