Spectacle Island Lighthouse Society shines again

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The Spectacle Island Lighthouse Society is relit, thanks to new interest in the beacon.

The society kicked off on March 18 with its first public meeting. Mel Cutler, who retired to Port Mouton with his wife last year, heads the renewed society.

Cutler got involved with the lighthouse society last year, when a neighbour asked if he would be interested in helping out. He saw this as a great way to help out and get to know the community he moved to. “Local people really understand and appreciate the natural sites and surrounding area, so it is critical their natural state get preserved and made effective use of - witness the Fish Farm travesty,” he says.

The lighthouse society has about 25 members so far, and even attracted the interest of former residents of Queens Co. living in the eastern United States.

Now that the society has an executive, they plan on developing their goals for the lighthouse. Cutler stresses these are just ideas at the moment, and must go through the executive.

For 2009, they want to establish themselves as a society and accomplish a few basic upgrades to the area. These include:

1. A Floating Dock to provide access/land supplies, et cetera.

2. Create a pathway from the dock to the lighthouse

3. Build and install a rudimentary compostable toilet facility

4. Supply a small storage shed so supplies can be left on the island for the summer

Some of their longer-term ideas are:

1. Obtain ownership of the property should neither the Federal/Provincial/Regional authorities wish to retain ownership

2. Provide safe access to the lighthouse and island

3. Planned/ongoing maintenance and repair of the site

4. Improve and maintain the site for local recreational purposes

5. Create a local heritage site

6. Facilitate and promote tourism of the lighthouse and island

Brigitte Petersmann founded the original society in 2004, when she found out the federal government planned to demolish the lighthouse.

Her interest with the lighthouse stemmed from talking with a former lighthouse keeper of Spectacle Island, Leonce Huskins. He spent seven years as the lighthouse keeper and enthralled her with stories of raising a family on the island. She would kayak over to the site where the house foundation still exists, and old grapevines still grow. “It is a very intriguing place. It should be preserved and be more accessible,” says Petersmann.

She took it upon herself to stop the demolition, and along the way the society was formed. “It was a lot of phone calling, but in the end the miracle happened,” she says.

The lighthouse was saved and repaired. However the society has lain dormant since 2005.

Petersmann thinks the lighthouse is currently owned by DFO or the Department of Transportation, but has had difficulty tracking it down. “One of my worries is it will be bought by a private person and made their own private haven,” she says.

She would rather see it in the hands of the community, but admits the process could take a long time.

The society restarted in 2008 at the urging of Huskins. He says they needed a proper society, and that Petersmann was doing too much work on her own. Petersmann in turn wanted the society run by locals. This is where Cutler gets involved.

Spectacle Island is located in Port Mouton Bay, just off of Carter’s Beach. The lighthouse has existed on the island since 1873, with the current one built in 1914.

According to the Region of Queens website, the island is listed as being near many shipwrecks. The website says some of these shipwrecks include the Clifford J. White in 1916, which was en route from New York to Yarmouth when she ran aground and sank off Spectacle Island Ledge; the Dart, which in 1852 was en route to Yarmouth from Halifax when she sank off the Ledges; and the Ethel Emerson, which actually struck the island in 1884.

The lighthouse is listed as an active navigational aid, according to lighthousedepot.com. According to residents in the area however, the light has been out for a year.

Anyone interested in more information or in joining the society can contact executives Mel Culter, Marg Millard, Daniel St. Onge or Leanora Fisher.

Organizations: Queens Co., Department of Transportation

Geographic location: Spectacle Island, Port Mouton Bay, United States Yarmouth New York Halifax

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