After circling the area for some time, the helicopter was no longer a dot in the sky. It was a bright red Canadian Coast Guard chopper. Slowly, the white writing became clearer as the aircraft descended to the beach to land.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ helicopter was there to remove contaminated soil from Spectacle Island, about half a mile off Carters Beach. It was also there to carry bags of clean fill to the island.
“The contamination was due to lead paint being used on the lighthouse over many, many years,” says Mel Cutler, president of the Spectacle Light Society.
Fourteen bags of contaminated soil were removed from the island, and 35 bags of fill were taken to the island, says Cutler. The whole thing took about five hours.
“The pilot was amazing,” says Cutler. “A round trip to take a bag to the island, drop it, pick up a bag of contaminated soil and deposit it in the truck at the Carters Beach parking lot took him just five minutes.”
Friday was a significant day for the Spectacle Light Society’s president.
He says for him the helicopter being there represented a “visual conclusion to a lot of work that has been done by a variety of people over the past two or three years to get to this point.”
“Thanks to the DFO personnel in Ottawa and Halifax, the environmental cleanup is complete, and we can now move ahead to the next phase of our work with them – obtaining ownership of the lighthouse,” says Cutler.
Spectacle Light Society
According to Cutler, the Spectacle Light Society was formed in 2004, when people in Port Mouton and Southwest Port Mouton learned the Port Mouton (Spectacle) Lighthouse was going to be demolished.
He says the government decided to take down the lighthouse not only because it was in poor condition, but also because it was no longer considered important for navigation.
“The locals were not amused,” says Cutler. “They were determined to ensure their lighthouse, fondly referred to as the Spectacle Light, would continue to stand for generations to come.”
So, the concerned group formed the society, and the government reacted favorably, says Cutler. He says the lighthouse not only stayed up, but in 2005 there were extensive repairs.
“A formal executive was formed in 2009,” says Cutler.
The executive is elected and works for and on behalf of members, says Cutler. Since 2009, the executive and members have been working to obtain ownership of the light.
The society began with 25 members in March 2009 and now has more than 100 people.
“Some of our members come here for the summer months, and some of those living outside the province come from as far as Ontario, New York, Missouri and even Mississippi, so it is obvious there is a great affection for this lighthouse,” Cutler says.
The society has an active fundraising group, which has worked hard to raise money. Funds raised will be used to improve the area around the lighthouse and ensure people can get to and from the island easily and safely, says Cutler.
He says the federal government’s DFO owns a small part of the 12-acre island. The provincial government’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) owns the rest. According to Cutler, the DNR has helped the society.
“Over the past two years, they have allowed us to cut a pathway from a slipway in the harbour area up to the lighthouse,” he says.
The society plans to improve the path and create more paths, says Cutler. The DNR has to consent to improvements, and the work has to be done within the department’s guidelines.
Cutler came to Port Mouton in the summer of 2008. His neighbour told him about the lighthouse and society and suggested Cutler get involved.
“I fell into it, if you like,” he says.
To learn more about the Spectacle Light Society, visit its website at: http://sites.google.com/site/spectaclelightsociety/home
The DFO released the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act May 28, 2010, stating almost 1,000 lighthouses “surplus” to its needs. Among them, four were in Queens County.
The Canadian Coastguard evaluated all lighthouses in Canada, most of which were in poor condition with contaminated grounds. Few of them were still being used for navigation.
Because of their poor condition, the lighthouses would be put up for sale. The Coastguard would continue to own and operate the lights still used as guides for mariners.
If claims weren’t made on the lighthouses at the end of two years, they could be replaced with steel structures.
- With files from Katie Ingram