Digest>Archives> Jan/Feb 2005

Can Nottawasaga be Saved?

By Jeremy D'Entremont


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This Canadian Coast Guard photo shows Nottawasaga ...

In August 2003, an article in Lighthouse Digest reported that the 85-foot lighthouse on Ontario's Nottawasaga Island, in Georgian Bay, had large cracks spreading through its white dolomite limestone exterior. Also, water filtering through the cracks had caused portions of the exterior to detatch from the structure's rubblestone core.

A 2002 engineering study estimated that it would take about five years for the lighthouse to experience "bulge failure" that would cause the outer wall to start falling off. It turned out that the estimate was off by about two years. This has been made painfully evident by recent photos revealing that a portion of the northeast outer wall of the lighthouse has fallen to the ground.

Retired schoolteacher Jim Kilgour is chair of the Town of Collingwood's Harbourlands Committee. He's been fighting for years to secure funding to restore the lighthouse, which is renowned as one of the six "Imperial Towers" built in Georgian Bay and Lake Huron in the mid-1800s. "We were in the midst of negotiations that would have transferred the property to the Town of Collingwood," says Kilgour. "This would have allowed us to do some immediate repairs to stabilize the structure for a few years until a major fundraising effort could collect the funds needed to do a restoration."

The 2002 study speculated that some of the damage to the lighthouse in recent years was caused by lightning strikes. According to Kilgour, there was a rainstorm with lightning in late November 2004. "There was also an overnight storm that featured wet snow, freezing rain and buffeting winds that lasted until mid-morning on December 1," he says. "It was later that afternoon that the collapse was noticed."

The automated light itself is still working, even though the lighthouse was decommissioned in early 2003 because the Canadian Coast Guard felt the tower was unsafe for their personnel to climb. Restoration work must begin as soon as spring or summer 2005 if the lighthouse is to be saved, assuming the structure is stable enough to withstand the process. "It would appear the life of the lighthouse will now depend upon the will of the federal and local governments," says Kilgour, "as well as an outpouring of support from the public."

The restoration was estimated at $600,000 before this latest setback, and obviously that will need to be revised upward. Donations can be sent to Leisure Services Department, Lighthouse Restoration, P.O. Box 157, Collingwood, ON, L9Y 3Z5, Canada. The Leisure Services Department can issue tax receipts for donations. For more information you can also call Peter Dunbar, Leisure Services Director, in Collingwood at 705-444-2500.

This story appeared in the Jan/Feb 2005 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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