Students light up: B.C college vies lighthouse
By Mark Brown
After 137 years of existence the Great Race Rock light station near Victoria, British Columbia, is trying to avoid some rough waters while it waits to find out if it will remain open from both provincial and federal governments.
Aside from protecting boaters from dangerous hazards, the station has almost become an extension of Lester B. Pearson College located not far from the light station, said Angus Matthews, the school's director of administration and finance.
Four years ago the school began its push to get a Crown lease from the provincial government, who owns the land, he said. This was after the federal government, who owns the buildings at the station, announced its plans to de-staff lighthouses, Matthews said. He added this proposal would transfer the operation of the station over to the school, allowing the school to use the facilities as a research centre.
British Columbia Parks and Recreation has been discussing the plan with Pearson in order to finalize the management plan, said Jim Morris, BC Parks district planer for the south-Vancouver district.
BC Parks made a draft plan for the Great Race Rocks Ecological Reserve and presented it to the college, he said. The current reserve does not include the island.
Matthews said the interim operation of the lighthouse is being funded by a donation from a Toronto area resident and is being operated by the school. Lighthouse keepers, Mike and Carol Slater, are currently employed by the college and remain on the tiny island.
All the remaining 35 lighthouses in BC, including Great Race Rock, are under review, said Athana Nentzelopoulos, press secretary for the department of fisheries. She added a decision about the future of these lighthouses will not be made in the short-term.
"If we hadn't stepped in, the lighthouse would have been abandoned," said Matthews, adding the province wanted to tear down all of the buildings on the island except for the lighthouse which is a heritage site.
Even though the school has not received an answer from the provincial government, they have already started to operate the lighthouse by converting one of the buildings on the island into a marine lab, Matthews said.
The school has been allowed to go ahead with some of their plans to turn the island into an educational outpost, he said, since they received permission from the coast guard to operate the island as a research centre.
For now, the question of ownership will be put on the back burner to be fair to the college and the province.