Community group takes over Medway Head lighthouse

Nick Moase
Published on June 12, 2014

The Medway Head lighthouse is now officially the property of the community. 

On June 11, the Medway Head Lighthouse association handed over their dollar, and in return got the keys to the building.

Dozens of people gathered in front of the lighthouse to take part in the ceremonies, including many members of the families that used to look after the lighthouse when it was staffed.

In 2010, the federal government declared nearly all lighthouses in the country as surplus. Though some would remain as functioning lighthouses, the government would no longer maintain the buildings. If the functisonal lighthouse were too far deteriorated, they would be replaced with a simpler structure. Those that are not functional would be demolished.

However there was another option to keep the lighthouses standing. The federal government offered up the structures for interested parties to take them over, either by the various levels of government or community groups.

This opened the path for the community to take it over, though it was far from a fast process.

Originally the Medway Area Community Association had a sub-committee working on the take over. That was split off into an independent group in early 2013, so they could get charitable status and solely focus on the lighthouse.

"It would give us some credence in the community and help raise funds," says Donald Allan, president of the Medway Head Lighthouse Association. "Being focused just on the lighthouse has a broader appeal"

In association now boasts 60 members in the community of 300.

Though the process was long, most of the work was just making sure all the paperwork was in order, says Allan.

Going forward in the short term the association is doing some maintenance on the lighthouse. There are some rot and electrical issues that need to be dealt with, though they have some grant money to help with that. The association also needs to work with the Coastgaurd to make sure it meets their standards.

"It's an operating lighthouse, so the Coastgaurd needs access to it," says Allan.

From there the association will take it to the members to decide what direction they will go in. Some ideas have been adding in a picnic area and washroom facilities, doing open house tours, and trails to the water.

A lighthouse has stood on Medway Head since 1851, and has seen three replacements; 1927, 1966 and to the present structure in 1983. When the last lightkeeper retired in 1986, it was de-staffed

Queens County has four lighthouses that were declared surplus in 2010. In addition to Medway Head, there is Spectacle Island, Coffin Island and Western Head. Spectacle Island is the only one that also has an association working to take control of the site.