Wood Islands lighthouse in peril again, seven years after big move

Steve Sharratt
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They pushed, pulled and slid, but after a four-hour wrangle the historic Wood Islands lighthouse has found a new home away from the eroding shoreline. The vintage lighthouse was a challenge, but it will now be able to assist mariners and be used as a seasonal museum as well. Among the interested onlookers Tuesday was Nancy Perkins shooting the scene. Guardian photo by Steve Sharratt

Coastal erosion experts say it will be clinging to edge in another 10 years as erosion continues rapid pace

WOOD ISLANDS – The sun may be shining on the southeastern shore, but the wind steals the words from Bev Stewart’s lips like a skilled pickpocket.

Dressed in double layers of clothes and heavy boots, Stewart braces against the spray and tries to explain the rapid erosion being witnessed at the Wood Islands Lighthouse.

Even raised voices can’t be heard and hand signals call for a return to the protection of a nearby car. The wind is so vigourous only one door at a time can be opened to allow entry into the vehicle.

“You can see how much is gone,” she says pulling off her hood and catching a breath.

The pace of erosion is relentless in some parts of the province, and the Wood Islands lighthouse is one prime example.

Just seven years ago, the sentinel of the sea was barely 10 feet from the cliff edge when funding was sought and it was lifted and moved inland by more than 40 meters (130 feet).

RELATED: Wood Islands landmark moves to safer ground

We won't ever have to worry about the bank getting too close again, at least not in our lifetimes. 2009 comment from Wood Islands Development Corporation

Since 2009, the lack of ice to protect the shore from the pounding winter waves of the Northumberland Strait has chewed away another five metres or more (15 feet). At that rate, the lighthouse could once again be clinging to the edge in little more than a decade.

Stewart is the manager of the lighthouse that features a gift shop and museum tours during the warm and breezy summer months. When it was built in 1876, the lighthouse was 500 feet from the shore.

The 25-metre beacon sits on a promontory, but even the inside of the bay has been struck. The protected shoreline across from the Northumberland Ferries terminal has been eaten away severely in the past two years.

“We suggested seven years ago when they moved it that we might be better off dragging the light back even further from the shore,’’ she recalls. “But that idea was considered too great a distance by those handling the relocation.”

Not anymore.

Stewart can’t help but worry that the 25-metre light will once again be on the brink of the precipice for its  150th birthday in 2026.

Organizations: Wood Islands Lighthouse Museum, Wood Islands Development, Northumberland Ferries terminal

Geographic location: Wood Islands

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  • stop the madness
    February 02, 2016 - 07:18

    Please, don't spend any more taxpayers money on these types of projects. I realize people have sentimental feelings for lighthouses but as a province, we cannot afford to keep paying to move these buildings away from vulnerable locations. This building should have been moved to the Plough the Waves Centre when it was moved 7 years ago. We cannot and should not pay to move it again. If a business or individual wants to pay to save it, fine. But no more public money. It sets a very dangerous financial precedent across PEI. We're losing metres of shoreline every year and we're in debt and running deficits so we can't save everything, even roads and buildings. Walk away from it, sad as it is.