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Community group on P.E.I. thrilled to see coast guard restore Blockhouse lighthouse

Seven years ago, Natalie Carragher of Cumberland began a crusade to protect, preserve and repurpose a lighthouse that stands guard over the mouth of the Charlottetown harbour.

She helped form a non-profit community group called the Blockhouse Lighthouse Preservation Society.

Today, that lighthouse, located adjacent to Skmaqn-Port-la-Joye-Fort Amherst National Park, is in the final stages of being y refurbished after the Canadian Coast Guard and Department of Fisheries and Oceans responded to concerns from the society, a petition that Carragher launched, a letter to the editor and attention from the media.

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“I am thrilled to finally see some progress and look forward to the finished product,’’ Natalie Carragher told The Guardian on Friday in an email from Toronto where she works. “The immediate goal was to ensure the building didn’t continue on its trajectory of destruction.

“The long-term goal is and continues to be the same; that it remains an important piece of heritage for our community and our country to enjoy. This is a win for us but it’s only the first of several steps to ensuring the building has a future.’’

Since mid-November a construction crew from the coast guard has been working on the lighthouse to make the building more weather tight.

All the old shingles and rotted wood was replaced, all door and window trim was replaced, deck posts were replaced, foundation was repaired and an aluminum basement hatch was installed. This week, the remaining trim work is expected to be finished and the site will be cleaned up. The coast guard told The Guardian the cost has not yet been tabulated.

Natalie’s mother, Carol, secretary for the preservation society, said the repairs will mean the lighthouse will stand another 100 years.

“I feel like it's a dream, I feel like it's not real a little bit because I thought (the effort to restore it) would be so hard and difficult,’’ said Carol Carragher. “(The coast guard) came in, did their jobs. I thought it was meant to be. I feel excited; I feel very excited (considering) what we almost lost.’’

Carol said none of this would have been possible without her daughter taking it on in 2010 and the Save Our Blockhouse Facebook page set up by Jane MacIsaac.

It was from there the community group – Blockhouse Lighthouse Preservation Society – was established.

“Some of the community members were getting so disheartened that nothing was moving and then we came down and saw the shape of it,’’ Carol said. “I told myself (last year) ‘this can’t continue’, that something has to be done or we’re going to lose the lighthouse and no one is going to have it.’’

Once the exterior work is complete, Carol Carragher said the community plans to move on to fixing things up inside the building.

The lighthouse has been declared surplus by the federal government.

While the community group wants to take over the lighthouse, the Mi’kmaq Confederacy staked a claim to the lighthouses, including up to 19 other lighthouses across the province several years ago.

A spokeswoman with Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard told The Guardian that they have been in contact with community groups interested in taking over the Brockhouse lighthouse.

“I believe it should be the community that will be able to go inside and restore it and have it as a (community) place. It’s a great building. I think it’s great for future generations. I think it should be kept as a historic building,’’ said Carol Carragher.

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