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Caribou Island lighthouse will continue to stand tall thanks to a few friends

An employee with the Canadian Coast Guard begins work on the exterior walls of the Caribou Island lighthouse. Friends of Caribou Island are awaiting approval of its application to divest the lighthouse from the federal government so in the meantime the lighthouse is owned and maintained by the Coast Guard.
An employee with the Canadian Coast Guard begins work on the exterior walls of the Caribou Island lighthouse. Friends of Caribou Island are awaiting approval of its application to divest the lighthouse from the federal government so in the meantime the lighthouse is owned and maintained by the Coast Guard. - Sueann Musick

Corey Matheson can’t wait to get back to Caribou Island.

It’s not so much the lure of salt water and sandy beaches near his summer home that’s on his mind while he travels to western Canada, He’s excited to see improvements being made to the island’s lighthouse.

“My dad lives two doors down from my place and he called me to say they were painting the top part of it red,” he said this week.

Matheson’s eagerness to see the work done by the Canadian Coast Guard to this particular lighthouse is high, since he was aboard when the effort to bring about improvements was launched.

Two years ago, Matheson and his friend Dane Grant formed Friends of Caribou Island in hopes of sprucing up the area, so it would have a park-like feel rather than simply being an end to a scenic drive.

They started working with Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane, who has her own family ties to the lighthouse, as well as Central Nova MP Sean Fraser and District 3 Municipal Councillor Darla MacKeil. It was then a divestiture process originated that will allow the group to take over control of the land and building while the light would continue to be maintained by the coast guard.

Matheson admits it’s been a slow process. But now that the Coast Guard is doing work on the exterior of the building for the next two weeks, he’s hopeful their dream to take over control of the property will soon be reality.

“It’s been two years, give or take, since we filled out the application,” he said. “We presented a plan to the Municipality of Pictou County and it has been really slow, so to actually see some progress on the structure is the best news ever. “

In addition to painting the exterior and repairing holes in the concrete walls, Matheson also believes a fence will be repaired and wells in a grassy area near the lighthouse will be secured.

MacFarlane said the wait to get work done was taking so long, volunteers had stepped up and were willing to do it themselves.

However, due to liability, this couldn’t happen so the group had to persist in its calls to the federal government and coast guard in hopes something would be done sooner.

“A little beautification will make it sparkle,” MacFarlane said. “It needed some TLC. It is a favourite spot for a lot of people to go.”

MacFarlane added work initiated with the lighthouse has breathed life into the group and they will gather soon to talk about future plans. If the divestiture is approved, it’s hoped grounds will be maintained and picnic tables could be placed, encouraging people to stay a little longer and enjoy the area.

As for Matheson, he has big plans of his own when he gets home. As a musician, he had already planned to host a Tom Petty Tribute Show in July on the Island. Now he thinks having the new and improved Caribou Island lighthouse as a backdrop will make the night even more special.

History dates back to 1868

CARIBOU ISLAND, N.S.

The Caribou Island lighthouse was constructed in 1971 but has served as a beacon since 1868.

The light in the current structure is in use with a narrow set of steps leading to the top of the pillar-like building.

The door is locked to keep people out, but Corey Matheson of Friends of Caribou Island, said there is something about it that draws residents and visitors to the area on a regular basis.

The location is not well known to everyone, he said, but traffic on the island seems to have increased over the years. He said it might be the fact the island road leading to the lighthouse is now paved, but he has also seen many people walking and cycling to the area and picnicking on the shores.

CARIBOU LIGHTHOUSE

BODY OF WATER: Caribou Channel

COUNTY: Pictou

REGION: Northumberland Shore

SCENIC DRIVE: Sunrise Trail

HEIGHT FROM WATER LEVEL: 44 ft.

CHARACTERISTIC: Flashing white (1992). Still standing, still operational

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