Held on Labour Day, almost 100 people turned out, making the most of the privileged access afforded by the event, and in spite of the grey skies. The Association des résidents de la pointe du phare de Métis-sur-mer (ARPP), who organised the event, took the opportunity to explain the project to acquire and preserve the historic lighthouse.
Visitors were treated to a picnic lunch and a hands-on demonstration of local marine life as well as several short speeches given by people involved in the project, giving a picture of the project aims and objectives. Dr. Ladd Johnson, professor at Université Laval, and several of his students, who are conducting research in the area, organised the marine life demonstration (pictured). Johnson is particularly excited by the possibilities of reopening the research laboratory in the former foghorn house: “After sitting empty for most of the past 20 years, this resource can finally support scientists working locally on environmental issues.”
“In the 1980s and ‘90s, federal scientists used the site, save for the lighthouse itself, for research on forest insects. It now appears that attention will turn back to the sea,” he explained.
Barry James, President of the ARPP and the driving force behind the project, was very pleased by the turnout which well represented the different age and linguistic groups in the local community. “We have been working on this project for years, and it is finally at the stage where the end is in sight,” James explained, “Now that the background work is done, we can start publicising more of the details of the project and the plans for the use of the site.”
The event illustrated the current plan for public access to the site, which will be managed by the municipal office. It is hoped that regular access will be provided to the site from May to October with a shuttle providing transportation to the lighthouse from the Metis Beach Town Hall twice a month. Additionally, special events for educational and cultural activities will occur periodically on the site, highlighting research activities and local history.
James explained: “Our plan is a win-win situation for all involved: scientists can return to the Point, local residents will continue to see low traffic on the road preserving the historic tranquility, and the public, both locals and tourists, will finally have access to the site.”
The lighthouse’s beacon has been an iconic feature of the Metis coastline for nearly 140 years but has become simply part of the landscape since being decommissioned for navigational purposes in 1997. This project aims to show the value of the lighthouse as more than just feature of the landscape: preserving local history whilst giving the site a new lease of life as a place the whole community can enjoy for decades to come.
It is hoped that the necessary legal processes to acquire the lighthouse will be completed before the summer of 2014 so that work can begin on restoring the lighthouse and surrounding associated buildings. After years of deferred maintenance, there are many things that require attention, and it will take several years and substantial funding to completely bring the site back to its former glory. The good news is that the federal government has already allocated $100,000 towards this effort, and an initial fundraising effort over the last year has so far raised nearly an equivalent amount in donations and pledges from local residents.
The Association des résidents de la pointe du phare de Métis-sur-Mer is working in partnership with the Ville de Métis-sur-Mer to acquire the lighthouse for the community. Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence supports this effort and is working with the ARPP and the Ville to preserve the historic site.