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When we think of one symbol that immediately takes us to Atlantic Canada, it is the lighthouse. What could capture the smell of the ocean, the importance of the fishing industry and the loving quality of the people more like this essential building that’s purpose is to keep folks safe and guide them home.

Built in 1885, The Schafner Point Lighthouse is just that symbol for residents of Annapolis County, particularly those living on Granville Road where it stands.

Six locals watched as the beloved lighthouse continued to suffer the wear and tear of time and harsh weather.

The building has extensive wood rot. It’s built so well that it’s standing, but it’s missing cladding, it’s wrapped in house wrap, there’s lots of sections with no boards, and it has no shingles. All that’s between the inside and the weather is a thin piece of house wrap.

“The lighthouse is still in use, so the Coast Guard needs the light to be working. If the lighthouse was left in disrepair and eventually torn down, it would have been replaced by a pole with a light on it. In the Maritimes with lighthouses as an icon, it would be a sad commentary if the oldest lighthouse in the Annapolis Basin, was no more,” said Medea Holtz, President of The Port Royal Lighthouse Association.

After talks with the local Annapolis Heritage Society turned into an agreement to transfer ownership of the lighthouse to this grassroots committee, The Port Royal Lighthouse Association was officially born in August 2022.

“We’re making history here. This year is just as important as the first year the lighthouse was built. To be able to do something that impacts the future like this is not something that comes along every day,” she explained.

After gaining ownership of the lighthouse in October 2022, the association immediately launched an extensive fundraising program.

Since then, they’ve seen an amazing outpouring of support from the community.

“We had an “open light” day where people could walk in the building and see the condition and a public meeting where people could come learn about our hopes and plans and get involved,” Medea explained.

During the meeting, they had several people offer in-kind donations and their time and talent to help raise funds.

One example was a local playwright, Paul Rapsey, who offered to write a play and premiere it with all proceeds directed to the lighthouse restoration. He partnered with a local fiddle player, Stephen Kline, who gave a concert to also raise money for the lighthouse.

Two people donated firewood which was raffled off to raise funds. One of those people was Richard Morrison, a local millwright in Karsdale. The Morrison mill is also donating lumber for the renovation.

“That is possibly the mill where the original lumber for the lighthouse came from,” Medea said.

They have also had several events including a lobster dinner, a concert and a lighthouse themed art exhibit with information about the restoration, along with an auction of donated goods on Facebook. On June 10that the Habitation New Horizons Community Hall in Port Wade, there will be a classic country music night fundraiser hosted by local community members.

Based on professional assessments, the association believes it will cost around $120,000 to fully restore the lighthouse and in less than a year they have already raised over $50,000 in grassroots fundraising alone.

They have also received a grant from the County of Annapolis to have the original stairs rebuilt, to restore the front door, and complete some other projects to launch the restoration.

Local retired Heritage Preservation Specialist Jerry Dick is giving his time and expertise to the project.

“He’s bringing the door down to the original wood, fixing any issues and restoring it using the original linseed oil process. We’re being sensitive to historic processes and trying to proceed with a heritage restoration as much as possible, in hopes of preserving the lighthouse in closer to its original condition than before,” Medea explained.

The next step will be the scaffolding which should be going up in June.

The Lighthouse Association has also submitted a grant application to contract with Helping Nature Heal, an organization who pioneered a method where they develop pockets of substrate, native grasses and other salt tolerant plants that will colonize the seashore and hold everything in place.

Once the building restoration and erosion control methods are complete, they plan to erect several interpretive panels at the site that explain the seashore restoration and the historical significance of the lighthouse and the Port Royal area.

“We hope to include a panel on how Indigenous people utilized this portion of the Annapolis Basin, the more recent history of the fishing industry and the Schafner Family who originally owned the land where the lighthouse now stands,” she said.

The Association recently received a grant from the Parker Mountain Wind Turbine Society, which is earmarked for a picnic table to be set in place once the renovations are completed. The group plans to turn the land around the lighthouse into a park for community members and visitors to enjoy.

They hope to have this all complete by the end of the year.

Xplore has been active in the community of Annapolis County since acquiring and expanding the fibre network from the municipality. They have been offering fibre Internet service since last year.

Xplore reached out to support the lighthouse restoration efforts and was one of the sponsors of their lobster dinner event and they wanted to help more.

Even before building a relationship with Xplore, The Port Royal Lighthouse Association thought it would be great to have a live video stream from the lighthouse location. That way, locals can witness the transformation in real time.

What a fitting way for Xplore to give back! They went ahead and set up a lightning-fast fibre Internet connection at the lighthouse and set up the live stream. You can find the link on the Port Royal Lighthouse Association website.

“People are really loving it. It’s a great way for folks from far and wide to connect with what’s happening at the lighthouse in real time. We’re grateful to Xplore for underwriting this webcam project and providing Internet access for the stream. Everyone is very pleased,” Medea said.

Xplore has also donated two Adirondack chairs at the lighthouse so that anyone can relax and enjoy the view.

You can also sign up for Fibre Internet today!