Fears 183-year-old Lake Erie lighthouse could topple as high winds approach
It sits basking in the sun on a quiet winter day.
The Port Burwell Lighthouse has guided sailors through storms and tourists through its door for almost two centuries.
But suddenly, it is feared the 65-foot or 20-metre tall lighthouse, the oldest wooden one on Lake Erie, could topple.
“The lighthouse is in a position where it could overturn in a significant wind event,” confirms Thomas Thayer, the administrator of the Municipality of Bayham.
With the lighthouse at the centre of the municipal logo, word of its condition has set off alarm bells.
Council has closed the road in front of the lighthouse and secured the structure's base with fencing.
The Port Burwell Lighthouse is seen fenced off for safety on Wednesday, February 8, 2023. (Sean Irvine/CTV The actions protect people, but the lighthouse remains at risk until shore up.
And with high winds and rain coming Thursday, there is a concern.
“This is what we're worried about,” states Bayham Mayor Ed Ketchabaw.
If the lighthouse survives the coming storm, work to shore it up will begin.
The $84,000 cost is covered by a reserve fund.
Ketchabaw predicts at least $500,000 will be needed to restore the lighthouse, if not more.
And with another tourist attraction, the HMCS Ojibwa nearly sinking Bayham’s finances half a decade ago, it will be a challenge.
The Mayor of the Municipality of Bayham Ed Ketchabaw in Port Burwell, Ont. on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)“I doubt if we can get this repaired in 2023, but maybe 2024, 2025 — if we can find sufficient senior-level government support to get us there,” said Ketchabaw.
Port Burwell resident Laurie Martyn has her fingers crossed that money will be found.
After all, unlike the submarine project, she says residents have an unquestionable fondness for the lighthouse.
“It’s more a claim of fame than the sub,” Martyn said. “The people do not like the sub, but they want to keep the lighthouse. It’ll get fixed. I’m quite positive of it.”
A report to the council on the next steps is not expected until March.
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