Allan Benner / The Tribune
Tours of Port Colborne lighthouses are scheduled for Aug. 1 to 4, and on Aug. 9 the newly proclaimed Lighthouse Day in the city. (GREG FURMINGER Tribune Staff)
There’s another opportunity to visit the beacons that have led ships safely into the canal for more than a century.
In addition to tours of Port Colborne’s lighthouses planned for the Canal Days festival this weekend, people will have a chance to visit the structures during the newly-proclaimed National Lighthouse Day.
Erno Rossi and Cynthia Skinner from Friends of Port Colborne Lighthouses were at Monday’s Port Colborne city council meeting asking Mayor Vance Badawey to proclaim Aug. 9 at Lighthouse Day in Port Colborne — almost coinciding with the U.S. National Lighthouse Day on Aug. 7, designated in 1989 in commemoration of the signing of the Lighthouse Act by President George Washington two hundred years earlier.
The organization is again offering tours of the century-old lighthouses from Friday to Monday as part of Canal Days. They’ve teamed up with Port Colborne Marine Auxiliary Rescue (POCOMAR) to ferry visitors to Port Colborne’s breakwall to see the structures that the federal government declared surplus in 2010.
The tours, running each day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., are intended to help the organization raise funds “to restore the two lighthouses to their prior condition many years ago,” Rossi told Port Colborne councillors during the meeting.
The cost is $25 for a family of two adults with up to three children. Individual tickets are $15 each. The POCOMAR vessel will make several trips each day carrying tour participants from Sugarloaf Harbour Marina to the lighthouses.
Rossi said he expects participants will be thrilled with the rare opportunity to walk around the lighthouse building. Last year’s tour, he added, was the first time those lighthouses have been open to the public for 110 years.
Rossi recommended participating in the tours Friday and Monday to avoid the crowds gathered for the Canal Days festival.
“Last year we had a very good turnout,” Rossi added. “We’re hoping for the very good weather we had last year.”
“It was nonstop,” Skinner recalled, referring to attendance at last year’s lighthouse tours. “There were hundreds. There was something like 563 people in four days. There’s a lot of interest.”
For Lighthouse Day on Aug. 9, Skinner said tours will be held from 1 to 5 p.m.
She said many of the Friends of Port Colborne Lighthouses members are also involved in the Point Abino Lighthouse Preservation Society, and will also be running tours of the Fort Erie beacon that day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Efforts to preserve Port Colborne’s lighthouses started a few years ago when concerned community members formed a group called Save Our Lighthouses to work with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to take over ownership of the facilities, following a process laid out by the government through the Lighthouse Heritage Protection Act.
“It’s going to take us awhile to really get ownership of it,” Skinner said. “It’s a long process. But now at least we can do some more long-range planning.”
The group is also working to have the lighthouses designated as heritage sites, she added.