Lighthouse Story

“Saving the Stokes Bay Lighthouse”

Late in the summer of 2009, Ontario Parks informed Bruce County staff that the Canadian Coast Guard had plans to replace the historic 1903 Stokes Bay Range Light structure located on their property.  Age and structural deficiencies made it difficult for Coast Guard personnel to safely maintain the tower.

“The structure must be removed to upgrade this important navigational aid, which helps protect the safety of boaters along the Bruce Peninsula,” said Doug Jibb, Construction Technologist with the Canadian Coast Guard.  Because of the County’s deep commitments to protecting and preserving Bruce Coast marine history, it was obvious that the structure must be saved and relocated.  A plan was hatched move the structure to the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre to be incorporated into the Bruce Coast Marine Gallery.

“This donation to the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre efficiently addresses the CCG’s requirement to maintain its navigational aids system while ensuring that this historically significant structure is not only permanently preserved but also made more accessible to the public.”

The challenge lay in the remote location of the Range Light, which is only accessible by water or air.  A ‘heavy lift’ helicopter capable of lifting the 8500 lb building was required to move the structure to a staging area at Black Creek Provincial Park from which it was transported  to the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre in Southampton by truck.

The closest helicopter of this type is a Sikorsky S61 owned by National Helicopters in Vaughan, Ontario but based in Ohio, USA.  National Helicopters, the Canadian Coast Guard and Bruce County developed a game plan to lift the structure in on Saturday December 5th  2011 at approximately 11am.  The unit was staged out of the Wiarton Keppel International airport and was fully supported by a ground crew from National Helicopters and Rigarus Construction (the tower contractor) to perform the lift.

The lift operation was done in 4 segments, 2 for the actual lighthouse structure and 2 for the contractor’s equipment.  Then the structure was loaded onto a transport heavy equipment float operated by Paul Bridge Construction and trucked to Southampton for winter storage.  The Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre prepared the light for installation into an outdoor exhibit.

The Stokes Bay Light is a classic Range Light style similar to structures found at Tobermory, Southampton, and Lions Head.  The light was elevated on stilts that protected the structure from rotting and moisture, leaving it in remarkable condition.

Bruce County has been a long time member, supporter and promoter of the Bruce Coast Lighthouse Tour and is committed to working with marine heritage organizations to protect heritage assets along its coastline. The Lighthouse tour consists of 13 marine heritage sites, four of which are famous 150 year-old John Brown designed Imperial Towers. Visitors to Bruce Coast Lighthouses reside in all parts of North America and are thrilled with the accessibility and diversity of Lighthouses in the County.

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