Elanie Bruton’s father was the last lighthouse keeper at Sheringham Point. The family was the last of a long line of keepers of the light, who ensured the marine traffic on the Strait of Juan de Fuca was safe and on course.
Built in 1912, the lighthouse and the keeper’s house and sundry buildings were a familiar and welcome sight along the strait, a beacon for navigation and a safety net for those at sea.
Bruton is a member of the Sheringham Point Lighthouse Preservation Society, whose goal is to preserve the 101-year-old lighthouse structure and protect the 10-acres of foreshore land as a park, open to the public.
Her younger years at Shirley were just like anyone else’s in a rural community, except she lived down a winding road next to the lighthouse along the craggy shore. Her sister Sharon was married at the top of the 68-stairs in the dome of the lighthouse. Her father, James, worked the lighthouse from 1968 to 1986 when he retired. The old keepers’ houses, the bomb shelter and a building housing military personnel during the war are all gone now. All that remains is the lighthouse itself.
The houses were abandoned and sat empty for years and were eventually burned to the ground as practice for the fire department. Daffodils planted by the Brutons still bloom every year and give a sense of people having lived there in years past.
“We don’t want to see the building torn down. There’s been no maintenance, the government doesn’t care,” said Bruton.
Bruton said the lighthouse is still useful. It has a steady green beacon and instruments still gather information on the wind and weather conditions.
“What the public forgets is that weekend fishermen don’t have that equipment (GPS) and older folks don’t have cell phones, and they could get messed up with no horn and no light.”
The society has put in a business plan to the federal fisheries department and they have been trying, since 2003, to get the land handed over. The federal government has declared 128 lighthouses across the country “surplus,” even though some are still used for navigation. In 2008, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Canadian lighthouses, (970 in total) were no longer necessary as most mariners rely on satellite signals and use GPS or the Internet to navigate. The federal government is also closing down coast guard stations in B.C. The lighthouse is part of the seafaring history of British Columbia and the Sheringham Point Lighthouse Preservation Society, with 200 active volunteers, wants the lighthouse to get a heritage designation and become a public park.
“We have a lot of support from the public,” said Bruton. “Even prior to this we had thousands of signatures on a petition.”
“Since it has been made surplus we will continue to work with the CRD to acquire the land. There’s too many hoops to jump through. Everything is a process and nothing moves quickly,” she said.