The Ontario government is interested in selling the Five Mile Light island to the Township of Elizabethtown-Kitley.
Council this week voted to go ahead with the purchase after learning from township administrator Yvonne Robert that the Ontario Heritage Trust would rather sell the former lighthouse site than lease it as proposed by the township.
The price is certainly right: $1.
Five Mile Light island, sometimes called Cole Shoal, was the site of a 162-year-old lighthouse that was destroyed in a lightning strike last July 29.
Soon after the spectacular fire that turned it to ashes, a committee of residents formed with the idea of raising the iconic structure.
Ontario Heritage Trust said it wouldn’t pay for a replica so the committee came up with the idea of having Elizabethtown-Kitley lease the island for a year.
During the year, the committee would see if it could raise enough money to build a $200,000 replica. If not, the committee would abandon the project, and ownership of the land would go back to the province.
There is new optimism that the committee will reach its fundraising goal following a surprise donation this month. Jason Clark, president of the St. Lawrence Cruise Lines, made a $100,000 donation in memory of his late uncle, Bob Clark, who started the cruise company and had an abiding love for the river and its history.
Former senator Bob Runciman, who chairs the fundraising committee, described the gift as “nothing short of magnificent,” noting that the money is half of the group’s target.
Coun. Rob Smith, a member of the lighthouse committee, told council this week that Clark’s donation makes the committee confident it can reach the $200,000 mark.
He said the money should be enough to build the replica and include a small trust fund for future maintenance. The fund should ensure that there would be no cost to the taxpayer, he added.
Council members were unanimous in supporting Smith’s motion that the township pursue Ontario Heritage Trust’s offer.
If the purchase goes ahead, Elizabethtown-Kitley would increase its ownership of the Thousand Islands to 42.
The Five Mile Light, so-called because it was five miles from Brockville city hall, was one of nine lighthouses on the Canadian side of the river erected in the mid-1800s. It was the last one standing but it hadn’t been in operation since 1927.