Cabot Head Updates: Bird Observatory Sees Shortfalls In Fundraising Revenues, Gets New Roof; Friends Of Cabot Head Look To Remove Artifacts

An Ontario Trillium Foundation grant was used to reshingle the roof of the Wingfield staff house in September. MNBP made a temporary fix to the washed out access road making it passable for contractor Greg Lloyd to complete the work.
By Joanne Rodgers, Bruce Peninsula Press

The Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory (BPBO) was awarded a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to reshingle the roof of their staff house. The job was completed in September and at the same time the contractor Greg Lloyd also reshingled the pumphouse roof, gratis. The buildings at Cabot Head are off-grid and a new roof was needed to protect both the staff house and the sensitive electronics in the pumphouse.

With the roofs of Wingfield cottage and the pumphouse on the verge of collapse and the Station Scientist and volunteers needing safe accommodation and well-working electronics to conduct their Spring Migration Monitoring at the Cabot Head Research Station, the Municipality made a temporary fix to the washed out access road. With the road passable, the contractor and the delivery truck were able to get in and allowed the Trillium grant money to be used for the much needed repairs. 

Elizabeth Thorn, Volunteer Board VP, expressed her heartfelt appreciation to the Municipal Councillors, CAO Peggy Van Mierlo-West and Public Works Manager, Troy Cameron for their help to secure the timely road repair. “Without their support, we would have lost the hard-earned grant money and Wingfield Cottage would have been severely damaged. Also important was the contribution by Ontario Parks, District Zone Manager Greg Wilson that supplemented the Trillium grant contribution.” 

The Cabot Head Research Station, located in the heart of the Cabot Head Nature Reserve and managed by Ontario Parks, is a designated IBA (Important Bird Area) which was originally recognized for its red-necked Grebe population. These birds have “lobed” toes, not webbed feet; and are rarely seen on land. Its namesake cottage, Grebe Lodge, is one of two historic waterfront cabins on the Nature Reserve. Years of high water have damaged a corner footing and important foundation aspects of Grebe Lodge, and now, BPBO is struggling to find funds to repair it.

The historic cabins are the cornerstone of the Cabot Head Stewardship Program, whereby stewards stay at the cabins, do light property maintenance; while their presence deter vandalism and offer security to the area. This year due to COVID-19 the cabins were not available to the stewards during the summer months which meant that the Migration Monitoring Program lost a major source of their funding.

Another major fundraising event, the annual dinner, keynote speaker and “live” auction also had to be cancelled due to COVID-19.

Local resident and Board member Arni Stinnissen is leading a Nature Calendar fundraiser, with photographs donated by local photographer Ethan Meleg. (The photo of the Cape May Warbler is April’s image.)

The Cape May warbler is featured in the 2021 BPBO fundraising calendar. Photo Credit: Ethan Meleg.

Under the leadership of Beth Anne Currie, the Bird Observatory’s President, an online auction will start in mid-November with funds helping to off-set cabin repairs and next year’s staff salary. For further details on how to bid on the auction prizes, to read Dr. Stephane Menu’s informative and humorous blog on this year’s migration season or to become a member, please visit Cell (519) 377-5166

Friends Of Cabot Head Look To Remove Artifacts From Site

As the Lighthouse and other buildings deteriorate and are vandalised, the Friends of Cabot Head ponder options to deal with their assets on the Cabot Head property. One option is to remove everything, but then there is the problem of social distancing and where to store all the assets to do a proper sort and divest. Ron Wheeler indicates the artifacts from the lighthouse would likely be distributed to the local and regional museums, while the furnishings from the cottage would be sold off; some of the items which were purchased as upgrades for the cottage such as compostable toilets are still in their original packaging.

The last time the Cabot Head Lighthouse was open to the public was in 2016, and that was the year that visitors topped 16,000 in a single year. The Friends of the Cabot Head operated the museum and cottage but when the land was deemed contaminated, the site was closed to the public by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (FOC) which owns the property.

Remediation of the site has now taken place but Wheeler says the Friends of Cabot Head have not been able to open a dialogue with the federal agency about their future plans for the property. He found out from print media that there were plans to obtain federal monies for road repair and hydro work but that is all he knows, not being privy to any internal communications that may be taking place.

The Lighthouse is not a designated heritage site, which may have implications to its protection. Three major vandalism incidents took place this summer, including break-ins to the lighthouse tower. There was only a temporary fix to the access road, The Friends have no authority to make any repairs to the buildings.

Three major vandalism incidents took place this past summer, including break-ins to the lighthouse tower. Vandals used stacked picnic tables to gain entry to the lighthouse via an upper window. Photo Courtesy of Facebook.

A report from the Public Works Department states ”Municipal staff continues to engage in discussions with all interested parties to come to a permanent solution on the status of the road. At this time, that includes awaiting an assessment and cost estimate from FOC’s engineering team for Cabot Head Road. Unfortunately, this is at a standstill as, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the engineering team is not permitted to be on-site.” CAO Peggy Van Mierlo-West says “Working with the community and main stakeholders we are looking forward to a sustainable solution.”

Jim Wadleigh of Dyers Bay says to keep the idea alive and start a conversation, he submitted a comment to Parks Canada in support of adding the Cabot Head property to the Bruce Peninsula National Park.

Wheeler states “this would be the best possible outcome for Wingfield Basin and Cabot Head Lighthouse property.”

The Friends of Cabot Head will continue to advocate that the property be managed properly. The group says they are willing to work with all the stakeholders to explore new business opportunities. They are willing to consider a shuttle bus service, boat tours, partnerships with the Bird Observatory and support the property being incorporated into the National Park.