By John Francis
Lion’s Head’s iconic lighthouse was destroyed in a winter storm exactly one year ago. An amazing team of volunteers, fuelled by public donations and facilitated by municipal staff, built and installed a replacement lighthouse in record time.
It is a more robust building, placed in a much more sheltered location.
But the 2020-2021 storm season has picked up where 2019-2020 left off. A series of northerly storms has pushed a wall of stones southward along the shoreline and — literally — thrown them against the lighthouse. Drifted piles of beach stone have been moved away from the lighthouse several times with a front loader. The scars on the side of the building show how high they were piled.
The Hardie board siding which was chosen for the new lighthouse is made of fiber-reinforced cement; it is famously resistant to ice damage. But it turns out to be quite vulnerable to thrown rocks. The lighthouse has sustained cosmetic damage only but staff and volunteers are in need of a permanent solution.
In the interim, the municipality has installed puck board — the plastic liner they put around the boards in hockey arenas and, it turns out, also pig barns — which stands up to thrown rocks just as well as it stands up to slap shots. The current objective is to get through this winter and then reevaluate siding options.
A longer term solution would probably involve a strategy to prevent Georgian Bay from throwing a two-metre-tall drift of stone against the building every fall.
This requires professional expertise. A shoreline engineer will be consulted and then the proposed solutions must be approved by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Placing a line of Smart-car sized rocks along the shore “up-storm” of the lighthouse (as suggested by Bruce Draper in the last issue of this newspaper) is one potential solution.