Friday, October 30, 2009

Summary for Trails and Island Times articles

Parts of the following were included in the Grand Manan Trails Newsletter 2009 and also in the November issue of Island Times. Slight editing was done for each publication. Thanks Martha for getting this started!

This year has been a busy one for the Swallowtail Keepers Society (SKS) in its efforts to preserve and maintain the keepers house and other outbuildings at Swallowtail. While some of their work revolved around further clarification of the property status, much of their time was spent in visible projects that began in April and are ongoing.

For the second year in a row, a flag-raising ceremony took place on a foggy July 1, 2009, with several community members and the RCMP in attendance. The ceremony recognized the Foster family for its contribution to Swallowtail’s history and memorialized the tragic death of Elodie Foster in 1936, wife of Thomas Foster, while she was lighting the alcohol lamp in the lighthouse.

A new event on the third weekend in August was the International Lighthouse/Lightship Weekend. Two ham-radio operators from the Fredericton area set up their equipment in the former Ross Island boat house to talk to other operators around the world also broadcasting from lighthouses or lightships. While the atmospheric conditions were not always the best, it was a fun weekend with over 170 people stopping by to learn about ham radios and celebrate lighthouses. We hope to make this an annual event.

Perhaps the most visible improvement has been the erection of a sturdy deck and replacement of the roof shingles at the former Ross Island boathouse at the head of the stairs by the parking lot. Many, many hours of volunteer labour went into this project and is part of our goals to make at least part of the property accessible to everyone. This area will become the greeting centre for anyone visiting the light station in years to come.

Thanks to donated paint and the local Rotary Club and members of the Rotary Club from Seminole Lake, Florida, the buildings at the top of the hill and the keepers house have been painted in a joint project. A bit more work is needed on the keepers house but the buildings now glow as they did when there were fulltime keepers who did the maintenance. SKS is grateful for all such help, and recognizes the great cooperation and assistance from such community groups as Rotary as well as local businesses and individuals.

You may have also noticed that the southern wall of the boathouse beside the keepers house is being rebuilt. Many years of neglect and extreme elements (wind, rain and snow) had taken its toll and through volunteer effort and donated lumber, the building is in much better shape for the upcoming winter. This work will continue next spring.

Some work was also done on the railings. The chain link fencing on one side of the hand rail of the concrete steps was replaced with much softer netting so the railing was more “hand-friendly”. The railing on the foot bridge was also reinforced with long bolts to strengthen it against the stiff winds through the Sawpit. The netting and stainless steel bolts, nuts and washers were donated and this, often tedious, work was done by volunteers.

Together this work has helped to have the property shining for the 150th anniversary on July 7, 2010. Various plans for that celebration include the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the event, installing a time capsule, and possibly returning the fog bell to the property. A gala public reception and slide show of people's favourite Swallowtail photos are in the planning stages. A boat parade/sail past and a Fishermen's Ball are planned for the weekend following. Please let us know if there are special events you would like included or would like to help with any of the planning or events to make this a fun time for all.

While not directly related to SKS’ mandate, many of you have likely noted the presence of a large-scale clean-up of lead paint by CleanEarth Technologies at the Swallowtail property which started in the fall of 2008. This was part of a Federal Government programme to remediate properties that are contaminated. The clean-up was necessary if the lighthouse is ever to be transferred from federal hands. They graciously arranged to have removed large items (oil tanks, old furnaces, construction debris) from the property recently by Coast Guard helicopter. This was possible during the removal of the last bags of contaminated soil from beside the lighthouse.

The federal historic lighthouse bill is to come into effect next year and the community will need to petition to have the lighthouse deemed “historic”. It is already recognized as “significant”. Lack of funding to the Coast Guard remains an issue regarding maintenance of the lighthouse and can be seen in the crumbling rock foundation, missing roof shingles and peeling paint. Additionally, the Village is in the process of setting up an historic places registry of non-federal properties, and has selected the keepers property as one of the possible sites.

None of this could be accomplished without the dedication of volunteers and interested individuals, countless volunteer hours, donation of materials and gracious monetary donations. A successful lobster dinner and musical evening, hamburger and hotdog sales, and sale of buttons and maple taffy have also helped raise necessary funds to let us continue our work. If you are interested, donations can be sent to Swallowtail Keepers Society, 50 Lighthouse Road, Grand Manan, NB E5G 2A2. We also have a blog,, a Facebook group, Save our Swallowtail, and always welcome anyone interested in helping out with work or organizational meetings. Contact: Laurie Murison (506 662 8316 or

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