WEST Vancouver's historic Point Atkinson lighthouse property will likely continue to hang in jurisdictional limbo while federal and local governments talk about its future.
Sitting at the entrance to Burrard Inlet in Lighthouse Park, the lighthouse was built in 1912 and automated in 1996.
Three years ago, the lighthouse was one of about 1,000 lighthouses across the country declared surplus to operational needs by Ottawa and included in a federal plan to sell off or lease properties to community groups or private interests.
Since then, the federal government has been in talks with the District of West Vancouver about the municipal government or a community society potentially taking over responsibility for the site.
"There's been a co-management arrangement in place for several years now," said Brent Leigh, deputy chief administrative officer for West Vancouver.
Having a local organization take over the site is something both the municipality and Department of Fisheries and Oceans would eventually like to see.
"We're certainly acutely aware these are of tremendous historical importance in the communities they are located," said Andrew Anderson, a senior divestiture analyst with the federal government.
"The history and the heritage is very important to local citizens."
One factor standing in the way of any quick handovers is money - whoever has ownership of the site will be required to pay for upkeep of the heritage site.
Although the lighthouse and surrounding property has been formally recognized by the federal government as a place of national historic significance, that didn't come with any cash.
Currently the lighthouse tower and the cupola itself is badly in need of a paint job, says Elaine Graham, who along with her late husband Don Graham was a lighthouse keeper at Point Atkinson, and who still works as a caretaker at the site.
But with a price tag estimated at about $200,000, nobody is leaping forward to volunteer.
Getting money towards upkeep of the lighthouse and ancillary buildings is an ongoing struggle, says Graham.
Recently, a subcommittee of the West Vancouver Historical Society dedicated to preserving the lighthouse managed to get the district - and an anonymous donor - to pay for exterior repairs for the blockhouse, a small building near the tower.
While the federal government still owns the property, it hasn't declared su made upkeep of the properties it hopes to unload a priority. "We have rather limited budgets," said Anderson. "Ancillary buildings which don't serve any program function are going to be prioritized on a much lower basis."
Ottawa does have a grant program available to help with one-time costs, he added - but that is only available as part of an agreement under which the property is being sold or transferred to another group.
Meanwhile, community groups and organizations have come forward with plans to save only a small portion of the lighthouses Ottawa has deemed surplus across the country. Groups had been asked to submit proposals by the beginning of June.
Anderson said the government will still entertain proposals for the lighthouses over the next two years.
In the case of Point Atkinson, no formal plan has been submitted, although the municipality has put forward an "expression of interest" to Ottawa.
The solar-powered battery-operated light inside the tower is still deemed a functional aid to navigation by Fisheries and Oceans Canada
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