Many Brockville residents were saddened when the Cole Shoal lighthouse burned down after a lightning strike last July.
Since then there has been a growing local movement to do something to commemorate the historic lighthouse that was built in 1856.
Only nine of the wooden structures were built and the one on Cole Shoal was the last one on the St. Lawrence River.
Also known as the five-mile lighthouse because of it’s proximity to Brockville, a group trying to rebuild the lighthouse has taken that name.
Today the Five Mile Light Rebuild Committee held a media conference to announce the beginning of its fundraising efforts.
With a stated goal of $200,000, Kingston businessman Jason Clark took to the podium and stunned the crowd.
“We are pleased to kick off this fundraising venture by pledging a gift of $100,000 s to be utilized the best way possible,” Clark announced.
Clark is the president of St. Lawrence Cruise Lines. The company was originally started by his uncle Bob Clark.
The donation comes from Bob Clark’s estate and nephew Jason says he thinks his uncle would approve.
“He purchased a home right on the St. Lawrence River and from that point founded St. Lawrence Cruise Lines so the river has always really been his true love.”
Opening up a campaign already halfway to the goal has sped up timelines for the project.
Retired Brockville politician and campaign chair Bob Runciman says building the lighthouse could begin this year.
“If you want to be really optimistic, I would say this year, September, October. We’ve got some bureaucracy hurdles as well that we have to look at.”
It’s an incredible turnaround after disappointing meetings early on with the Ontario Heritage Trust.
Mike Milne was in on those meetings and was an early mover to do something after the fire.
Building a replica isn’t part of the trust’s mandate but Milne says that didn’t stop them.
“We decided to push forward to see if we could have a rebuild and we formed the committee and we’ve had nothing but support from the community and most of it pro-bono.”
Along with Runciman, the township of Elizabethtown-Kitley has signed off as well.
The township will issue tax receipts for any donations and Mayor Brant Burrow says they’ve managed to work out a deal with Ontario Heritage Trust that will let the work move forward.
“We’ve entered into a one-year lease for a dollar, so we’re leasing the shoal from them. That now allows us the ability to set foot on it, reconstruct and do all the things we want to do.”
Plans for the rebuild include a dome that housed the lighthouse light. The light and the housing on the original structure was removed in 1927.