Point Clark Lighthouse in serious disrepair, to be closed until 2014
By Liz Dadson
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The Point Clark Lighthouse is in bad shape and will be closed until 2014.
That's the word from Scott Currie, Parks Canada communications manager.
The national historic site, located on the shores of Lake Huron in Huron-Kinloss Township, has been closed to tourists for two years while it was being repaired. It is owned by Parks Canada but operated by the township as a tourist attraction during the summer.
Currie said initial repair work uncovered damaged masonry that is more extensive than expected.
"The condition of the limestone masonry and mortar joints are much more deteriorated than predicted in the condition assessment," he said in a press release June 21.
"The lighthouse is constructed of two stone wythes (a straight inner column and a tapered outer facade) separated by a rubble wall," said Currie. "In light of the condition of the masonry on the tower exterior, it has been determined that the rubble wall portion must be grouted to stabilize the structure prior to carrying out masonry repairs."
Because the necessary scope and extent of the work now far exceeds what was called for in the 2011 contract, federal government contracting regulations stipulate that the work must be re-tendered, said Currie. The present contractor will secure the site and remove the scaffolding that is in place and that contract will be terminated. A new contract will be tendered in the coming months.
"The Point Clark Lighthouse national historic site is an important icon and a key part of the regional tourism offer," Currie said. "Plans are to re-open it to the visiting public for the 2014 season."
Speaking on behalf of Parks Canada about this project, Gary McMillan, superintendent, Georgian Bay Islands National Park, said expenses, to date, are still being determined due to the cancellation of the existing contract.
"The budget for this project currently still sits at $1.5-million,"he said.
He said once the scaffolding comes down, the lighthouse will be protected from the elements by a tarp warp that covers the entire tower with the exception of the lantern. It will also be structurally supported by wide band cargo straps. The construction area will be entirely fenced.
When asked why this extensive damage was not discovered during the initial condition assessment of the lighthouse, McMillan said the more extensive damage was discovered between the inner and outer limestone wythes.
"There was no evidence that this area had been compromised," he said. "Tell-tale signs typically would have been evidence of mortar breakdown or buckling. Disassembly during the course of the original work exposed the unforeseen damage."
McMillan was asked why the scaffolding must be removed; why it can't remain in place until the project is re-tendered to see if the same company gets the job and could just continue.
"Contract negotiations require that the existing contract be terminated," said McMillan. "This includes the removal of the scaffolding. If it were left in place, it would put that particular company in a position of advantage should it decide to bid on future work."
As for an estimated cost of the repairs to the lighthouse now, McMillan said design work is not yet complete so this has yet to be determined.
Huron-Kinloss facilities and parks director Mike Fair said the extensive damage to the lighthouse and further delay of the work, are certainly disappointing for the township and the many tourists who anticipated climbing the Point Clark Lighthouse this summer.
He said the lighthouse has a protective wrap that will prevent any further moisture penetration into the structure, thereby preventing further damage, once the scaffolding is removed until a new contract is awarded to continue the repairs.
An eight-foot-high steel fence has been in place around the lighthouse since the closure in 2010, he said, to keep people back from the structure.
As for the annual Lighthouse Keepers Corn Roast and Car Show, Fair said it will be held again this year, on Aug. 18.
Work began on the lighthouse after an announcement in April, 2010, that the federal government was putting up to $495,000 into repairing the structure. The work was to begin that fall and completed by March 31, 2011, as dictated by the federal government's Economic Action Plan.
In October, 2011, the restoration work was stopped because it was discovered the structure had suffered more damage than initially anticipated.
The initial design for restoration work was based on the existence of one large vertical crack extending through multiple courses of masonry. Once the exterior surface treatment was removed by sandblasting, workers discovered there were four such cracks.
One aspect of the repairs involves raking the joints between the stones to prepare for re-pointing with new mortar. Soon after this work was commenced in the mid-section of the tower, it was found that once the first layer of mortar (a relatively modern repair - one to two inches in depth) was removed, the original lime mortar behind it was found to be in completely poor condition with no supporting strength.
This meant the raking procedure was putting workers and the tower at risk so a Stop Work Order was issued until a re-designed procedure was drawn up and approved.
At that point, it was reported that the damage to the top eight courses of masonry was more extensive than anticipated, and there was evidence of moisture penetration into the rubble core over a period of time.
The Point Clark Lighthouse has been covered in scaffolding for the past two years while repairs were being done
The Point Clark Lighthouse
The contractor's engineer recommended that the lantern section be temporarily removed from the top of the tower to facilitate the complete rebuilding of the top eight courses of masonry. This would ensure the safety of the workers, reduce the overall risk to the historic tower, and allow for more thorough and effective repairs.
The Point Clark Lighthouse was built in 1859 to warn sailors of the shoal extending 3.2 kilometres offshore. Its elegant proportions and limestone exterior are typical of the six "Imperial" towers built in the region, a lighthouse style rarely seen elsewhere in Canada.
Acquired by Parks Canada in 1967 to commemorate the vital role of lighthouses in navigation on the Great Lakes, it still serves its primary function - an aid to navigation. The lightkeeper's dwelling, built at the same time as the lighthouse, continues to be operated as a museum by Huron-Kinloss Township.
breathtaking vista is the reward for climbing the 114 stairs up the
winding staircases at the lighthouse.
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Monday, July 02, 2012