In early May, a group of seven volunteers gathered to start the task of painting the outside of the historic Pilot Bay lighthouse.
Between then and June 5, seven different crews comprising a total of 18 people from as far away as Castlegar and Ymir put in 160 hours to complete the job of painting the shingles, railings and metal roofing.
The building had last been painted in 2006 after Joern Wingender’s Traditional Timber Framing Company finished a complete reshingling and restoration of the building.
Constructed in 1904, the lighthouse went into operation in January of 1905. With the increased marine traffic that accompanied the settlement of the area, the lighthouse performed a critical service during stormy weather and the shortened days of winter.
The light was turned off June 30, 1993 despite “…opposition from all around Kootenay Lake and throughout the region” (from Susan Hulland’s The History of Pilot Bay Lighthouse). As part of a user group coalition agreement with BC Parks, the lighthouse was saved from dismantling and BC Parks undertook to have the land and building returned to provincial jurisdiction.
For their part of the agreement, the Friends of West Kootenay Parks Society agreed to help maintain the building and access trail.
The Pilot Bay lighthouse is now a part of the tourism marketing strategy of the East Shore, featured in tourist brochures. It is easily accessed from Pilot Bay Road (approximately four kilometres from the ferry landing) by a 10 to 15 minute walk on a trail that winds up a slight grade through second growth cedar-hemlock forest.
About halfway up, look for an old trail on the right that once led to the old Pilot Bay townsite. This is the trail that Jean Montreuil would have taken daily in the early days to tend the lighthouse lamp.
The Friends of West Kootenay Parks would like to thank the following volunteers for their help: Bill Bryce, Jason Carter, Harry Davidson, Maurice de St Jorre, Emily Fanjoy, Paul Genereux, Paul Hinton, Helene Lafontaine, Amy Leeming, Ursula and Terry Lowrey, Bert and Sue Port, Tom Roos, Eric Sargent, Kim Shea, Dave Smith and Fred Thiessen.
The Friends would also like to thank BC Parks area supervisor Hugh Ackroyd and senior ranger Tom Roos for their help. Thanks are also due to Truus and Randy Zelonka at the Balfour Gill and Gift for their generous donation towards the cost of the painting.
For more information about the role of the lighthouse in local history, The History of Pilot Bay Lighthouse by Susan Hulland is available locally at the Gill and Gift, Coles, Otter Books, Moyie Gift Shop, Gray Creek Store and the Kokanee Creek Visitor Centre (July and August). For more information about the Friends of West Kootenay Parks Society, visit their website at fwkp.kics.bc.ca or Google “Friends of West Kootenay Parks.”