The History of Lighthouse Park

In 1792, Captain George Vancouver began surveying the southern B.C. coast. When sailing past the rocky peninsula at the entrance to Burrard Inlet, he named the site Point Atkinson.

Point Atkinson's first lighthouse was built in 1874. Seventy five hectares (185 acres) of forested land immediately surrounding the lightstation were set aside in 1881 by the Dominion of Canada to serve as a dark backdrop for the lighthouse and also as a source of fuel for its steam-powered foghorn. This untouched forested land is what has become Lighthouse Park.

In 1912, the current hexagonal, concrete lighthouse tower was erected and in the same year the forest reserved lands were leased to the newly incorporated District of West Vancouver.

During World War II, a number of B.C. lightstations were used for surveillance, on the alert for enemy submarines or ships that might slip into Burrard Inlet. Search lights and gun emplacements were installed at Point Atkinson. The Department of National Defence billeted conscripts in barracks built behind the lightstation. Included in the facilities were a bunkhouse, an officers' mess hall, a dining hall and a guard hut.

The former enlisted men's dining hall now serves as the Phyl Munday Nature House, a facility operated by the Girl Guides. The former bunkhouse has been renamed Sk'iwitsut. Sk'iwitsut means "turning point" in the local First Nation's language, a reference to the hazardous waters off Point Atkinson.

Significant Dates:

  • 1874-75 Point Atkinson lighthouse was one of three public works built by Federal government in return for B.C. agreeing to join Canada in 1871.
  • 1881 The Crown granted 185 acres of forested area behind the lighthouse to the Federal Government.
  • 1910 The area was leased to North Vancouver.
  • 1912 The area was turned over to West Vancouver upon its incorporation.
  • 1912 The current light tower was constructed, on the foundation of the first lighthouse.
  • 1939-46 The Department of National Defense moved into the park to man a Port War signal, searchlights and gun emplacement during WW II.
  • 1973 Massive volunteer work by Vancouver Natural History Society resulted in a topographic map of the park (distorted) prepared with 20' contours and the publication of "Nature West Coast, as seen in Lighthouse Park", a guidebook inventory of the park's natural features, complete with park trail map, still in use.
  • 1994 Point Atkinson is designated a National Historic Site.
  • 1996 The Point Atkinson Light station became fully automated.
  • 1998 The Canadian Coast Guard commissions Jacques Whitford Environmental to assess metal contaminants on the lightstation and surrounding park grounds.
  • 1998 - 1999 The District of West Vancouver commissions an ecological study of Lighthouse Park by Entech Consultants.
  • June 1998 Incorporation as a Society: First President - Marja de Jong Westman.
  • January 1999 Publication of Entech Report.
  • February 1999 Recognition as a Charitable Organization by Revenue Canada.
  • February 2004 Publication of first biannual newsletter.
  • June 2004 District of West Vancouver approves Lighthouse Park Management Plan.
  • Fall 2004 First sponsorship grant from West Vancouver Community Foundation.
  • February 2005 Society awarded '2005 Heritage Achievement Award for Advocacy' by District of West Vancouver.
  • October 2005 Inaugural work party for Beacon Trail restoration project.
  • December 2005 Adjacent sea area declared a 'no fishing' zone.
  • June 2006 Establishment of Six-Park Network, incorporating Klootchman, Caulfeild, The Dale, North Piccadilly, Trails and Lighthouse Parks.
  • Summer 2006 Rebuilding on pathways of Valley Trail.
  • Summer 2008 Collection of material for our Archives.
  • 2010 Six new coloured display panels produced and installed in Lighthouse Park for educational purposes via a partnership with the District of West Vancouver.