Meet the new managers of the Mississagi Lighthouse and Park

The old Mississagi Straits Lighthouse at Manitoulin Island’s westernmost tip seems to smile on its new minders, Jenna Ebene (originally from St. Catharines) and James Baker (an Aussie).

MELDRUM BAY— It makes a great story: a young man and a young woman from the opposite ends of the earth meet at the De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Creation Centre in Manitowaning. She is from St. Catharines and is serving a Theatre Group. He is from Australia and is travelling the world as an agricultural volunteer, a Woofer.

They fall in love, become a couple and, as it happens, Ron Berti, Artistic Producer at De-ba-jeh-mu-jig is also the president of the Manitoulin Tourism Association which, through a 40-year-plus agreement with the Canadian Coast Guard operates the Mississagi Lighthouse Campground and Park at Manitoulin’s furthest western tip.

The person who has been managing the facility on behalf of the MTA wasn’t coming back after the 2014 season and Mr. Berti suggests to the young couple, Jenna Ebene and James Baker, that they might want to take on the job.

“I don’t know what they could have done if we hadn’t come along,” laughs Ms. Ebene who is now happily ensconced, with Mr. Baker, at the historic site.

It’s a scenic place, unique in that, on a clear day, you can see across Lake Huron to Michigan from the craggy shoreline.

The lighthouse, Manitoulin’s oldest beacon (built in 1873) stands proudly and, just across from it, Ms. Ebene and Mr. Baker greet visitors in their combination receptive centre and recreation hall located in the “fog plant”, the building built to house the mechanism which would blow a giant foghorn whose job it was to warn mariners navigating the treacherous Mississagi Straits (between Manitoulin Island and its large island municipality, Cockburn Island) of hazards on days and nights when the fog was so thick the beacon on the lighthouse would be invisible in the gloom.

This building has also previously functioned as a restaurant and café, “but not this year,” Mr. Baker says. He and Ms. Ebene have every intention of being back in 2016 and are taking advantage this year of assessing the park and campground’s assets and looking for ways of renewing the restaurant equipment.

“It’s been good,” he says. There are always campers in the campground and, right now, one man is booked for a month’s stay. “(There are discounts for long-term stays in the campgrounds.)”

It’s a busy place and, during the conversation this reporter had with Ms. Ebene and Mr. Baker, a half-dozen people drift in to say hello and then go off to explore the unique park and observe the pounding Manitoulin’s westernmost coast gets from the waters of the Mississagi Straits, with waves often splashing impossibly high on the rocks that look across to the U.S.

There is as yet no cellular service at the Mississagi Straits Park and Campground but Mr. Baker and Ms. Ebene would be pleased to communicate with you about their place by email: mississagilighthousecamping@gmail.com. You can book campsites this way ($25 per day for unpowered sites and $35 per day for sites with power). They have a Facebook site too.

They’re having a great time in this particular paradise but, this winter, they’ll be heading for the warmer limes of Mr. Baker’s home continent.

The Mississagi Lighthouse Campground and Park is located 14 kilometres past the scenic village of Meldrum Bay with its busy harbour, fine dining at the Meldrum Bay Inn (a true country inn), historic Net Shed Museum, friendly residents and great fishing opportunities for lake trout, salmon and rainbow trout. With notice, you can also arrange water transportation to Cockburn Island from Meldrum Bay.