First look at Waterfront Study Report

A draft copy of the long-awaited waterfront study is now available on the Town’s web site (see link below).  It was presented to the Parks and Recreation Committee on Wednesday, 16 May and will be a draft until accepted by Council (expected June 4) but no significant changes are expected.  It’s a very large document in two parts with 410 pages.  It recommends spending an estimated $27M over 24 years.  There are 83 “initiatives” grouped into 24 projects – these cover everything from the Harbour to Victoria Park to Parking.  The controversial subjects of the Trailer Park, Marina expansion and East Pier enhancements are NOT avoided and are included in recommended actions. This is a major project for Director Dean Hustwick and it has been the subject of a lot of discussion – but the turmoil is far from over. 

Dean Hustwick
Dean Hustwick

At the committee meeting, there were two presentations from citizens:

  • Ted Williams questioned the financial health of the Marina saying that the Marina is underfunded by approximately $1.25 million over the next 10 years (more on this in next presentation).  He was also concerned that the original Survey Monkey data is no longer online but he was informed that the data is now included in the report.
  • Bryan Lambert pointed out what he saw as errors about the Marina.  He said that the Marina and Trailer Park should be “expected to make money” so there should be no capital expenditures by taxpayers.  He pointed to the asset manager plan which said the Marina needed $175K to be spent per year for 10 years so instead of a $75k/yr profit, the Marina is losing $100K per year.  He also said that there is no business case for a travel lift (see Links for his 2016 presentation on this).  He was told that although it was not available online before he made his presentation, many of his concerns would be answered in Appendix I – A Business Case for Cobourg Harbour and Marina.  [I was later told that this business case does show that the Marina can cover the costs for the lift.]

The consultants gave a presentation on highlights of their report – see Presentation to Parks and Recreation Committee in links below.  There was a long discussion on the recommendation of expanding the Marina by adding slips to the Central pier with the key question: why is this being suggested when Council has already rejected it twice?  The reason given is that the consultants are saying that the Marina is profitable and additional slips will make it even more profitable.  Brian Darling said that “now we will have all the cards on the table”.   Committee member Richard Pope made it clear that he did not agree with all the recommendations in the report.  Stan Frost said that in his opinion it is not intended that the Committee or Council “approve” everything in the report – the Committee does not “endorse” it.  He then revised the wording of the motion to be passed by the committee so that the report is described as a framework rather than a set-in-concrete plan.  Specifically, moved by Stan Frost “THAT the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee support the Town of Cobourg Waterfront User Needs Assessment and Detailed Design Report as a framework for further planning and decision making by Council and staff. And FURTHER THAT the Committee recommend that the report be adopted by Municipal Council.”

Council will have to decide whether it will follow all the recommendations and will have to decide if they agree with the sequence suggested.  But the report does provide a vision for the waterfront – like it or not.  I would suggest that most people will like most recommendations but some will be unhappy with a few of the ideas.  The report is too large to be covered in one post – but here are some highlights.

Highlights of Waterfront Study

  • Survey results provide a major input to recommendations – there was an online citizen survey, a survey of businesses and stakeholders, and multiple public meetings.
  • Tourism is important and a benefit to the economy.
  • The trailer park (called a campground) will stay and be upgraded.
  • The West Beach and headland should be enhanced but stay natural.
  • The Marina should be expanded with slips on the west side of the central pier.  Other harbour users can still be accommodated. The consultants studied this issue in depth and have said that despite what a couple of groups say, the large harbour and specifically 76% of the common harbour is more than adequate to accommodate canoes, kayaks and Dragonboats. Also, for Dragonboats, while the harbour is quite large, it is already too small for most sanctioned races which need to be 500 meters.
  • The Marina should be equipped with a travel lift – the Yacht club will stop providing the service and a crane is unsafe.  The estimated cost is $829K.
  • The Marina and Yacht Club buildings should be combined into one building with expanded facilities/services.
  • Upgrade parking to west of Yacht club building. 
  • Repair and upgrade East pier to make it more pedestrian friendly and allow food trucks (or other options) in season.
  • Realign walkway between beach and Trailer Park to provide a larger buffer between trailer park and beach – some beach area would be lost or moved.
  • Provide parking permits to residents near waterfront. This would be for new areas where paid on-street parking is extended.

The consultants and steering committee concede that:

  • The Plan is flexible and should be adjusted to reflect new information received over time.
  • Future Councils and staff will determine if, when and how projects are implemented.

It will also take a while for the full details of this study and its vision to be understood by citizens, staff and councillors.

As this study gets accepted by Council and a final version is published, there will be future posts on Cobourg blog News with more detail.


On Town portal (web site)

These no longer available since Town took Civic Web offline.

  • Cobourg Waterfront Study – Draft – 47MB, 138 pages
  • Cobourg Waterfront Study – Appendices A to I – Draft  – 29MB, 454 pages (now updated).
  • Cobourg Waterfront Study – Presentation to Parks and Recreation Committee by consultant  – 29MB,  51 pages –

Download from Cobourg Internet

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23 May 2018 8:16 am

Realign walkway between beach and Trailer Park to provide a larger buffer between trailer park and beach – some beach area would be lost or moved.

Did I miss something? It’s really been suggested that we lose beach to provide more grass between trailer park and beach….but the trailer park will not be changed.

Can someone tell me if I read this wrong?

Wally Keeler
21 May 2018 1:19 pm

Good day in Victoria Park. Noticed a couple Pakistani families (tourists) playing cricket on the upper lawn. Cricket. A great Anglo game. How do I know they were Pakistani? I asked them. “Hi. Where did you learn cricket?” “Pakistan.” So how many locals know their cricket?

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Wally Keeler
21 May 2018 7:04 pm

I wonder how many locals / “tourists”also know that there is a town bylaw against that activity in the park.
I’m sure you pleasantly made them aware of that.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Bill Thompson
22 May 2018 9:58 am

LOL! Actually I didn’t make them aware of it at all. I’m not paid to act as a law enforcer. I’m not inclined to want to suppress harmless fun. If I was much younger I would have asked to joined them. Victoria Park is not a military base, so there is no need to call in the marines for the sheer pettiness of a bylaw infraction. Pettiness? I have also jaywalked, plenty of times in my life. WOW! Call out the flaw enforcement. Somebody in uniform should be down there finger-wagging at any and every breach of the flaw.

Deborah OConnor
Reply to  Wally Keeler
21 May 2018 9:50 pm

That is Coburg in Australia. I am familiar with it because Canada Post delivered a letter to me at my street address that was meant for someone there! They also have the same street name. I tracked the family down on facebook so I could forward it there. It was a fun mystery that gave me a laugh. I still wonder how it found its way to me, there was no return address so I had to do some digging. Cool project for a retiree.

Walter L. Luedtke
19 May 2018 8:56 am

The usual CTA folks doing their ritual dump on the marina – yawn.
Now for some positive takes:
The hugely influential travel website TRIPADVISOR has a ranking of the top ten marinas in Ontario.
Trent Port (Trenton) is third, Cobourg is eighth.
Some visitor comments:
“I love coming to the Cobourg marina! Been coming here for a couple of years and I still enjoy it! Will be coming back for more years to come!”
“We enjoyed the Canada Day festivities in Cobourg this year. We sailed to the marina and enjoyed three nights stay. The facilities were clean and the staff helpful.”
BTW: some CTA folks think boats are frill. Some people own cottages, others own boats for summer getaways.

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
19 May 2018 10:34 am

Interesting that Trenton (ranked third, Cobourg 8th) has neither of the two facilities that the waterfront plan proposes: winter storage and a boat lift. Clearly the consultants and town staff don’t understand what the boaters value.
It is also interesting that ThinC didn’t recommend winter storage and boat lifts for the two Kingston municipal marinas (one of ThinC’s recent waterfront plan projects)

As for the CTA dumping on the marina…..NO
The issue is not the marina.
The issue is planning to spend a huge amount of money ($800K+) on facilities to serve a very small number of “customers”, and doing so at a loss. The Town’s policy is that the marina operates on a user-pay basis and is SELF SUFFICIENT.
This is currently not the case and these two projects would aggravate the problem instead of helping resolve it.

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Bryan
19 May 2018 11:12 am

Yeah well!
When are you fearless tax fighters going to tackle the real elephants in the budget, instead of dicking around with the nickles and dimes.
Like this one here:

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
19 May 2018 2:01 pm

This is off topic, but since you brought it up Walter, you are absolutely correct.
Protection services make up a significant part of the Town’s budget and for a variety of reasons, some of them statutory, Council has little ability to affect change.
Nonetheless, the CTA has had meetings with the Police Services Board as well as with the Chief and Deputy Chief to discuss Cobourg’s high police cost relative to the other Northumberland County municipalities. The discussions included “tiered staffing” (also called civilianization) as a means to reduce costs while maintaining service levels.
Let me ask Walter, would you please inform us about your suggestions on how to reduce protection service costs and tell us about the meetings that you have had with the CPSB and police management in this regard.

I’m sure that we all look forward to receiving your information.

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Bryan
19 May 2018 3:40 pm

So zilch for far?

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
19 May 2018 4:09 pm

Indeed! That is what you have contributed

Old Sailor
Reply to  Bryan
19 May 2018 5:32 pm


I know this is late in the discussion. But to me the point is to make Cobourg marina self sustaining and run it like a business.

Unless you or the CTA have a plan which is financially better than the town’s new waterfront plan, your criticism’s and references to other marina’s without their financial reports is not helpful.

I agree with Walter and with the town. If one does not like the town’s plan then taxpayer support is required. Over and Out.

Reply to  Old Sailor
19 May 2018 9:33 pm

I completely agree that the marina must be self sustaining. Unfortunately, the waterfront plan appears to imply significant taxpayer support for repairs and the purchase of a travel lift. Is that correct or have I misunderstood the “plan”?

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
19 May 2018 1:29 pm

I would think that you would be grateful to the CTA for giving you a raison d’être for getting out of bed every morning.
Where else ,except on this site, would you be afforded the opportunity to display your continual “unbiased” diatribes daily against a lawful non profit organization expressing concerns about local government and issues that effect the Cobourg taxpayers ?

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Bill Thompson
19 May 2018 3:38 pm

I am just a lone ‘lawful, non-profit’ taxpayer expressing concerns about local government.
You, the CTA, are the folks with the fancy website, the mission statement, the high -powered advisory committee of very former insiders from commerce and industry, the campaigns and the endless presentations to Council.
You are the lawful organization which proposes “replacing our politicians and town staff who ignore Cobourg citizens who pay their salaries would be a huge step in the right direction”. Ken Strauss, in Northumberland Today.
So where are the CTA candidates and the CTA platform for the upcoming election?

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
19 May 2018 6:23 pm

I don’t recall any exchange wherein town staff ignored me, ever. They have always been courteous to me. Better than that, they have been helpful. I have no reason to malign them.

Bill Thompson
18 May 2018 11:14 am
I find it interesting that marina expansion was resurrected for the Waterfront Development Plan during this present council’s tenure of office .I wonder how that re-surfaced ? Perhaps the CAO would be kind enough to clarify that.
The consultant’s response to me at the first meeting when I asked how that issue reappeared after being defeated twice was that there would be a problem if it wasn’t.No further information.
That indirectly answered my question.

Old Sailor
18 May 2018 9:11 am

My congratulations to all of the individuals and groups who contributed to the latest waterfront report. Hopefully the town will be empowered to act on the report in a collaborative way versus doing nothing and having a new report prepared every three years or so.

Regarding the Cobourg Taxpayers’ Association (CTA) report which “demolishes” the marina business plan I recommend the CTA focus more on solutions for keeping boats in the harbour versus just crunching numbers and being negative. The new waterfront plan does address solving past marina business plan weaknesses.

Reply to  Old Sailor
18 May 2018 12:52 pm

Why should the taxpayers be expected to fund the marina? From your pseudonym I assume that you have a boat but most Cobourg residents cannot afford such a frill. Any plan that doesn’t make the marina completely self-sufficient should be rejected without further consideration. We cannot afford higher taxes to pay for the hobby of an elite group of boaters.

Old Sailor
Reply to  Dubious
18 May 2018 2:37 pm

I do not have a boat in Cobourg Harbour. FYI Cobourg boaters are not elite. You would know if you were one. Which you obviously are not. The boats on A to D dock by the marina building are well kept 30 to 40 year old sailboats with a market value in a range of $5k to $20k each. That is not elite.

If the marina was managed like every other marine facility on the lake – slip potential was maximized, all slips were full of seasonal boaters, winter storage accommodation available for all seasonal boaters, haul out and launch by the marina for seasonal boaters – the marina would be self sufficient and have a huge wait list. Fee income could double. This is not how Cobourg Marina has operated.

Reply to  Old Sailor
18 May 2018 8:53 pm

If you are correct then why do you favour the waterfront plan? Why not increase fees, lease a storage area away from the marina in order to no block winter views, borrow a few dollars ($800,000 according to the consultants) and buy a travelift and live happily ever after without taking tax money for your non-elite old sailboats?

Old Sailor
Reply to  Dubious
18 May 2018 9:50 pm

Have you looked at marina and club fees on the north shore before just suggesting increasing fees in Cobourg? Do your research. Cobourg boaters already pay among the highest fees on the lake. And they get no boater segregated parking, no dock security, no haul out or launch by the marina, worst and smallest storage facility on Lake Ontario etc, etc. etc. Get in your car and drive around to other marine facilities and do an apples and apples comparison.

The financial performance of the Cobourg marina is due to the past decisions to run it in a unique crazy manner which is not for profit oriented. The marina should maximize the slips available in the harbour, fill all the slips with seasonal boaters, provide winter storage near the docks for all seasonal boaters like other marine facilities. Wiggers boat yard in Bowmanville has 35 boats from Cobourg harbour hauling out, storing for the winter and launching there. Around $50k in lost revenue for Cobourg. Guess why?

Put away your pocket calculator and look at how other marine facilities on the north shore are run.

And if Cobourg Council can’t run the marina like other marinas due to special interest lobbies, then the town can pick up the operating and capital cost shortfalls if it wants boats in the water. It would be in everyone’s interest if the marina was properly planned and managed and paid quarterly dividends to the town.

Reply to  Old Sailor
18 May 2018 10:06 pm

This discussion could move forward if you were to provide some details of the “special interest lobbies” that cause the marina to lose money. Shining a light on the causes is the first step to solving the problems.

Reply to  Old Sailor
19 May 2018 12:55 am

Some good points here. The Mayor and CAO have said numerous times that the marina is run on a user-pay self sufficient basis. To do that it has to make a profit in order to pay for capital repairs and additions. It hasn’t done that and currently runs about $100K short.
You suggest an apples to apples comparison with other marinas….Great. Let’s start with the municipal marinas. Trenton has neither a boat lift nor storage. Only one of Kingston’s two municipal marina offers storage and it uses a crane for boat lift. The other has neither storage nor a boat lift. Belleville’s two municipal marina have neither storage nor a boat lift.
Cobourg has storage and uses a crane for boat lift. None of these marinas have boat repair, boat-works, boat building or boat sales.
Whitby is unique in that it offers storage and has a boat lift, It also has boat sales, boat building and repair.
Of the commercial marinas, most have boat sales/works/repair/building as well as providing storage and a boat lift.
Boat works/building/repair/sales are key to a marina having a boat lift. That’s the only way to get the volume needed to justify the expense of the machine and make “boat lift” a profitable service. Wigger’s and Whitby are good examples of this business model.

Cobourg’s marina problem is not unique. Belleville’s Mayor said “the venture needs to be self-sufficient and the current break-even approach doesn’t live up to its name”.

I’m curious, you refer to “special interest lobbies”. Who/what are they?

Reply to  Dubious
18 May 2018 4:37 pm

Municipalities fund numerous community facilities for many different interests for the betterment of the entire community, whether it be the marina, arenas, sports fields, dog parks, walking trails, nature preserves, concert halls, and so on. Not every resident enjoys each and every facility, and not every facility is self-sufficient (ie. they are subsidized), but we all as a community benefit from them in some way or another. Funds for these facilities come from a variety of sources — user fees, taxes, non-tax revenue, grants, etc. If we used your argument that every facility (or plan related to such a facility) must be self-sufficient then I suppose we should start shutting down a whole lot more facilities that don’t make the grade then shouldn’t we? I do not use the marina facility nor do I have a boat, however I enjoy the fact that we have a marina which helps make the waterfront an attractive destination and makes some money while at it. The loss in quality of life would be felt by the entire community if such a facility were to close or be forced to retract.

Old Sailor
Reply to  Meg
18 May 2018 5:31 pm

Meg you are right on the money.

If you look at the number of marina staff we have it is at least double what would be required to just maintain the docks and fill up sailor’s gas tanks once a year for seasonal boaters at other marinas.

Seasonal boaters rarely use the showers, washrooms, laundry facilities or the picnic areas on the grounds. Visiting boaters and the public do. And the public has full use of the marina facilities at no extra cost to them. I believe the marina staff also service the trailer park and their salaries come out of the marina budget.

The boats in the harbour is an integral part of Cobourg. The recommendations re the current waterfront plan make a lot of sense for all harbour users.

Reply to  Old Sailor
18 May 2018 8:47 pm

Seasonal boaters rarely use the showers, washrooms, laundry facilities or the picnic areas on the grounds. Visiting boaters and the public do. And the public has full use of the marina facilities at no extra cost to them.

It is great that we have full use of the marina facilities at “no extra cost”. I suspect that rather few town residents use the showers or laundry facilities. Wouldn’t it be more reasonable for the boaters to pay for these items and encourage residents to shower at home?

The recommendations re the current waterfront plan make a lot of sense for all harbour users.

Of course the recommendations make sense to you! With 200 slips and 8500 families in Cobourg the vast majority of the families do not have a boat in the marina. It is always better to have someone else pay for your toys. The losers are the taxpayers without a boat.

Reply to  Meg
18 May 2018 8:55 pm

You have clearly explained why Cobourg property taxes are so high. If everyone pays for the frills of others it won’t cost anybody. What a marvelous idea!

Reply to  Meg
19 May 2018 1:55 pm

Right on Meg…

Reply to  Meg
21 May 2018 11:48 am

Agreed that governments, are not business organizations, are intended to deliver good governance and that, in my mind, includes fiscal responsibility and quality of life (QoL) for its citizens. However who(m) decides on the QoL topics, how many and how much should we be willing to pay for it/them? It is insanity to argue that a boat lift (and the dis/construction of supporting facilities for it) serves the attribute of QoL for the citizens of Cobourg. The Consultant put these types of items in the Plan because THEY WERE TOLD TO by staff and singularly issue-focused persons. Again this is not Marina bashing, it is Governance (fiscal responsibility) bashing.