Because the streaming of the previous Committee of the Whole meeting was missing the sound (this was blamed on You-Tube), Mayor Gil Brocanier asked Director of Recreation and Culture Dean Hustwick to repeat the rationale for the proposed Water Park. Dean did so and I have summarized his long response below. Each Councillor then spoke on whether they were supportive of the proposal or not and then voted. Seeing that it was contentious, Forrest Rowden asked for a recorded vote and the result was four in favour and three opposed so the motion was carried and the contract with ATL Distributing will proceed. The Water park is expected to be operating for this summer with a start date of June 23.
Benefits of Water Park
- It will benefit both residents and visitors
- It will encourage people to stay longer
- It raises Cobourg’s profile
- It benefits our businesses
- It provides some income to the Town
- It’s inline with the principles and findings of the Waterfront Study – it’s recommended in the study and on January 17 was recommended for approval by the Advisory/Steering Committee.
Response to Questions
Questions were raised online – that is: on Facebook, emails and this news blog. In response, Dean gave some answers:
- This is not a policy discussion on Tourism
- Tourism has been a fundamental part of Cobourg for over 150 years – whether we like it or not, it’s part of Cobourg
- Cobourg’s beaches have attracted thousands of visitors and new residents
- Coming here is like travelling to Florida, the Caribbean and other Tourist destinations
- If we ask “Why do people come to Cobourg?” – the answer is varied: the Farmer’s market, VOS, Northumberland Players, the AGN, Heritage buildings like Victoria Hall, Conferences, Weddings, the Beach – should we promote (or not) just one of these reasons?
- The survey done for the Waterfront study said that 80% of residents say Tourism is important to the town; 8.95% disagreed. 45% of businesses say tourism is a benefit.
- The survey done for the Waterfront study also said 56% of Cobourg residents and 73% of Cobourg businesses agreed that we should develop waterfront-based recreation activities as a source of revenue generation. Only 24% of residents did not want that.
- All users will wear lifejackets
- The Operator will hire numerous lifeguards – four will be on duty at all times in addition to the Town’s lifeguards on the beach. (There will be a total of 8 new employees). ATL will work with the YMCA to organize this.
- The operators are not aware of any serious accidents in similar parks in North America in at least the last 10 years.
- The Company has a lot to lose if something goes wrong so will work hard to make sure there are no problems.
- There are concerns that since the lake is large, there could be problems with waves etc. Similar parks have been installed on ocean locations (e.g. in the Caribbean) without a problem.
- The Town invests zero dollars, the $28k estimated income is conservative
- The Capital cost of the equipment is amortized over the first 2 years of the contract – that’s why the profit seems small – they will make it up on the 3 year extension
- The company will have a $10M liability insurance coverage and the Town is already liable for the thousands on the beach so there is only a small increase in liability
- ATL Distributing will work with the YMCA kids camps as well as Scouts and other organizations
- There will be discounts to residents
Concerns over noise, footprint and cold water
- The footprint will be small compared to the entire beach
- There will only be noise from air pumps during setup and a few other occasions.
Help for Downtown Businesses
- Note that businesses also pay tax
- Dean said that “It’s not realistic to believe that with this many visitors that they won’t shop – although maybe not as many as we would like”
- The Water Park will provide leverage
- ATL will work with businesses
In conclusion, Dean said that the Town cannot address every individual’s concern but will do what’s best for the majority.
Statements by Councillors
Mayor Gil Brocanier: The Waterfront Study had public engagement and it recommends this. Voted in favour.
Forrest Rowden: Supports the project and compared it to the initial objections to the Rink in Rotary Park which is now seen as a good thing. Voted in favour.
Brian Darling: Supports. He noted that if in fact it turns out to be not wanted, the contract is only for 2 years – or in fact only 120 days (July and August). It can then be stopped if necessary. He said “we can’t keep saying no to appease a few” and that young parents don’t have the time to give an opinion on this. Voted in favour.
John Henderson: Not supportive at this time although he received emails both for and against. He is concerned as to how this project fits into the big picture. He is also concerned that few have heard about the proposal and he asked “Why are we in a big rush?” His response (and the response of others against the idea) drew applause from the gallery (about 22 people). Voted against.
Suzanne Séguin: Not supportive. She has not yet seen the report and suggested a survey on the beach this summer. Voted against.
Debra McCarthy: Not supportive. This project will be a focal point of the coming election; not all can afford the Water Park fees; there are other costs like parking, washrooms; she asked “Are we Ready? We need the full report.” Voted against.
Aaron Burchat: Asked when would the full report come to Council; Dean responded that it would go to the committee in a few weeks then to Council in late May or June. This is because it will include specific designs which take a long time to prepare. Dean said that there “Is nothing secretive about it”. Aaron noted that he is “representative of the demographic” and Voted in favour.
So the final vote was four to three in favour – so there will be a Water Park this summer.
- Waterpark to be ready for summer 2018 – 4 April 2018
- Waterfront Study – First look at Draft Report – 26 October 2017
- Progress Report on Waterfront Study – 21 August 2017 – includes comments from citizens