Natural Waterfront Park proposed

At the next Committee of the Whole meeting, the Sustainability and Climate Change Advisory Committee (SCCAC) will recommend to Council that a natural heritage waterfront park be created. This would comprise “the westerly part of the Cobourg harbour and water front lands” as described in a presentation to the committee by Richard Pope of the Willow Beach Field Naturalists.  Richard also presented to Heritage, Parks and Rec, and Planning committees and told me that “none of the four committees had objections and all planned to notify Council of this and/or actively support it. Many individuals on the committees were very enthusiastic.”  As Richard notes, apart from the inclusion of the west harbour, this idea was recommended by both the Parks and Waterfront Master Plans.

Richard will make a presentation to Council about this idea at some point but his presentation to the SCCAC includes a good description of the idea – a copy is in the links at the end of this article and here is a summary.

Proposed Natural Park


West Harbour (the water west of the Centre Pier Area and a line connecting the Centre Pier to the west lighthouse, and the shore west of the north end of the Centre Pier – perhaps excluding the strip in front of the Yacht Club between the Centre Pier and the boat launch), the West Headland, the Ecology Garden, and the West Beach.

Master Plans

The PMP (Parks Master Plan) already proposes that the “West Beach Lands & Boardwalk” and the “Ecology Garden” be reclassified as nature parks (p. 27).

The WUNA (Waterfront User Needs Assessment) recommends that we “Preserve the Headland and West Beach as a naturalized area” (Recommendations for West Beach and Headland, p. 37).

Park Activities

Sailing, canoeing, kayaking, dragon-boating, fishing, walking, running, nature hiking, dog-walking, birding, picnicking, photography, painting, and sitting on benches enjoying the view. Richard does not mention boat launching which might not be in the proposed Park but would include use of the West Harbour.

Potential objections

  • Since the West Harbour is included, that would “preclude Marina expansion into the area, an idea still dear to a dwindling few.”
  • When the Planning Committee considered the proposal in 2016, they were told by staff members that the Town did not have the jurisdiction to protect the West Harbour because it formerly belonged to the Federal government. (Ed note: The Town is now seeming to say the opposite when talking about Harbour safety – but see Glenn McGlashon’s comments below.)
  • Including the West Harbour in a park does not “preclude the necessary dredging, the building of a disabled access dock, or even the acquisition of a boatlift if placed east of current launch or in the Marina where it would make sense.”
  • The OP classifies it as under Environmental Constraint.

Comments by Willow Beach Field Naturalists

  • The area is fragile – the West Headland was badly damaged almost overnight in 2014, and the West Beach could be ruined by a bulldozer in half a day.
  • This is why we are asking for protection now; we want something left to enhance when the Town is ready. The specifics can be worked out later.
  • The Legion ownership of the north strip of the Ecology Garden can be resolved.
  • Nor should the School Board ownership of a section of the boardwalk be allowed to prevent the Town from creating a park.
  • We are asking only for protection now, not money (we recognize that fixing the East Pier is more pressing).

Recommendations for Action:

  1. That Council move to initiate the creation of this Natural Heritage Waterfront Park.
  2. That Council ask the Parks and Recreation Committee working together with appropriate staff to formulate a detailed proposal for the rules and regulations of such a park, including the things that need to be done over time to make this park into the potential jewel it can be and a timetable for undertaking the improvements

Below are some photos of the West Beach, “West Pier” (headland), West Harbour and Ecology Garden.

Clarification from Glenn McGlashon, Director of Planning and Development

7 Oct 2019

Firstly, the article is partly correct in that the Planning Committee reviewed the issue a few years ago however, to clarify, Town staff stated at the time that the water component of the West Harbour is and always has been under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government and is governed by Parliamentary Statute and Transport Canada under the Navigable Waters Protection Act — legislation which is “designed to protect the public’s right to navigation and marine safety in the navigable waters of Canada”.   Any municipal regulations governing this water component, including harbour use and safety, must comply and/or not conflict with this Federal legislation and would require legal interpretations to that effect.   The Town has more direct policy and regulatory controls over the West Pier, Headland and Beach areas (ie. land), but these too must still comply and/or not conflict with higher Provincial and Federal legislation.    

Secondly, the Cobourg Official Plan, via the Harbour Area Secondary Plan, designates the western harbour lands and beach area, excluding the area covered by water, as follows:

  1. West Pier:  “Public Open Space Area/West Pier”
  2. West Waterfront/Beach (including the waterfront portion of the Marina):  “Environmental Constraint Area”  



Update – 16 October 2019

Although a recommendation from the Sustainability and Climate Change Advisory Committee was on the Agenda for the October 15 Committee of the Whole meeting, Council deferred acting on this until Richard makes his promised presentation to Council.

Print Article: 


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
6 October 2019 11:26 am

I can understand why the owners of the condos overlooking the West Harbour want a Natural ‘Heritage’ Waterfront Park.
A restaurant or Heaven Forbid! a hotel/inn would spoil their view.
Bad enough that they have to look at all those parked cars and boats.
But that could be next – get rid of the parking and the boat compound.

Reply to  Albert
7 October 2019 9:56 am

And other thing.
I see two dogs running off-leash in the photos above.
No need for the Dog Park when we have that Nature Preserve.
And a final thing.
Where else can you enjoy nature through the windshield of your car with the motor running in the summer for AC and in the winter for warmth.
Don’t change a thing!

6 October 2019 10:34 am

“an idea still dear to a dwindling few.”

You would be surprised. A marina expansion will happen because it makes sense.

Reply to  Jeffy
6 October 2019 10:48 am

They have trouble managing a medium size marina. What makes you think they can manage a large one?

Reply to  Frenchy
7 October 2019 8:01 am

Better managers

6 October 2019 10:30 am

I stopped attending meeting where the marina and waterfront were discussed as there appeared to be an intent to expand the marina and build stone pathways and pavilions on the west point…
I kept suggesting a rewilding….stop messing with natures beauty and let well alone…is this a step in that direction? Just because we can doesn’t mean we should….

Old Sailor
5 October 2019 5:50 pm

Council has many issues to resolve regarding the entire harbour and the marina operation.Carving off the uses of just the western harbour now would be a premature decision. Instead Council should decide on an entire harbour plan including the marina operation. From John’s summary above it doesn’t look like marina management and boaters including dragon boaters, have been consulted and had input on the above proposals put to Council.

Reply to  Old Sailor
7 October 2019 9:10 am

Absolutely Old Sailor. A wholistic approach is most sensible and must include all the stakeholders. And, a component of this process must include “pay-to-play.” Simply, all users must contribute to the support of the Town assets being used. The boaters do all the financial heavy lifting for the marina (and a majority of them also pay Town taxes). A minimal parking contribution is made by the beach goers, and not universally. Everything else is gratis. We pay for the upkeep of our Provincial parks and many of the conservation areas through access fees. How is it equitable that the Town taxpayers shoulder the vast majority of the costs for facilities utilized by a significant percentage of non-taxpayers? I suspect most reasonable people would understand that there is cost associated with maintaining the beach, lifeguard protection, etc. and accept a fair contribution to the effort is a fair request.

Greg Hancock
5 October 2019 4:59 pm

I think the establishment of a Natural Waterfront Park is an excellent idea.

I have two suggestions:

1. The western boundary of the park is not mentioned. I assume it would be at Ontario Street. However, I suggest that the designation should enable the beach between Ontario Street and Factory Creek to be added, in case the status of public access to this area is ever clarified.

2. I hope issue of rules and regulations is handled with a light touch, and that it avoids an unnecessarily bureaucratic list of prohibitions. Victoria Beach, South of Victoria Park has a large list of prohibited activities that can hardly fit on a notice board. I would prefer the approach used in Oslo where the public is encouraged to use the area round the royal palace for any leisure activity except barbecuing, (apparently the palace does not like the smell and fumes, but even this would not be a problem in the west beach).

Reply to  Greg Hancock
6 October 2019 10:00 am

I would imagine if you can afford to pay the owners price you could have it
These people have lived here paid a premium price to be here , maintained and paid huge taxes for years . There is No way we should ask anyone to give up their Dream just so you can be part of it

Deborah O'Connor
Reply to  perplexed
6 October 2019 6:46 pm

It’s a right under common law for the public to have access to the waterfront.

Reply to  Deborah O'Connor
6 October 2019 8:52 pm

There is no such law….. urban legend

Miriam Mutton
Reply to  Kyle
6 October 2019 11:15 pm

On whether the public has access to the waterfront as a right in law … it depends and it can be complicated. Consider that in Cobourg, for example, the Lake Ontario shoreline has a variety of riparian rights (or lack thereof in some instances) of adjacent land owners. In another example:
“The Indiana Supreme Court ruling was a fantastic win for the people of Indiana, because it means that anyone who wants to walk along Lake Michigan can do so with freedom and without being concerned about doing something illegal,” said Joel Brammeier, president of the nonprofit Alliance for the Great Lakes.
from Chicago Tribune March 15, 2019. And, I believe the State of Michigan did something similar.
Found this too:, Great Lakes Shoreline Right of Passage Act, a bill in progress, maybe.

Reply to  Miriam Mutton
7 October 2019 5:39 pm

Yes, theft of private property seems to be a common theme of those who covet the fruits of the labour of others. That certainly doesn’t make it right!

Walter Luedtke
Reply to  Kyle
7 October 2019 10:40 am

A proposed provincial legislative change which almost introduced new laws around shoreline access, and would have made it so residents could legally walk the beach fronts even if historical survey documentation showed the property lines extending into the lake.
That private member’s bill was introduced about a decade ago at Queen’s Park by former MPP Kim Craitor, and it made it through second reading and might have passed.
But before getting to a final vote, an election was called and the shoreline access bill dissolved with the rest of the legislation on the floor.

Reply to  Walter Luedtke
7 October 2019 2:37 pm

time to resurrect that bill and git er done!

Reply to  Deborah O'Connor
7 October 2019 8:15 am

Yes and Public Access is retained and provided in many places by our Municipalities
for just that reason —-Just not on Private property
Why don’t you Target the Breakers Private Beach

5 October 2019 4:19 pm

When they say “left to enhance” what exactly are they referring to? I personally like how it is right now, it’s a naturalized, informal area, a great contrast to the borderline overly prim and proper central harbour and beach area. Protect it and leave it at that.

Small town lover
Reply to  Durka
6 October 2019 8:22 am

I agree, leave it alone. It is a wonderful peaceful place for Cobourg residents to go, to get away from the overcrowded tourist beach in the summer. Also, allowing fishing would be a huge mistake. Volunteers in Port Hope are still cleaning up the garage that was left there last month by the fishermen.

Reply to  Small town lover
6 October 2019 9:55 am

For some reason Port Hope has not Place Garbage Cans along the busiest most used area this year You Can t expect to market and promote for tourist and end up with a international fishing destination and not expect Garbage Deal with it !
On another note does anyone have an idea as to how much garbage and the costs is to handled our Beach and Cantina , Marina ,Park etc
that the Tax payers are picking up
I see an ATV mini truck racing past my place 25 to 30 times a day all summer long with 2 people in it collecting garbage

Reply to  perplexed
6 October 2019 11:46 am

Not paid by the taxpayers!! Paid for by the marina tenants and the trailer park tenants. Yes, you are perplexed if you think otherwise.

Canuck Patriot
Reply to  jimq
6 October 2019 12:38 pm


Reply to  jimq
7 October 2019 8:21 am

NO we pay — We also Contributed as Tax payers to the Boat lift Again this year
for Private boat owners Yacht Club or not the former Councils just buried it

Reply to  sandpiper
7 October 2019 8:37 am

Total nonsense!

Reply to  sandpiper
7 October 2019 9:25 am

The taxpayers don’t pay for the boat lift out. It’s paid for by the boat owners and the marina fees. It’s also done with volunteer labour.

Canuck Patriot
Reply to  sandpiper
7 October 2019 9:33 am

Sorry Sandpiper but on this you are wrong.

Reply to  sandpiper
7 October 2019 3:25 pm

Sandpiper, it is unsupported nonsense like YOU PAY (or the Town taxpayers pay)for the boat lift that detracts from meaningful conversation on these important topics. You have no source, you have no corroboration, just your opinion. Those of us who have actually seen the marina financials understand that the cost of the lift is passed ENTIRELY to the various boaters with the marina enjoying some profit for services rendered. My father had a saying: “it is better to be thought stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

Reply to  Small town lover
6 October 2019 11:48 am

I agree 100% with Durka & S.T. Lover…leave well enough alone…natural and lovely. Perhaps it’s time our town council stops thinking of new ways to spend tax money and instead figures out how to save money…that’s what most of us are doing right now to keep up with the increased cost of living, new and future rising carbon taxes, not to mention much higher imported produce prices. I would love to see a dollar cost analysis of what “tourism” costs Cobourg from the price of producing our tourist booklet right down to the cost of the extra clean-up etc. required for our beach/harbour areas versus the dollar profit (not $ revenue) to the town provided by tourists. Most of our tourist just contribute parking charges to our coffers. Most of us don’t want another “Wasaga Beach” for our great town.

Cobourg Person
Reply to  cornbread
6 October 2019 1:58 pm

Your cost/benefit analysis would have to take into account the additional revenue that local businesses earn from tourism.

Canuck Patriot
Reply to  Cobourg Person
6 October 2019 2:40 pm

That will be very difficult to measure unless the right metrics are used. Rather than additional revenue, net profit or loss is a better indicator to use. I doubt most merchants would open up their books to provide the numbers. And there also is the challenge of separating nornal, local business from tourism.

Like trying to nail jello to a wall.

Cobourg Person
Reply to  Canuck Patriot
6 October 2019 2:49 pm

My post was to point out the fallacy of claiming that “most tourists just contribute parking charges”

Reply to  Cobourg Person
6 October 2019 2:46 pm

Please explain why additional revenue for downtown businesses should be funded by the rest of the town.

Cobourg Person
Reply to  Dubious
6 October 2019 2:54 pm

1. I never mentioned downtown businesses. I said businesses in Cobourg. You do realize there are businesses outside of the downtown?

2. I never said businesses should be funded by the Town. I said to do a proper cost/benefit analysis that someone would have to include additional revenue that businesses earn as a result of tourism.

Reply to  Cobourg Person
6 October 2019 4:17 pm

Downtown, mall, wherever. Revenue to a few businesses cannot justify spending to attract tourists. If businesses think that attracting tourists will help their businesses they can pay for the advertising and other expenses. In any case, revenue alone should not be mentioned since net revenue is what matters.

Reply to  Cobourg Person
6 October 2019 3:06 pm

Your comment is right on…if the beach goers don’t contribute that much, then all the tourist promotion money the town spends in large part gets the restaurant people a few extra meals. I rest my case.