There were three delegations about the beach at Monday’s Committee of the Whole Council meeting – and later in the meeting Council decided how and when to re-open the beach. Adam White wanted more input from residents, and both Paul Pagnuelo and Brenda Quinn wanted a task force to deal with usage of Cobourg’s beaches by non-residents. And when it came to a decision on re-opening the beach, Council included a response to the often repeated request to look into how to manage the summer crowds usually experienced. Many residents have commented that we pay the taxes but visitors pay nothing and yet get to enjoy the beach. If nothing changed, the beach would reopen on September 1 but staff presented Council with four other options:
- Extend Closure to October 17th
- Keep beach closed only on weekends to October 17th
- Extend closure only until after Labour Day and re-open September 8
- Another option determined by council.
Both Paul and Brenda made some good points (see their complete presentations in links below) so let’s look at them first:
Paul Pagnuelo Presentation Summary
- This bug still has no cure and the risks continue to outweigh the benefits.
- Choose Option 1: Keep the beach closed to October 17th.
- Free access to Victoria Beach by people who are non-residents of Cobourg is a long-standing irritant with a vast majority of Cobourg residents and businesses
- Charging non-residents an access fee is neither a human right, social justice or racism issue.
- My recommendation would be [abbreviated] to establish a Task Force to examine costs, benefits and disadvantages, determine tourist spending at merchants, compare practices of other Ontario municipalities with lake access and develop a parking model for handling beach traffic.
Brenda Quinn Presentation Summary
Currently retired, up to three years ago Brenda was a downtown Cobourg retailer and currently owns a commercial building in downtown Cobourg as well as a residence in Cobourg’s east end. This would appear to add weight to some of her comments.
- The great influx of out-of-town visitors puts tremendous pressure on our Town’s resources by flooding to our downtown beach and Victoria Park areas during the summer months.
- For the most part, these people have one destination in mind – the beach and/or Victoria Park. They bring their own food/supplies, set up, have picnics, sometimes illegally barbecue, and then in many cases, leave their garbage strewn around the park area. They also often park illegally.
- Lifeguarding the Cobourg Beach is a huge cost ($194,805 budgeted in 2020) and because the town supplies lifeguards for their beach, then the Town could be held liable should something happen to someone that these lifeguards aren’t able to help … that is a VERY scary scenario. Note that there are no lifeguards at beaches in Provincial Parks.
- These out of town park and beach users do not shop downtown, they do not go to area restaurants – they don’t stay overnight in area hotels – they come – enjoy the beach/park – sometimes by the busload, and then depart at the end of the day back to their homes in Durham, Clarington and Toronto, leaving the garbage remnants of their day behind.
- I ask that the Town strike up a Task Force including local residents and downtown business and property owners, reporting to Councillor Emily Chorley in her role as Coordinator of Parks and Recreation Services. … The Task Force’s main goal will be to make the Beach/Park area self-supporting with a user-pay system.
Councillor Emily Chorley led the debate since she is the coordinator for Parks and Recreation (file photo at right). Dean Hustwick, Director of Community Services submitted a memo to Council outlining options (see link below) but when it came time to decide what to do, Council was divided. Councillor Aaron Burchat wanted the beach fully opened Sept 1 (his motion was defeated 6:1); Mayor John Henderson wanted the October 17 date moved to October 14 to accommodate an event planned at Century Gardens for October 17; Councillor Adam Bureau wanted the beach fully closed and Councillor Nicole Beatty wanted to know what was enforceable. The response to Nicole was that although enforcing complete closure was enforceable by using charges of trespassing, social distancing was not enforceable. In the end the following motion was put to a recorded vote:
THAT Council receive the report from the Director of Community Services;
AND FURTHER THAT Council extend the closure of Victoria Park Beach until after the Labour Day weekend;
AND FURTHER THAT the beach be reopened on weekdays only beginning on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, with the continued closure of the beach on Saturdays and Sundays until October 14, 2020, when the fencing will be removed and the beach reopened.
This passed 6:1 with only Adam Bureau opposed.
The next agenda item to be considered was a recommendation by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) that the Town should look at “how comparable beach front communities are managing and regulating their beaches and waterfronts for public access.” (Information on Advisory Committees can be found here) This prompted a debate on whether access to the beach should be regulated. Emily Chorley moved that this be investigated by the PARC and not a new task force. This was generally well received by other councillors although Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin commented that there needs to be a robust citizen engagement. Emily said that citizens could make presentations to PRAC and John Henderson pointed to “Bang the Table” (Engage Cobourg) as a way to get online engagement.
In the end the following motion passed:
THAT Council receive the recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) for information purposes:
AND FURTHER THAT Council endorse the recommendation of the Committee and request staff to investigate and report on how comparable beachfront communities are managing and regulating their beaches and waterfronts for public access, with the report provided to PRAC by December 1, 2020;
AND FURTHER THAT Council request PRAC to receive public input on how the Town of Cobourg can manage the popularity of Victoria Park Beach, and provide recommendations to Council by March 1, 2021.
These motions will need to be ratified at the Regular Council meeting on August 31 but this is usually just a formality. Update – August 31 – Council gave formal approval to these decisions although it was 5-2 with Adam Bureau and Brian Darling wanted full closure for longer.
So in summary, the beach will reopen on weekdays only from Sept 8 to Oct 14 and then fully reopen and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee will look into how to manage summer crowds on Victoria Park Beach.
- Paul Pagnuelo Speaking Notes
- Brenda Quinn Speaking Notes
- Dean Hustwick memo to Council re Beach Status
- Advisory Committees – members and contact info