Council Debates Fencing the Beach

The Beach is closed for most activities but not fully closed.  So when there are crowds, it’s difficult to enforce Covid-19 social distancing, “park” rules and generally keeping everyone safe. On a recent warm weekend, there were reportedly hundreds on the beach. It doesn’t help that there are few signs – I saw a small one at the main entrance at the bottom of Division St – see photo below.  So at Monday’s Committee of the Whole (C.O.W.) Council meeting, staff suggested that fencing the beach would be useful.  It was thought that most people would then stay off the beach and the few who jumped the fence could be warned or even arrested for trespassing. But Councillors worried that visitors would then go elsewhere – downtown or the West Beach – and Social Distancing could not be enforced. Since this item was put on the Agenda, Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin reported that the majority of citizens emailing her were supportive of the idea although Adam Bureau said that on facebook it was about half and half of the 200 comments.

Beach Sign
Beach Sign

The Province recently announced that Provincial Parks would re-open although not beaches.  But many activities are still not allowed: overnight camping, using washrooms, congregating etc.  People might then assume that Cobourg Beach is open – but it’s not. Although it’s not fully closed, it IS CLOSED for normal activities. A fence would indicate that it’s completely closed.

Council recently appointed three additional by-law officers and one is dedicated to monitoring the beach and recording what they did.  Over the period of a week, 35 were warned about social distancing, 20 were moved on from sitting on benches plus 20 other warnings were given and a few other miscellaneous.  For a long weekend, Auxiliary Police Officers would also be available.

A major concern is that whether the beach is fenced or not, if this year is like most, crowds will be arriving from out of Town and we should work towards warning them to stay away.  Perhaps we should use the Tourism advertising budget for this. Director Dean Hustwick talked about a planned campaign to say “When it’s time to travel, come to Cobourg, but not now”.  Suzanne Séguin felt that this was not strong enough.  Dean also warned that a much larger sum of money (maybe $100K+) would be needed to communicate to people that they should stop coming in hot weather.

The Victoria Day long weekend is coming up and would be a good test of the status quo. Councillors also felt that the situation is continually changing – so after considerable debate, Council agreed to maintain the status quo until the next C.O.W. meeting on June 1st. The experience from the long weekend would help with a decision and perhaps Council would then be ready to approve a fence.

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15 May 2020 6:40 am

There have been few topics on this blog that have been more consequential to the safety and health of our Town’s populus than this one. If it makes sense to avoid crowding and social distancing risk by cancelling parades than surely it makes sense to close the beaches or divise a stringent limiting process, as being employed in parts of Europe. If we get this wrong, if we invite this epidemic into our community by unrestricted access and uncontrolled congregation, we will not get to reseal pandora’s box.
A short history lesson: Five days after the first case of 1918 Spanish flu was recorded in Boston, a commercial steam ship, the Harold Walker, sailed for Mexico and then New Orleans.. Its crew came down with the flu and proceeded to infect both that part of Mexico and New Orleans with the most deadly strain of the virus. One ship…a few dozen men. How many hundreds of people, from varying parts of Ontario, go to our beaches on a summer holiday weekend?
If you remember from the movie “Jaws,” the Town Council erred on the side of commerce and convenience, it too was a holiday weekend. How did that turn out?

14 May 2020 11:39 am

“We’ve got a lovely bunch of covidnuts…”
Some wankers are using this luverly virus to air their dislike of those who they have been brassed off at all along anyway: tourists, Liberals, Cobourg Council, Trudeau, the homeless, Town Staff, teachers. pensioners, anyone from out of town, Asians, the Police, etc. etc.
Makes them feel better, one supposes.
Anyway, “have a banana!”

Reply to  Curmudgeon
14 May 2020 12:19 pm

You miss the point…this epidemic is quite real. It presents a clear and present danger to the health of the Coboug population. That population is over-weighted with seniors who are particularly vulnerable to its most negative outcomes. Those we elect to protect us should do just that. In this case that means restricting the beaches.
BTW, just finished the preeminent history of the Spanish flu in the US; two years of absolute hell. Killed at least 670,000 in the US and 50-100 million worldwide (3% to 6% of the world’s total population). In the early days there were people, like you, claiming it would quickly pass with little damage; magically, like Trump would say. They were wrong, Trump is wrong. And, you are wrong.

Canuck Patriot
Reply to  MCGA
14 May 2020 12:39 pm

So refreshing to hear such a reasoned response again on these pages.

It would have been a very different Council had you run for Mayor and been elected. Leadership and politics is a difference Henderson doesn’t understand. He goes into analysis /paralysis and is too timid to deal with the CAO the way he needs to.

The focus and only spending priorities in Cobourg should be on local residents and businesses. We don’t need this phony tourism nonsense crowding out our beach and marina from locals and Cobourg needs to stop trying to invent itself into a personality it’s not. I’ll gladly buy downtown but I need more than a bank, a barber and a great cup of coffee.

Reply to  MCGA
14 May 2020 1:09 pm

Welcome back!
But where did I claim that the virus would pass quickly, my learned friend.
It would help if you could be arsed to read the post that you are commenting on from your high horse.

Canuck Patriot
Reply to  Curmudgeon
14 May 2020 1:38 pm

Don’t fall off your own saddle Curmudgeon. MCGA is very insightful and clearly gets it. You obviously have very deep biases and your posted name gives it away.

You amplify what is wrong with society today. Mr. Mayor where is your China report? Accountability is not a four letter word.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Curmudgeon
14 May 2020 1:47 pm

Curmudgeon, to use terms such as “a lovely bunch of covidnuts” and “wankers” to characterize those who care about our town and the safety of our residents is not acceptable. Are you embarrassed to supply your real name? You should be!

Covid or not, tourists are a detriment to our community and provide no net benefit for most residents. If you disagree perhaps you could provide details of the non-minimum wage jobs that tourists provide. A cost-benefit analysis of the planned marina and trailer park upgrades would also be instructive.

Reply to  Curmudgeon
14 May 2020 1:53 pm

Having previously taken the time to read all the previous posts on this topic I saw none of the complaints you identified from “wankers” on this blog. What was included was a detailing of both concerns for health protection against limiting access to recreation. Not sure there would be a dozen others in Cobourg who would be so cavalier as to call it a “luverly” virus and even fewer who would label these posters wankers. The inference from your post is that the virus was inconsequential, if not transient and the posters were subspecies.
Where you are correct is recognizing that I make an earnest effort to learn before I opine which to you obviously means speaking from a high horse. You might try that approach some time.

Reply to  MCGA
16 May 2020 9:20 am

Please put signs on the 401 Cobourg signs saying “beach closed”. Now. Let locals walk their dogs and walk in social distance on the boardwalk and beach but close this town. Immediately. Why risk it? This virus won’t die until we stop feeding it. Let our world reopen by closing tourism and crowd-related places. Cobourg Beach is Closed. Signage long before Cobourg. What’s the difficulty with that?

Reply to  Jen
16 May 2020 10:16 am

Do you think people obey the 100k/hr signs on the 401? Why would they pay attention to any other sign?
If you want to send a message to out-of-towners, fine 2 or 3 of them $800 for breaking the rules and have Pete Fisher and Global News close by to record the whole thing. News will get back to Toronto faster than any social media postings or even those who were fined.
But… we would have to play by the same rules too.

Reply to  Curmudgeon
15 May 2020 7:30 am

I agree. I never realized the amount of xenophobes we have in this Town. Their cavalier disrespect of other peoples charter rights is amazing. They should be ashamed.

14 May 2020 8:23 am

It is the first duty of any government to protect it’s people. Inviting a flow of visitors through the Town to the beach and harbour is clearly amplifying the risk of local virus spread. Cobourg has, so far, been very fortunate to dodge the pandemic bullet. Why would our Council, who is empowered to protect us, place a bullseye on our backs by not closing down our beaches and widely advertising that fact. Reminiscent of an early scene in the movie “Jaws” where the mayor and town council wanted to open up the beaches against the advise of the shark experts.
Sure it is safe to go back into the water, or onto the beach, etc. What can go wrong?

Paul Pagnuelo
Reply to  MCGA
14 May 2020 8:58 am

Welcome back. We missed your comments.

Reply to  MCGA
14 May 2020 9:26 am

MCGA….Good analogy

Reply to  MCGA
14 May 2020 9:34 am

Combined, both ‘MCGA’ and ‘Donnae’ are spot on addressing all the issues with common sense.

Well done!

Reply to  MCGA
14 May 2020 5:05 pm

MCGA…Im afraid the decision or lack of decision will be based on weather forecasts and opinion polls. By that time the decision will be made for council because it will be to late.

13 May 2020 4:41 pm

As a resident of Cobourg, we deal with our Victoria Park being closed off by fencing for a variety of events every summer. Put the fencing up. Charge people who are breaking the Covid-19 laws. There will be no reason for giving warnings out. It will be clearly marked and people are aware of the laws.

Cobourg can use the ticket fine revenue to offset lost revenue from events.

Who is going to clean up the garbage left behind from visitors?
Who is going to regulate the use of the beach which is sitting open?
Who is going to lifeguard and keep the beach safe?
Who is going to regulate the parking?
Washrooms are closed so how do you handle that?

With Covid-19 an Airborne disease who thinks it is a good idea to have the sand to be turned over by dragging machine, as it normally is every day on a normal beach day?.
Who should be asked to run the machine and expose themselves and others?

If you think a beach runs itself think again. It is a business and Cobourg employs a lot of people to keep our beach clean and safe for use.

Put fencing up makes it visual thus no excuse policy.
clearly marked.

Reply to  Donnae
13 May 2020 7:06 pm

I know the TAX PAYERS !

Reply to  Donnae
14 May 2020 11:29 am

I agree with your sentiment and course of action Donnae, but a couple of points:

We have no bylaws that allow us to fine anyone for breaking any rules. The motion that was put forward to council giving our bylaw officers some teeth ended up being tabled (dismissed) at the suggestion of Councillor Bureau. Too bad because that would have sent a message very quickly to out-of-towners that we aren’t open for business as usual. Remember the story about the Ottawa man getting fined $880.00 for playing with his dog in a park? That news spread like wildfire and made a lot of people think twice about dilly dallying in parks. As it is, the best we can do is ask people to move along.
While there is still some research going on, it is generally thought that Covid-19 is not an airborne disease, rather spread through droplet contact.

13 May 2020 1:32 pm

Play old Frank Sinatra songs through a sound system on the beach. That’s what they do in certain subway stations in Toronto to discourage loitering. Soon drives people nuts, and they leave.

13 May 2020 9:02 am

Unfortunately not many options here. Either fence it off or prepare for the covidiots to descend on us. We are not alone with this situation as towns like Port Dover, Wasaga Beach etc are facing the same situations.

We have been blessed thus far with basically no cases in Cobourg but it would seem our “wave” is potentially coming. Much discussion over Government’s possible initial failure to act quickly because of fear of offending some. What will happen here?

13 May 2020 9:01 am

How about this possible unintended consequence from fencing off the main beach? People just head over to the west beach. Seems a shoreline protocol for the entire publicly accessible waterfront in Cobourg is needed and not just a fence on the sandy main beach.

Reply to  MiriamM
13 May 2020 7:04 pm

I agree its a great alternative to our younger family Main beach
The Adult beach would be a great Marketing Ploy — may be Dean could get his teeth into that idea They are all over Europe and BC

Tom Holden
13 May 2020 8:52 am

How many roads are there into Cobourg? Put the BLEs and Aux Police on them to stop vehicles, check where they are from and the reason for their visit, and turn back those that don’t qualify. With signage on the 401 and a long lineup on the ramps, people will get the message before they get to a checkpoint.

Reply to  Tom Holden
13 May 2020 3:03 pm

Tom – Maybe the signs could read “Welcome to Oceania – the feel good state”

13 May 2020 8:48 am

Drive by and see for your selves There is hardly anyone on the beach certainly No Enforcement Officers ? We live down here I know — and if they are , there is a lot of distance between them your closer together on the board walks The town doesn’t need to spend anymore $$ and Dean should find some other work for the rest of the yr Tourist season – may be handing out Social distancing Tickets on the beach seeing he is down here so much anyway .
The Town has not enforced or fined anyone that I am aware of and we can certainly get free News space in Toronto like Muskokas and Halliburton areas have for free ( Stay away ) Just make the call — Now how about putting up signs where people notice them Such as the One way signs on the west end of the Esplanade when you come out of the parking lot on the Esplanade there is no No sign so we have 20 to 30 cars a day going the wrong way
Never enforced or ticketed.

Old Sailor
13 May 2020 8:45 am

Time for Council to protect Cobourg taxpayers and fence off the beach for an unspecified period. Would one put up a warning sign in their yard instructing bully birds like grackles to stay away from your nut feeder – fully expecting them to obey. Of course not. Even a few local residents still walk their dogs on the beach in spite of signs to the contrary. Large fines would be good “training” for those dog owners. Closing the beach would give Council time to to think about how to repatriate “free” use of the beach just for the taxpayers who pay for it.

Reply to  Old Sailor
16 May 2020 11:23 am

Why is walking a dog on a closed beach problematic for you? We clean up after them and as there are no sunbathers around, I don’t see the harm. Dog parks are closed. Walking on sidewalks and social distancing with a dog isn’t the most straight forward process on narrow sidewalks. Why the hard lesson encouragement against dog walkers, Old Sailor?

Canuck Patriot
Reply to  Jen
16 May 2020 11:57 am

There is a place for dogs and a place for humans.

Even if you clean up after your dog relieves itself on the beach, I can’t believe you think defacating on a public beach, even if it’s temporarily closed, is sanitary or acceptable in North American society.

Personally, I find it disgusting and can only conclude that you are a very selfish person. You certainly are not a responsible dog owner.

You are the reason Cobourg needs By-law officers. One can only hope you get the largest fines available until the message sinks through loud and clear.

Reply to  Jen
16 May 2020 4:47 pm

Why on earth do you think we have a by-law stating that no domestic animals allowed on the beach??? What is wrong with some people??
Here’s what the by-law clearly states – Beach Rules

Council has passed bylaws that prohibit a number of things on the beach. As well as no alcohol, there are bylaws that say:

No smoking on the beach (probably not enforced if no-one complains)
No Barbecues on the beach
No dogs, cats or other domestic animals.
No Tents with sides
No-one allowed between 11:00pm and 7:00am – (not enforced if no-one complains

East end
13 May 2020 8:37 am

We live just east of the park and walk there almost daily and have never seen hundreds on the beach. I think having the entire trailer park fenced off for only 3 trailers needs to be rethought, otherwise, if the beach is also fenced, all walkers will be funneled onto the boardwalk and social distancing will almost impossible. It would seem that warning people that the beach is closed before they arrive would make much sense. Signs at the exits plus down both Division and William and at parking lots to reinforce. Then leave the beach unfenced. If folks try to set up their blankets then give them a fine, and they won’t be back. And it won’t be our hospital that has to deal with an uptick in cases.

Reply to  East end
13 May 2020 10:02 pm

Can’t fine them East ender, we have no bylaw to facilitate that. Councillor AB sought to have that “tabled”.
With apologies to the other Councillor AB.😉

13 May 2020 8:33 am

I don’t agree with the fencing but agree that we have to enforce some rules. What about investing in a few large signs stating ‘Beach (and Park) closed except for walk-through traffic’ and then letting the single bylaw officer enforce this? Out-of-towners are unlikely to want to drive all the way here for a walk. A few signs around town might not hurt also. The beach is part of my daily walk as I live close enough to do so, and we have enough people from in-town that drive down there to walk around…we certainly wouldn’t be able to physically distance with any increase in people.

Reply to  Rhonda
13 May 2020 10:05 pm

Well Rhonda, maybe you’re right, just put up a few signs. Do you think that on the way to Cobourg those fine people obeyed the signs on the 401 stating maximum speed 100km/hr? Do you think they would obey our signs?

Safety First
13 May 2020 8:20 am

I would support fencing off the beach…I know many people will want to access the boardwalk along the beach. With small groups practising physical distancing, this is not an issue. However, as the weather gets warmer, we are going to see an influx of visitors looking to escape the city. Let’s keep everyone safe and put up a (hopefully cheap!) fence.
We can walk along the beautiful town streets in the meantime. 😷🏡

13 May 2020 8:20 am

I recommend that highway signs be posted that Cobourg Beach is Closed due to Covid-19. We enjoy walking on the boardwalk and nearby neighborhoods. Townspeople are mostly careful to maintain social distancing while out for a daily constitutional. I’m concerned about the out-of-towers who expect to spend the day at the beach. Please don’t fence the beach, but patrol and discourage visitors until conditions change.

Reply to  Cindy
13 May 2020 8:55 am

Agreed. We need big signs on the Hwy and Gateway ramps advising the beach is closed and patrolled. This should be the first step ASAP. Better to increase patrols than fence. Then reassess June 1.

13 May 2020 7:59 am

Town Staff ought to be directing the clean up of garbage all over King and Division as well as erasing the accumulation of graffiti all over town instead of recommending fencing. How about this?
Less access to town services paid for by Taxpayers results in less
taxes. Why pay for services (beach, walkways, benches, etc.)
when they are not available?

12 May 2020 4:55 pm

As a resident of Cobourg, I enjoy walking by the beach. I find the “hundreds” number hard to believe, as I have never this year, seen any kind of crowds. Why not allow residents of Northumberland to use the beach in a limited capacity. With the new by-law officer and auxiliary police patrolling the beach, I would think it possible, as long as obvious signing is present, that they could ensure the throngs from outside would be discouraged. I would also point out that the walk through the Trailer park is now off bounds. Where are we going to walk?

Reply to  Downtowner
12 May 2020 8:52 pm

Downtowner…Consider Parking in different parts of the Town and walk. Great way to see neighborhoods we are usually too busy to notice. There are lots of nice heritage homes that we dont always appreciate and its a great way to see parts of the Town we never visit

Reply to  Informed
13 May 2020 7:24 pm

I walk about 20 km a week. It used to be more, but age does take it’s tole. I can’t imagine any street I have not walked on. Why drive and park? Just walk.

Reply to  Downtowner
13 May 2020 4:55 pm

Get ready for the influx

Wuthering Heights........
12 May 2020 4:06 pm

A quick look at Kits Beach in Vancouver might give us a view of what may be to come.(?) 11,000 Social distancing warnings issued/1900 last weekend alone despite adjacent parking lots being closed.
As a result, the phrase: “Few faces in big spaces”…being used by their Council.
Forecast looks real good for Saturday…..

12 May 2020 4:02 pm

A fence is a bad idea. Walking along the beach and shoreline is a healthy exercise for many. A fence would not only be unsightly and require continual upkeep, it creates a situation of entrapment. However, it is a concern that visitors will want to enjoy our beach again this summer because of proximity and being essentially free to use in the past. Surely other beach front communities are facing similar concerns … how are they preparing and what will they be doing to protect their beach and community? Maybe 24 patrol and loud speaker megaphones is the option although noise would not be good for the neighbours. There is also the option of a robot dog like the one following people in a Singapore park and kindly reminding them to maintain proper distance. Or, for the beach a small remote controlled dune buggy. How do we enforce ‘no stopping’ along streets?

Reply to  MiriamM
12 May 2020 8:23 pm

Maybe hire some students instead of the robot dog
I believe there probably a federal grant for hiring students

12 May 2020 3:39 pm

Do whats right to protect the residents
We have declared a state of emergency. Couldnt really care less what surveys over facebook reveal as far as peoples opinions.If council are making decisions based on facebook opinion we are in trouble!

Reply to  Informed
12 May 2020 9:13 pm

You’ve got that right!!! Ask the doctors and nurses at NHH what would be best for the public. Wander around and visit the beach or neighbourhoods you’re not familiar with – or – STAY HOME AND STAY SAFE!!!!!!

Reply to  jimq
12 May 2020 9:43 pm

Jimq…guess you wont be down to the Farmers market either?