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.
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.