Cobourg residents and Councillors have expressed concern about managing the crowds attracted to Cobourg’s beaches – this has been a special concern with the onset of the pandemic but even in normal times, beach crowds can be a problem. To address this, the Town created a survey and asked the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) to generate recommendations on “how the municipality can manage the popularity of Victoria Park Beach.” Survey results were published in March (see link below to Cobourg News Blog report) – and with the help of Community Services Staff, the PRAC have now published their recommendations and will ask the next Committee of the Whole to accept them. It’s quite comprehensive but being recommendations and not actually actions, they require Council to make decisions. But it’s a first step.
To make the next steps more likely to happen (that’s my interpretation), the recommendations include a suggestion that “an internal Working Group be established …… to enhance collaboration in the management of the waterfront, including Victoria Park Beach, the Cobourg Harbour and the West Beach.” It’s expected that at least some of the recommendations will be approved as part of the 2022 budget process so they will be in place for the 2022 summer season.
Photo was taken on July 1st 2011 and is (or was) typical of a “normal” year.
Summary of Recommendations
- Improve communication with more signs, a dedicated web page* and leaflets to impacted neighbourhoods.
- Improve amenities: More washrooms, add change rooms, more garbage bins, add cigarette waste recycling receptacles in waterfront parking lots, install water bottle filling stations in Victoria Park.
- Enhance bylaws about smoking, cannabis, glass bottles on beach and tents on beach. Increase fines from $105 to $250.
- Improve enforcement by increasing the number of by-law enforcement officers on-duty during peak times.
- Major Events. Consider making Council approval necessary for major recurring events.
- Provide Lifeguards and establish a capacity for the beach as part of the emergency management process and then monitor. (The cost of lifeguarding Victoria Park Beach is approximately $100,000 per year).
- Significantly increase beach area parking rates and review parking rates along the waterfront. Care should be taken to avoid pushing beachgoers into the downtown for cheaper parking and creating parking shortages.
- Consider establishing designated or discounted parking for Cobourg residents.
- Consider installing pay and display machines on residential streets near the beach.
- Consider providing a shuttle service during major events and peak times and explore ways to utilize parking at Donegan Park.
- Consider allowing pop-up businesses* to operate with a permit – perhaps allow rental of sun shelters and beach chairs.
- Beach access fees are inadvisable due to the cost of infrastructure/fencing, staff time for enforcement, and the imposition of barriers to walkers along the waterfront.
- Increase by-law enforcement patrols along the West Beach with more signs and perhaps washrooms.
- Establish an internal working group to enhance collaboration in the management of the waterfront, including Victoria Park Beach, the Cobourg Harbour and West Beach.
Since some of these involve additional spending, further work is required to provide these costs to Council for the budget process. If fines and enforcement are increased, then additional revenue may help.
The report does not touch on whether there is any measurable benefit to the Town created by beach tourists.
Meanwhile, Council will soon be deciding whether to revisit their decision to close the beach on Weekends and Holidays.
- Full report from Staff as approved by the PRAC and recommended to Council
- Proposed changes in Regulations
- Beach survey results – 4 March 2021
- Beach Page on Cobourg Internet
- Beach during Sandcastle Festival 2011