Opinion: An Idea for Cobourg

It was in my younger days, oh, in the late 1960s, when I first became acquainted with Cobourg’s harbour. Living in Mississauga, I was going through an adventuresome phase, owning a boat that variously took me around

Graham Woods
Grahame Woods

Lake Ontario, into the St. Lawrence river, the Thousand Islands and, heading back home on one occasion, an unscheduled stop in Cobourg’s harbour. Well, at least it was a place where one could tie-up alongside a dilapidated dock surrounded by messy piles of coal and garbage. Fast forward 50 years to the beautiful harbour of today with great facilities and its backdrop of the town of Cobourg, a welcoming sight for out-of-town boaters. Except – except one hopes the out-of-towners (and local boaters) quickly turn a blind eye to the shamefully battered, rundown, neglected east pier. Yes, the first thing sailors see as they approach and enter the harbour. But wait! There’s time for this present council to secure a legacy before the clock timing its term in office runs out.

All the approaches to Cobourg are pleasant and easy on the eye; from the east, a tree-lined highway, from the west, a relaxing drive past open fields, the ‘rural’ approach. Likewise from the north, a pleasant drive until one crosses Highway 401 into a gentle assimilation of the commercial part of Cobourg life. And then there’s the southern approach, busy in the summer months as visiting boaters are drawn to a safe harbour and a welcoming town. Now, with the farmer’s market in its new location, we have even more to offer the out-of-town sailor – such as the boat from Rochester that visits a few times each summer, making a point to stock up at Millstone Bread on each visit. I presume these boaters turn a blind, Nelson’s eye, as they pass the east pier. A pier that has suffered years of neglect, becoming a virtual parking lot in the summer months (and, rumour has it, a good place to toke up on a summer evening).

So, yes, this present council has an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy – which, over the years for previous councils, has not been an easy thing to do. The councils that created Victoria Hall – and the one that prevented its destruction – as well as creating Victoria Park, preserving our beaches, are the ones that stand out in the history books and should be commended. With the few months remaining of the present council’s term, it has an opportunity to find its place in the history books – if it acts quickly.

When the current state of repair of the east pier has been determined – and necessary structural improvements have been made – Cobourg Council could create a small (emphasis on the small) volunteer committee of Cobourg citizens to come up with approaches to resurrect the east pier into something in-coming boaters can look to with admiration – and Cobourgians can enjoy. Such as … well, how about a pedestrian pier with all vehicular traffic banned; a well designed gate welcoming visitors, beyond which attractive, well-placed seating so walkers can relax, soak in the rays, observe the various varieties of bird life drawn to the harbour? Enjoy a picnic. As well, perhaps some strategically placed planters with which the town’s Park’s Department can create its own floral magic? Then, to maintain continuity with Victoria Park, install a few of the tall, street lamps that illuminate the park? A simple, not too expensive, lasting, welcoming southern gateway – that all Cobourg residents can enjoy, relaxing as they watch the sun rise, or set, as cormorants skim the waves on their way to somewhere.

Oh. As for toking up? Nah. Not in Cobourg. Just kidding.

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Wally Keeler

An anti-tourist organization has declared itself prepared to take action to deter tourists to the beaches of the Muskokas and northern Ontario. No doubt some grumpy grouchy selfish self-centred malcontents will applaud this civic initiative. http://muskoka411.com/start/police-obtain-letter-that-threatens-safety-of-bracebridge-and-gravenhurst-beaches/

Rusty Brown

Well, “Muskoka”, actually. The area around Lake Muskoka. Not like “The Kawarthas”, short for the Kawartha Lakes.
Just for the record.


You people slay me! One faction talks about keeping taxes down and the other side talks about wanting to retain the (perceived) tranquility of the Town and want to create more open and calming space. Face facts folks the East Pier needs a rebuild, not a makeover. Total cost is unestimated and when asked about it at the consultant’s meeting the answer as to why was “We don’t know”.

If we are to spend millions on this crumbling, pot-holed edefice then the return had better be a good one or the good folks at the CTA will turn blue in the face. That means a return on the investment. Just how will the benches pay for that? You may not like it but it is possible to have commercial activity and peace and quiet After all there are more than a couple of acres of space to play with, not counting the unused and forbidden space to the lighthouse. And just how much peace and tranquility can we afford? The famed West Beach performs well in this regard and the planned Nature area as well. You want peace and quiet and contemplation use those areas – you can’t have it all.

Walter L. Luedtke

A well-planned mix of commerce and contemplation is the way to go!

Wally Keeler

Exactly. The Town should look into providing the pier with electrical and water capacity to serve commercial enterprises. Otherwise it is a lot of money to spend on the elderly who only sit on their butts. The pier can be for fun, frolic and profit.

Rusty Brown

Not always. I entered the “elderly” category some years back, and I sit on my mountain bike.

Rusty Brown

If we have financial resources available for development, why not use them to make something of that vast public wasteland comprising the segment of Victoria Park north of Queen Street? Put your fancy wrought-iron installations and flower beds and gazebos where they are most needed. Hands off the East Pier.

Wally Keeler

There is enough clutter in upper Vic Park. The east pier is a blank slate venue for the imagination. It is a departure lounge for the imagination. For those into vast expanses of grey concrete and black asphalt, I can recommend some mall parking lots.

Wally Keeler

If they decide to erect gazebos out there for shower / shade cover, let it be designed as a replica of Victoria Hall bell tower.

Wally Keeler

My lady will meet me on the pier
her body plunged in shadow.
She’ll give me kisses quick and dear
there below the midnight fresco.

She will greet me with knifing eyes
that cut deep through my emotions
and my hands will gather replies
from her body and its motions.

My lady will meet me on the pier
where waves arrive then are gone.
My lady will make love to me here
before stars surrender to dawn.

— Cobourg is My Poemtown, 2016.


Perhaps if you gave more consideration to those of us who do not walk so well but enjoy(ed) going out to the end of the pier to sit by the water you would not be so quick to propose
a pedestrians only approach. I am already missing the peace and calm of being at the end of the pier – this due to years of wanton neglect by successive councils. It is high time that something is done to rectify the pier issue for ALL citizens of Cobourg.


I guess where I come from, you have to look at the big picture first. When your basement leaks water after a rain storm, you concern yourself first with fixing the leak before you think of how you will make the basement into an extra family room and fancy new living space…same thing goes for our pier…fix it first…walk before you run. In this regard, our Council should not be handing out $90,000 for a culture study before we fix the pier…they have their priorities all wrong. Let’s get back to basics.


Well Graham’s Great Idea of of a Place to Rest and Soak in the Rays seems to be getting over shadowed
a peaceful place to contemplate it won’t be if the Vehicles are allowed back . as stated a Virtual Parking Lot
it is !
How ever sitting in your car may be the only place you can enjoy a meal from Walters restaurant with all those
pesky seagulls that the food will attract .
Historically the pier has been a place for Loud vehicles and to show off you Hemi horse power with burn outs
This type of noise and speed has not been compatible with a safe – peaceful stroll to the light house .
Cobourg is and has been my families home for Decades and generations and quite frankly I am tired of spending
thousands of tax dollars on the perception that attracting tourists is good for all of us ! Prove it .

Rusty Brown

Are you pressing “enter” at the end of every line as we used to do with the old electric typewriters? That would account for the fractured formatting.

Wally Keeler

perplexed posted, “ I am tired of spending thousands of tax dollars on the perception that attracting tourists is good for all of us

If you can afford to pay thousands in taxes, then why not move to a place that is tourist-free? Think of the savings you will be able to enjoy. Cobourg will never be tourist-free, never was. Get used to it or move out.


Sounds all fine and dandy , but your suggestion over all cuts out the Cobourg people that enjoy the view from their car , the people that cant walk who go there for some fresh air and view. We pay more taxes and every time we get less and less. Leave the pier alone for us

Rusty Brown

I agree and have said so before. There are lots of fancy cultivated areas around the harbour for those who want that kind of thing. Leave the east pier for those who don’t plan to stroll about in their Sunday Best, nose in air.

Wally Keeler

Who the heck strolls the pier in their Sunday best with their nose in the air? I’m there almost daily and never saw those kind of people. I think some elderly people would like to take a stroll and benches and gazebos would be apt for them. Even so, there remains a lot of space for the imagination to do its wonders.

If the Town is going to restore the pier to handle vehicular traffic, then it should add water and electricity capability as an enticement for commercial enterprise

Rusty Brown

Yes, exactly. There are long stretches of gentrified and beautified walkway with wrought iron fixtures, benches and hanging flower baskets along the harbour’s northern edge for those who want to stroll in style. Let them have it. Leave the east pier for the rest of us in our vehicles and on our bikes.


wonderful -now just do it –

Art Seymour

What a wonderful , meaningful, and lasting legacy our current council could, indeed, do!!!

Waterfront owner

Love all your thoughts for the east pier. When can we start

Terry Barker

Would be another lost for the citizens of Cobourg. Older people who can’t get out and walk at least they can be driven out on the pier to enjoy the view with out having to pay. The vintage car group after being driven out of their first spot by tourist found a spot on the pier they could meet Sunday nights. All these ideas are great to draw tourist but the only time the people of Cobourg who pay for this get to enjoy the harbour is in the winter. Why you see lots of cars going out on the pier is because they enjoy it.

Waterfront owner

The pier is long. Why not have a place for vechlicles and a park like setting at the far end for pedestrians. Best of both can be accomplished. Great idea Gramme. Let’s just do it instead of procrastinating


Great idea ‘waterfront owner’! I was thinking the same thing. First repair the structural problems with the pier……with the ‘Feds’ kicking in lots of money’……then make the first half of the pier for cars, etc. with diagonal parking only, then turn the rest, out to the light house, into a ‘park like’ setting?
Just a thought?


Excellent idea and one that many towns and cities with lighthouses have implemented. A nice walkway and seating with picturesque views are used as a draw to their towns. I personally sent example pictures to the consultants doing the waterfront study but to no available. The rationale being that birds use the pier and we wouldn’t want to disturb them. I kid you not.
This would be a better use of taxpayers money than a boat life for a few.

Suzanne Seguin

Hi Cobourglin, I would like to see the example pictures that you sent to the waterfront consultants. Could you email them to me please at sseguin@cobourg.ca? Thanks.


Suzanne, check this out too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heritage_USA
Why is the Council of this town hellbent on wasting money, ruining our heritage and turning the town into another Heritage, U.S.A. (without the religion but with the same insane devotion to ersatz quaintness which is an idiot’s view of paradise? When are you going to start really honouring our heritage by making essential repairs and leaving alone all the beautiful things people in this town have enjoyed for generations? Read what Denise Liboiron has written! Her sentiments are reflective of the true feelings of many, many citizens of this town. There are many places in Cobourg with decorative gates and hanging baskets and benches and fake nineteenth century streetlights, but there is only one east pier.


Tim there is enough room to accommodate both parkland/pedestrians as well as vehicles.


The pier is an iconic symbol of this town and it should be left exactly as it is. There is enough parkland in the immediate area for people to enjoy — you can walk and sit and look at the lake from countless vantage points or meander past flowerbeds or under hanging baskets to your heart’s content. Millions have been spend (I would characterize it as ‘wasted’) in government grants and public donations constructing just such areas to lure tourists to Cobourg. People, who live here all year long, use the pier in most seasons and appreciate its beauty exactly as it is. I’d like to see their desires taken into account for once, but more importantly, I would like to see our real heritage honoured for a change.

Walter L. Luedtke

So what do you think of a drive-through Tim Hortons for the pier?

Wally Keeler

TIM: “I would like to see our real heritage honoured for a change.”

That’s why I lobbied the Town to call the east pier, Susanna Moodie Pier, since she actually stepped onto it, and into the history books as an author and inspiration for Canadian poets. More heritage than a muscle car spinout.

Denise Liboiron

I appreciate the sentiment of making it more attractive but closing it to vehicular traffic would be a mistake. My mother for example would not get to enjoy my driving her to the end of the pier to watch the waves splash over in inclement weather or get the feeling of being on the lake and looking back to the pretty town and beach on a sunny day ~ as she cannot walk very far any more. She isn’t also at the stage of needing any wheelchair it is just harder to walk farther – It would cut lots of people from being able to enjoy the pier and in all weather. She always liked your writing Grahame ~ I may not show her this one : ) although she would be happy to see she can find your editorials on here.
They could make areas for sitting and make it pedestrian friendly but still allow the cars ~ it’s somerhing very unique and old school about it — and the old stones and natural state is also attractive — not everything has to be “landscaped” and planned. Two cents ; ) for what it’s worth.


Great idea, Graeme, and similar to ones we hear from our jaunts along the boardwalk. Can’t imagine why anyone would be against this. What a great opportunity. Let’s not waste it.

Richard Looye

Great to see the Cobourg Harbour generating lively discussion again. As a backdrop, do revisit http://www.virtualmuseum.ca launched last year by some of us locals with Federal Government funding. The last page of the site “The Harbour as Symbol” introduces some possible ideas for the future.

A well-thought out approach is needed to seize this opportunity to help Cobourg undertake what will be a legacy project. Let’s see a judicial mixture of ideas that will please the majority, not just today but the future.

As a now “retired” person with some increasingly negative mobility issues, I would welcome attention given to the passive enjoyment of the view with accompanied by beach, bird and boat sounds. And, yes an ice cream vendor and a public toilet would not be amiss.


Walter L. Luedtke

OMG! It can be done!
Belleville has a restaurant on its pier.


Just what we need – a tacky restaurant called “Pier”. Bad architecture, bad taste in more ways than one probably. And why am I not surprised that this is a vision that would excite you? Are you thinking of opening a franchise? I’m sure you’d have no problems getting a permit from your heros on the Town Council who share your aesthetic sense.

Walter L. Luedtke

Tastes differ!
What would you say to a drive-through Tim Hortons on the pier?


Sorry Graham we don’t need another place for people of leisure to sit down, nor do we have to “tart the place up” just to welcome boaters. If any public investment is made in the Pier, and it is going to be a massive one, then we should rectify the mistakes made by the original planning of the Harbour development that shut out commercial uses. The Pier should be made available to those who want to conduct commercial activities – increase foot traffic and generate income. After if the only thing to do with it now is let people admire the waterfront views we have squandered its major potential. A summer market would be a start.

Deborah OConnor

I must take exception to Ben’s declaration that we don’t need more places for people to sit down. For myself, many other seniors and everyone else who has mobility issues, places to sit down are much more than they might seem. For lots of us it is a requirement that rest places be available to stop for a few minutes before carrying on our way.

Accessibility is not just a fashion, it is the law in Ontario. We can’t all climb our way up Mount Pichou like our luckier friends. Don’t leave us stuck at home sitting on our couches, we just need a little consideration so we can get out and about like the rest of the population.

Miriam Mutton

Thank you for sharing your ideas, Grahame. I agree with the idea travel from the lake is another gateway route into our community.

I anticipate that like much important infrastructure, what is unseen is what needs attention most. For example, the sea walls and foundation which create the pier. And repair would likely be very expensive … but, it needs to be done. At least this Council could establish a path forward for this unique and much enjoyed feature of Cobourg, including an opportunity for citizen input about the most fun part, the top of the east pier.


I love the east pier and I think it should be repaired but left exactly as it is. I don’t think it should be tarted up and turned into another example of ersatz quaintness with welcoming gates, ornate lampposts, trees and flowers. We have enough areas like that in town, they’re cloying, and we don’t need any more. People have enjoyed the pier since it was first built and its beauty lies in its utilitarian nature. Repair it but beyond that it should be hands off. Do we have to turn everything into a theme park? Can’t a true sense of heritage and good taste prevail for once?


It’s an asphalt abomination right now. I don’t see how that represents heritage or good taste. Trees and flowers are never a bad thing, especially given the special relationship between shorelines and bodies of water.


There’s nothing wrong with asphalt, in the right place. It’s a material, like any other, but it’s clear you can’t set your prejudices aside long enough to see it. I’m a fanatical flower and tree lover myself but I don’t want to see trees and gardens on the pier any more than I would like to see my garden covered in asphalt.


Tim,,, you are right on,,,the pier acts as a town square for Locals and should be kept as is,,open to cars ,, seniors with there morning coffee,, this is what makes the pier special,,, this IS heritage,, develop the undeveloped leave this alone

Dave Moore

Exactly this should be restored to the way it is. No need to exclude vehicular traffic, I have been driving out there for over 30 years. Eating lunch in the car, getting out and walking the pier to the lighthouse, (before they banned us getting out of our cars), taking a date down the pier to talk, or just a place to go to be alone with your thoughts…… Leave it as it was used by many don’t make it exclusive to a few…..


Well, this note from Grahame Woods offers a challenging proposal for the future of the pier. I agree that the pier should be closed to vehicular traffic (excepting bicycles), that it should be welcoming and enjoyable. How about following the pattern of the pier at the Marina building? Except, of course, on a larger scale. How about many, many large potted trees, large permanent umbrella shelters, sitting benches, along the centre and eastern parts. The western section could still be water related, i.e., accessible still for boat docking and of course a fish cleaning station for the designated fishing area.
And the annual Midway? That could be re-located to either Donegan Park or where the current boat storage is located.
An Ad Hoc Town Commitee would be a wonderful first step, and certainly the Canadian Coast Guard/MP would need a seat at the table, as they are the “entrance-way” to the pier.
I think I saw a nice architectural plan of what I have described, but cannot locate it, but I hope you get the idea.


Great idea but why include bicycles, getting a little tired of allowing some inconsiderate bicycle riders everywhere, would be nice just to enjoy the pier without having to dodge bikes.