Interest Groups

Cobourg is fortunate in having one of the most beautiful harbours on Lake Ontario. Currently there is a proposal to expand the marina slips to put new boat slips west of the central pier. This would take space away from user groups, which include the dragon boaters, junior canoeist and kayakers, junior sailors and the Surviver Thrivers Dragon Boat Team who need the water to practice and train in the summer months. Presently the area has been left in its natural condition and naturalists, photographers, walkers and the general public come to admire the view year round. Here are the views of these interest groups. Councillors have been invited to state their position.

What Interest Groups have to Say

The Cobourg Taxpayer
New boat slips are not needed. Presently there are about sixty vacant boat slips. If the Marina Manager were to introduce and enforce a process requiring sailors to sublet their slips when they are not being used the Marina would immediately have sixty new slips available at no cost.

At the July 9 meeting at the Old Bailey the Marina Manager explained that one justification for expanding the number of boat slips is to generate revenue to pay for the maintenance of the infrastructure. The Marina is planning to raise $2.5m as a debenture to be paid back with the revenue from these new slips. This revenue is considered a sure thing with no risk. However if the Port Hope proposal to add an additional 137 boat slips to the area goes ahead, the new slips may not be filled, the expected revenue will not materialise, and the Cobourg taxpayer will be on the hook to pay back the debenture. The financial evaluation is riddled with loopholes.

Maintenance and upkeep of the infrastructure should be paid from the Marine account, and if there is a shortfall then it should be covered by increasing the user fees, not by making a huge capital investment with the vague hope that it will generate the required revenue.

Survivor Thrivers
The Survivor Thriver Dragon Boat Club, besides being one of the top Survivor Thriver teams in the country provides hope, emotional support and competitive challenge to women with breast cancer. They have participated in international events in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Singapore, South Africa and Malaysia. This year they plan to go to Sarasota to attend the International Breast Cancer Paddling Commission’s Participatory Races. They have worked hard all winter to train for this, working out in the gym lifting weights, developing cardio fitness, and refining their paddling techniques. At a typical dragon boat festival, after their final race, the boats gather for a simple but moving ceremony where each crew member cast a single carnation into the water in memory of their colleagues who have died. They need a straight 500 metre race course to practice and they are very concerned about whether their team will be able to keep going if boat slips are added west of the central pier.

Willow Beach Field Naturalists
It has become clear that most of the citizens of Cobourg value their harbour and the surrounding area highly and like it the way it is. Bill Watson, the head of Public Works, says it is the nicest harbour on Lake Ontario. So what is the problem?

Problem: One seasonal user group, the Yacht Club, which already occupies a good chunk of the harbour, wishes to greatly expand by adding 120 permanent boat slips and necessitating the expansion of existing parking and boat storage. This would have to be done at the expense of the majority of other users, many of them year-round users. Boat slips west of the centre pier would ruin the harbour for dragon-boating, canoeing, kayaking and small sailing craft. It would also greatly diminish the value of the open water to the significant resident and transient waterfowl. The scenic and heritage value of the harbour would also be compromised. Walkers and nature lovers are by far the biggest group of year-round users and they come to the parking area to admire the view, not to look at masts, permanent boat docks, “dedicated lifting wells,” parking areas and boat storage yards.

The people of Cobourg do not want this expansion. My feeling is that the mayor and council have severe reservations against over-expansion. They are the decision makers but it is clear that some of the town staff lean towards the Yacht Club in backing Phase II and III. It will be interesting to see who really runs the town.

If boat slips are added west of the centre pier, deep dredging will be required every year to keep open the channel to just east of the West Headland. This narrow and busy channel is used by dragon boats, canoes, kayaks, small sailing craft and occasional swimmers – an accident waiting to happen. And what will happen if the province once again forbids us to pump the dredging materials back into the lake? No one wants a repeat of the experience of the summer of 2013 when all the material was dumped on the west headland and then had to be trucked away at great expense.

Marina expansion involves expensive permanent infra-structure not required by any group other than yacht owners. The needs of the dragon-boaters, canoers, kayakers, birders, walkers and nature admirers are few, entirely unobtrusive, and relatively inexpensive.

Dragon Boaters
The Dragon Boat Club has been in existence since about 2000 when it evolved from the Survivor Thrivers. It has several teams including a women’s team, an over 50 team, and a recreational team. These teams have competed in various dragon boat festivals and also competed in the 2006 World Championship in Toronto. Members of the club have also competed in major dragon boat festivals worldwide. They are very concerned that the club will fold if they do not have proper space to practice. They are also concerned that their annual Challenge the Dragon fund raiser for the United Way – which raises nearly $40k – will fold.

Kayak and Canoeists
The Canoe Kayak section of the Cobourg Dragon Boat and Canoe Club club has only been in existence since 2010. It is now one of the best Canoe Kayak Clubs in Canada! In 2011 they won 8 Gold Medals at the Provincial Championships. In 2012 Provincial Championship they were second overall and in 2013 Provincial Championships they were first overall in points. The club has come from being a start-up to top club status almost overnight thanks to head coach Jeremy Fowlie, who as a competitor had won 12 medals at National Canoe Kayak Championships, and has applied his expertise and enthusiasm to developing the club. This club has had an enormous impact on the lives of our young people in Cobourg. One example is the experience of two sons of local teacher Norm Clapp (Morgan and Isaac) who have learned that it takes a hard work to achieve goals and remain competitive. They have learned how to coach others and learned the value of volunteer work and have made lasting friendships. One of their junior members has aspirations to be an Olympian!