Green Canoe will be located at the beach

By Cecilia Nasmith

Bart Spiewak has requested permission of Cobourg council at this week's committee-of-the-whole session to move his canoe- and stand-up-paddleboard-rental business slightly to the west – from the grounds of the Breakers Motel to the east end of the Victoria Park beach.

This rental business has been operated by Green Canoe Outfitters since 2014 (the year after they opened in downtown Cobourg), offering watercraft out of a tent on private property. They anticipate a higher visibility could increase business enough that they could afford to give the town a 10% cut of profits for the privilege of operating on the beach.

It's a well-established seasonal business, Spiewak said, offering rentals for recreation, for special occasions like birthday parties and in conjunction with local business promotions. They also provide instruction and such programming as paddleboard yoga and paddleboard boot camps.

They serve all ages and all skill levels, he said.

At the end of each season, they sell off their rental stock and begin the next year with new vessels for the summer. They require waivers for all users, as well as the use of personal flotation devices, and they carry $2-million worth of liability insurance.

In return for a cut of the profits, they would like the town's permission to operate on the beach (in a kiosk that follows their guidelines as to structure and location), marketing in alignment with the town's beach and tourism promotions, and permission to post appropriate signage in Victoria Park.

“The biggest thing is, we need on-site storage – if we could store them under one of the guard houses and have our tent beside it,” Spiewak suggested.

Following the presentation, Councillor Emily Chorley made a motion to permit the change of location and locate a seasonal kiosk on the beach for a trial period to run from June 28 through Sept. 2. The motion would instruct chief administrative officer Stephen Peacock to draft a memorandum of understanding (to be approved by council at its June 3 meeting) to deal with location, operating hours, what signage would be permitted, what insurance coverage is required and financial arrangements.

Then, Chorley's motion continued, a report on the trial period would be made to council by Nov. 25. If the project is successful, the operation of such a franchise could be thrown open to other bidders.

Asked if a memorandum of understanding could be ready by June 3, director of community services Dean Hustwick said it might be difficult.

“Generally our purchasing policy would require competitive procurement of services,” Hustwick pointed out.

“There would have to be discussions around lifeguarding, liability and various other activities. It's a lot of things to be considered.”

“This is not our standard practice,” Mayor John Henderson agreed.

“We normally do go through some form of procurement.”

The mayor pointed out that the motion for a June 3 deadline was being made on May 13 – very tight, Hustwick said, recalling the months of negotiations that took place last year for a water park.

“Obviously we have a lot of different parties we would need to consult with, including the YMCA, without knowing their reaction to this. I would say that would be very difficult.”

Another issue Peacock mentioned is that the town's standard requirement for events is $5-million in liability insurance.

“In a perfect world, if you agreed to everything, it would probably take a week. But there are a lot of moving pieces and, if those moving pieces don't fall into place, a week would definitely not be enough time,” Peacock said.

“The logic is, this is a positive activity on our waterfront, and I think this is a service to local resident and businesses as well,” Chorley argued,

“As long as the operation is the appropriate size and scale and these activities are flexible and negotiable, I am willing to see a trial period. And as council begins to think about local businesses being allowed to conduct commercial activities on the waterfront, we've asked staff to report on that process.

“Given time lines for this summer, I think it's difficult to go through that process and have that service up and running before July and August. That's why we have a trial period – to learn from it and move forward for 2020.”

Councillor Brian Darling suggested it might be better to plan a proper procurement-and-bidding process to offer this service, and plan to have it in place for 2020.

“I understand the procurement policy, but I agree with the spirit of Councillor Chorley's motion,” Councillor Nicole Beatty countered.

“I know our insurance premiums for the Town of Cobourg go up whenever we say, 'water,'” Henderson said.

“It's a wonderful concept, but there are a lot of logistics before us.”

“If you wish this to be a trial period, the kiosk could be very modest in size, very temporary, probably a tent and, I am sure, whatever staff could advise a possible storage options,” Chorley ventured.

In the end, Chorley's motion passed, with only Darling and Henderson voting against it.

“So, Director Hustwick, you will have to work with Mr. Peacock to see what you can do – and share with council where you are in the process and if you need more time,” the mayor commented.