Luster fades for Cobourg harbour

By Cecilia Nasmith

Cobourg harbour is no longer the jewel of the Lake Ontario shoreline, boater John King warned council at this week's committee-of-the-whole meeting.

Speaking on behalf of the users of the town's marina, he warned of the need to recognize the responsibility to maintain and manage effectively this asset to ensure boaters get the services they contract for with their dock leases.

King has seen the changes over 10 years of using the marina and has recently been discussing his concerns with fellow boaters. Out of these talks, he has identified some of their most pressing concerns. These include infrastructure, Wifi, staff training, security and parking, However, the marina cutting off electrical power during periods of high water heads the list.

The marina had to cope with high water in 2017 and 2019, and can reasonably expect to have to cope with it in the future, King predicted.

“No one knows what the new normal is. That leads us to more power issues,” he said.

“No power means no light, no video cameras, no security.”

It also exacerbates the tripping hazards that have begun to arise at the marina. Over the last two years, he said, two boaters have fallen into the water within 20 ft, of his boat, one of whom spent two days in the hospital.

As well, too many boaters have compensated for the situation with generators – which is, strictly speaking, not allowed. But then, neither is leaving around gas cans and other tripping hazards.

“Marina rules are ignored by the boaters and ignored by the marina. It's the wild west and vigilante justice on the docks,” he stated.

“Without power, boats are leaving to go to other marinas. Other marinas are offering bounties and finders' fees of up to $1,000.”

Boater Torben Drewes, a Peterborough resident who has docked in Cobourg for 16 years, had other figures to add. While marina statistics indicate there were 1,797 visitor days in 2019, that compares to 2,667 in 2018.

Each loss of a visitor day is lost revenue for the town, Drewes pointed out. But it must not be forgotten that a healthy marina adds to the enjoyment of the town's residents as well as its visitors. Somehow, he said, this facility must be flood-proofed.

King's suggestion for the town is to raise the power lines above the high-water level.

“I respectfully ask that the necessary power-line changes be made prior to the 2020 boating season – and a process for on-going communications problems. Identifying problems and resolutions will benefit all parties – the boaters, the marina, the local businesses and the town.”

A first step came later in the meeting, with Councillor Adam Bureau's motion that Kirkland Engineering Ltd. be engaged (at a fee of $4,800 plus non-refundable HST of $84.43) to perform a condition assessment of the harbour and marina electrical system and to develop budget cost estimates for future upgrades to the electrical system to be considered for the 2020 capital budget deliberations.

Marina director Paul Gauthier said he believed Kirkland could complete the task in six to eight weeks. Whether the town could afford the work recommended in the report all at once is another matter, director of community services Dean Hustwick added.

The estimate will depend not only on how complicated the upgrades are, but also on future waterfront improvements planned under the Waterfront User Needs Assessment (such as the recommended replacement of the existing marina building).

In the end, Hustwick said, recommendations arising out of the Kirkland report can be prioritized and implemented over more than one year.