Environmental concerns linger after Rotary RibFest gets approval

By Robert Washburn

Despite concerns raised about potential damage to trees in Victoria Park, Cobourg council gave its blessing to the annual event Monday night.

In approving a permit to hold the 2011 RibFest in Victoria Park this summer, concerns about the environmental impact of the event were raised at the committee of the whole on May 9.  RibFest is a BBQ competition amongst several professional chefs, along with a bazaar and concerts. Councillor Miriam Mutton said the cookers used by the BBQs send heat, steam and oil into the air, stressing the leaves and trees. Also, spillage from the units also goes into the ground, damaging the lawns and the tree root systems. It can take up to five years before evidence of damage will be noticeable, she said.

“I feel quiet strongly that we cannot jeopardize an asset that would take a century to replace,” she said in an interview following the committee meeting.

Deputy Director of Public Works Barry Thrasher said the town’s arborist shares Ms. Mutton’s concerns. She is also a landscape architect and a member of the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects, along with the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects.

But, one week later, Mutton voted in favour of the event permit and did not reiterate her concerns.

“Nothing changed,” she said. “I made my point. Ideally, over the course of the next few weeks these concerns can be addressed.”

She was never opposed to the event and just wants some minor changes in the placement of the cookers away from the trees, Mutton said in an interview Wednesday.

It is up to Councillor Larry Sherwin, who is responsible for the parks and recreation portfolio, to take the concerns forward and have them addressed, she added.

Rotary RibFest 2011 Chairman Denis Deziel came before the committee on April 19 with a presentation outlining the advantages of the event, which draws about 30,000 people. He said the Rotary club donates more than $189,000 to local causes.

In his presentation, Deziel said the club wants to stay in Victoria Park and not be moved to another location.

“And, we are well aware of our responsibility as stewards of the park during our festival. We are very thorough in our efforts to make sure there are no remnants of our usage – we leave the park in excellent shape, and within a week or two the park is like new. There has never been any permanent damage to the ground from our festival,” he said in his report.

Lara Scott, the tourism event coordinator, said Rotary has done an economic impact study of RibFest.

In 2010, one local resident took pictures of Victoria Park after the RibFest showing damage to the grounds and garbage.

Mutton said she would be pursuing the matter, as well through her portfolio under public works.


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