Cobourg Mayor Peter Delanty took on Councillor Bob Spooner only a day after derogatory remarks were made about visitors to the town’s waterfront.
The mayor contradicted Spooner in Northumberland Today, saying tourists coming to Cobourg on the weekend contribute to the local economy and do not cause a lot of problems, contrary to popular opinion.
Spooner said tourist are leaving trash not dollars in the previous day’s paper. Both were responding to coverage of August Civic Holiday weekend (James Cockburn Day) in Cobourg when Victoria Beach was packed. A story contained photographs of illegal tents, barbeques, trash bins overflowing and parking problems. No tickets were issued.
Spooner said recent promotional articles in the mainstream media and tourism promotion are to blame for the huge numbers visiting the town. But, he shrugged and said nothing can be done to change it. Without blinking an eye he basically admitted there is nothing the town is prepared to do. As co-ordinator of recreational services, Spooner is responsible for this portfolio. He is also not running for council in the next municipal election this fall.
Delanty countered the portrayal of tourist as a negative, saying people do come from Victoria Park and the beach into teh downtown. He noticed people purchasing gas and stimulating the economy.
Cobourg police chief Paul Sweet said there is an ongoing problem with open liquor bottles, but efforts are being made to crack down.
Despite the arguments on both sides, this is not dealing with concerns raised by residents. People feel they are paying taxes for the clean up and use of public lands that no longer are their sole domain. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence about people ignoring local bylaws and of leaving trash and other problems (like using people’s lawns as a washroom).
There are several very serious issues that are not being addressed.
With the huge crowds, one has to wonder about safety. It should not take a child drowning to force the YMCA to increase the number of guards on weekends. The beach is so packed and it must be very hard for lifeguards to keep track. A tragedy should not be the reason for a response because it will only be a kneed-jerk and likely a draconian response.
Next is the parking issue. Ticketing is not the only solution, although stubborn or rude offenders should feel the pain of the local bylaws. A parking alternative is needed. Possibly parking cars off-site and providing a shuttle service would be one answer. But, again, status quo does not work; nor is it a solution. There is lots of evidence visitors do not care about breaking the parking bylaws. Something must be done proactively and now.
Finally, where are all the entrepreneurs in Cobourg. The DBIA and local businesses are not making any extraordinary efforts to attract customers or to engage tourist. Where are the umbrella concessions, the food carts and so forth. Giving the concession stand a monopoly is no longer fair or viable. If crowds continue to come, then there needs to be some latitude for creativity.
The resolution of the waterfront issue is going to be front and centre during the election this fall. Still nothing from the candidates on such a vital issue. This is not a good sign and let’s hope residents are not pandered to with patronizing solutions rather than a real plan.