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Strong response to Cobourg waterfront survey

Cecilia Nasmith

By Cecilia Nasmith, Northumberland Today

Dean Hustwick

Dean Hustwick

COBOURG - 

The report delivered at last week’s committee-of-the-whole session of Cobourg council by consultants working on the Waterfront User Needs Assessment and Detailed Design had many details to offer, as well as one thundering specific: this town really cares about its waterfront.

That emerged clearly following their presentation, when Councillor Brian Darling posed a question to Michael Tocher of the thincdesign firm.

They’d had 2,000 survey responses during the process, Darling pointed out.

“In your opinion, is that a fair representation of the community, based on results you have had in other communities,” he wondered.

“I think it is absolutely the best response I have ever had on a survey in any community,” Tocher stated.

“Having a self-directed survey, we were amazed at how many people responded to us. A good response is maybe 350 to 400 — that would be considered an amazing response in itself.”

Tocher was joined by colleague Mary Catherine Mehak in making the presentation on their work to confirm a community vision for the waterfront, implement related components of the Parks Master Plan, update and consolidate waterfront policies and guidelines, and produce a detailed waterfront plan that included goals, objectives and implementation strategy.

Along with the survey, consultation so far has included three open-house workshops (each attended by 60 to 90 people), a community design charrette (attended by more than 100) and numerous stakeholder meetings.

The process brought out some important information. For example, 97% of Cobourg’s households use the waterfront, largely for unstructured pursuits such as walking. The top two reasons why they might not wish to use the beach are crowds and parking.

The top 10 objectives that met with the most expressions of support include beach and headland naturalization, general enhancements to Victoria Park, structural repairs (plus seating and look-outs) at the east pier, a formalized pedestrian link between the east and west core waterfront, enhanced bylaw enforcement at the beach, beach-campground interface improvements, parking permits for residents, a viewing platform at the breakwall and a pedestrian walkway on the east pier.

“You definitely heard from the public, so it’s good information to have,” Mayor Gil Brocanier said.

The trailer park will take some figuring out, Councillor Suzanne Seguin said. She had attended the design charrette and found that, for every expression of support, there was a comment against it.

“It’s very important the community hear both sides,” she said.

In an interview held several weeks before the council meeting, director of parks, recreation, culture and tourism Dean Hustwick offered his own comments — including on the astonishing 2,000 survey responses.

“That’s truly extraordinary,” Hustwick stated.

“The consulting firm is the same one that did the waterfront plan for Kingston, and their survey had 600 responses.

“About 85% of those were local residents, Cobourg residents.”

The stakeholder consultation process had been thorough as well, Hustwick added, as they met with every group they could approach and every one that approached them.

“We didn’t say no to anybody,” he said.

The mention of crowds being a deterrent struck a note with Hustwick, who wondered if, in some cases, that might not be an expression of antipathy towards tourism.

Hustwick actually prefers the term visitor, and pointed out that it’s a term that could be applied to any non-resident.

You may think of friends and family members who come to visit as guests, he pointed out. But you’ll probably take them out to a favourite restaurant, find a concert to take them to, go shopping with them, show them the sights — in short, you’d give them the tourist experience.

“There are lots of reasons people visit — business, personal, vacations, friends and family,” he listed.

“They are all visitors, and they are all significant. And many visitors, fortunately, become residents. They come here, see how beautiful it is, and end up moving here.

“Once you move here, you can’t shut the door.”

A final public open house-workshop for is planned for the waterfront project. It will take place from 1 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 26 in the Cameco Room at the Cobourg Community Centre (750 D’Arcy St.).

cnasmith@postmedia.com