It’s been a decision hanging over council for weeks: close its main tourist attraction or keep Victoria Beach open with Emergency Management and Civil Protections Act (EMCPA) restrictions enforced.
Last month, council opted to keep it open for walk-through traffic, which then opened up further on May 23 to non-contact, unorganized sport or activity only.
After a 2.5 hour special council session on Monday afternoon, council ultimately decided to close the beach until the end of August due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“I felt this was important in the current situation to close the beach,” said coun. Aaron Burchat. “With the end date of August 31, that’s a council meeting, council can extend the fencing. By that time, hopefully we have an idea of what the children are doing, if they’re going back to school and what’s the province is doing.”
“That’s after our busy season. So hopefully we can ease back out of this and reopen the beach because the tourist season would be essentially over at that point.”
The vote was recorded and it was unanimous to close the beach until Aug. 31.
“I regret having to close the beach, but we have to close it at least for a temporary time to give staff the time to handle the logistics,” added coun. Brian Darling.
“I, too, agree that the beach needs to be closed down,” said coun. Adam Bureau. “I couldn’t have that on my conscience if we kept it opened and someone got sick and die. That would be horrible. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
In all, there were five delegations and 26 letters of correspondence on the council agenda.
Some spoke for closing the beach, while others wanted to keep it open.
Dennis Nabieszko, the president of the Cobourg Taxpayers Association, urged council to close the beach for the rest of 2020, citing more than 1600 signatures he received on a petition supporting his ask.
“They all want you to keep them safe. It should be your only priority,” he said.
He said 82 per cent of the signatures were from Cobourg residents while 97 per cent were from Northumberland County residents.
Cobourg resident Dilys Robertson asked council to close the beach to anyone who doesn’t live in Cobourg.
Cobourg resident Tamara Ugolini, meanwhile, urged council to reject the Cobourg Taxpayers Association petition and asked them to keep the beach open.
Council has now instructed staff to implement the closure of the beach until Aug. 31 and install fencing, barriers with emergency access points.
Police and bylaw officers will continue with an increased enforcement at the beach.
“It would start right away, and I can’t speak for police, but we would provide a zero tolerance for this as well,” said municipal clerk Brent Larmer. “If we find anyone on the other side of the fencing, we would issue a trespass to property ticket.”
“It would be zero tolerance with effective signage that meets the provincial legislation for the Trespass to Property Act,” added police chief Paul VandeGraaf.
Staff will return a report to council on June 22 with any statistics of waterfront-area activities and any other areas of concern that arise due to the beach closure.
The report will also advise the town on how it could reopen the beach with restricted use along with the costing estimates associated with reopening it.
This closure will not impact Victoria Park or the boardwalk at the beach.
Council amended the motion to install signage on all road entry points into town as well as on the 401 advising of the closure, pending approval from the Ministry of Transportation.
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