Cobourg citizens push for public beach access.

May 17, 2012 - Northumberland News

Cobourg Beach Society hosts conference with like-minded Great Lakes community groups.

The Cobourg Beach Society, a citizens' group, was formed in 2010 in response to concerns over lakefront property owners putting up fences to the waterline and posting of 'No Trespassing' signs on the west beach, starting in 2007, said society president Robert Cairns. Over the past few years, local and out-of-town visitors crossing this area have been harassed, Mr. Cairns said.

"Our goal is creation of a natural pathway along the west beach, below the traditional water line to be regulated, policed and insured by the Town of Cobourg and open to the public," Mr. Cairns told council members at its May 14 meeting. "The Cobourg Beach Society feels that below the traditional waterline, the beach must belong to the citizens of Cobourg."

In the longer term, the group envisions a natural beach pathway from Cobourg to Port Hope, he added.

Many other communities located on the Great Lakes have experienced similar problems regarding public access to their shorelines, Mr. Cairns told council members. To exchange ideas and explore areas of common concern, on May 25 and 26, the society is hosting 'Lake Links', a conference to bring together like-minded citizens' groups from other Ontario communities pushing for public access to their respective Great Lakes' shorelines

The Fort Erie-based citizens' organization, 'Shorewalk' and 'PUBB' (Preserving Use of Balm Beach), a community group from Simcoe County in the southern Georgian Bay region, are expected to take part in the upcoming conference, among others, said Mr. Cairns.

The conference takes place at Legion Recreation Hall, 100 Hibernia St. with informal, meet-and-greet discussions slated for May 25, followed by strategy sessions on May 26, said Mr. Cairns. Members of participating groups will discuss common areas (political activity, legal and corporate support, use of social media and community and youth involvement, as examples) where they can band together to present a united front to regain public access to beaches along the Great Lakes throughout Ontario, he said.
Mr. Cairns also asked Cobourg council for a formal letter of support, directed to Northumberland - Quinte West MPP Rob Milligan, to help reintroduce a private members' bill to allow unhindered, walk-through passage of the Great Lakes shoreline. The bill, introduced by Niagara Liberal MPP, Kim Craitor during the 2004-2007 session at Queen's Park, died on the order table with the 2007 election. The bill was reintroduced during the 2007/2011 parliamentary session, reached second reading, but was again sidelined by the October 2011 election. Council referred the letter-of-support request to parks and recreation staff for a report and recommendation to be presented at the May 22 committee of the whole meeting.

"The bill does not permit people to walk on private property, it does not allow motorized vehicles nor does it confer any liability on the properties being crossed... property owners cannot be sued if someone gets injured," he explained. "What it does do is allow the public to walk along the shoreline while respecting individual property rights."

Mr. Cairns also premiered the first-ever public screening of the Cobourg Beach Society's new movie called 'A Beautiful Beach', which pays tribute to Cobourg's Lake Ontario shoreline as a treasured part of the community that has been enjoyed by the public since the 1800s.

Cobourg Beach Society. COBOURG -- Cobourg Beach Society president Bob Cairns enjoys the beach with his dog Buddy. The society is hosting a Lakes Link conference on May 25 and 26. May 14, 2012. Karen Longwell / Northumberland News.



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