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On August 21 at the Council’s Committee of the Whole Meeting, Michael Tocher and Mary Catherine Mehak of thincdesign, presented an update of the Waterfront Project.  They included a summary of work to date which included a survey of residents (although anyone could participate) and four public meetings.  They have established that of the 2000 respondents in the survey, 1226 were actual residents.  They also talked to 24 Town staff and 27 groups (stakeholders).  They reported on the number at the meetings (see details below) and although the average was deemed good at 78, compare this with the total number of voters in Cobourg – 14,709 were eligible in the 2014 election and 7,704 voted.

The "final" recommendations are now slated to be presented at a public meeting on October 26 but it remains to be seen what if any of it the Council will implement before the next election.

Although the progress report provided a lot of meat, more needs to be said about the two big issues:

  • The only recommended changes to the Trailer Park are upgrades and perhaps an increase in prices although it’s clear that few want a hotel there.
  • There is no recommendation about the West headland or West Beach beyond vague statements about keeping it natural.  No follow-up of the Shoreplan ideas from 2014.

Hopefully, these gaps will be filled in October but meanwhile let's look at the participation numbers:


Apart from Municipal Representatives and Stakeholder groups, public participation was:

Survey Numbers

  • 2,000 total:
  • 1,226 residents (61.3%);
  • 12.2% nonresidents;
  • 26.5% unknown

Key Results

  • Less than a majority of Residents (37%), groups (32%) and Businesses (35%) want major changes although a clear majority want more than maintenance.
  • Residents, groups and businesses had similar opinions – for example all agreed that Tourism is important to the Town’s economy:  Residents (80%), Groups (68%),  Businesses (77%)
  • 78% of residents feel Tourists should pay more of the costs and 53% - 65% disagree with paying more property tax, user fees or in combination.

Design Charette Recommendations (100 people): Highlights - not necessarily in order of number of votes

  • A Travel–Lift
  • Adding boat slips to west side of central pier
  • For the Trailer Park: Increase rates and revise policies to be comparable to other campgrounds
  • Parking permits for residents
  • Tiered parking strategy
  • Event shuttle service
  • Parking structure downtown
  • Improved signage and enforcement

Dot exercise in Workshop #4

The recommendations from Workshop 3 were displayed and people were asked to indicate their preferences by using  paper dots that they were given.  Clearly, many of the “recommendations” from the Design Charette (Workshop #3) were not popular.

Selected Highlights – (score out of 10) – note low scores!

  • Enhanced bylaw enforcement (Victoria Beach) 8.6
  • Parking permits for residents 8.6
  • Off-Site Boat Storage 6.4
  • Outdoor Fitness (Victoria Beach) 4.5
  • Event Shuttle Service 3.6
  • Add boat slips to west side of central pier 3.1
  • Food concession / restaurant (East Pier) 3.1
  • Travel Lift 2.4
  • Boat storage reconfiguration 2.1
  • Parking structure downtown 1.9
  • Tiered parking strategy 0.7

There was no option to close the Trailer Park – only to enhance it. This was probably because the online survey had a bare majority of 58% not wanting closure. (See survey results reported at June 27 Meeting). Perhaps the stacking of the survey by Trailer Park supporters had the desired effect although Director Dean Hustwick assured me that results were consistent and did not show signs of bias. (I can't definitively prove it but I believe that supporters of the Trailer Park recruited friends and supporters - or perhaps voted multiple times - so that the survey was at least partially biased by their opinion.) My guess is that despite this study, the Trailer Park will be a key issue at the Council elections in 2018. Note that the good compromise suggested here was not in the presentation but maybe it will re-surface in October. Since this is the single most contentious issue and a big reason for the work, to dismiss the option of closing or making major changes to the Trailer Park is premature. This is a decision that should be made by Council, not by the consultant. Sorry.

Next Steps

A short list of projects will be further designed and refined.

More detailed designs and costing will be prepared and presented October 26 in a dropin at the Community Centre from 1pm to 9pm.


It's worth reading the full report:

Full Consultant’s report to Council (pdf of Powerpoint slides)

Below is a Copy of Comments as of October 7, 2017

I listened to the consultants presentation to the council, and read through their Water Front User Needs ... Council update. In general, it looks like the consultants did a good job at highlighting issues and getting opinions. It will be interesting to see their recommendations for action in their final report.

One thing that will be very important to make crystal clear in their report is how they selected the respondents for their survey. The respondents were not (A) a random sample of Cobourgians, but was (B) based on a subset of Cobourgians coming forward to express an opinion. The advantage of a random sample would be that we would get a better picture of what everyone wanted. However, disadvantage is that a substantive proportion of the general public may not care one way or another, yet still be polled for an opinion. The advantage of polling people who make the effort to express an opinion, is that we get a picture of thinking from people who care most about the waterfront. This disadvantage of this latter approach is that it is—to some unknown degree—a biased representation of the population of Cobourg as a whole.

Both of the above perspectives are useful, but it is important to be very clear where the data is coming from, because the results from these two populations of respondents could be quite different. Does that matter?

The report should justify their methodology, and explain why they chose one method of sampling over another, or didn't apply both random and selective sampling.

Quote Reply

That is an excellent point. Perhaps more important is a detailed understanding of how they determined that "2000 respondents in the survey, 1226 were actual residents". Is that assessment based on where they claimed to live, on IP address or...? Did some respondents vote multiple times? Were the multi-vote responses removed from the survey results? Why should non-residents have any say in what Cobourg taxpayers do? Without fully addressing these questions the survey results are meaningless.

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Hello Dubious;

I would not say that the results are meaningless. In fact, I think results are quite interesting, and can be used for decision-making. However, in my view, the results strictly apply to a subset of people living in Cobourg. If we apply the results to the whole of Cobourg, we should be aware that we are extrapolating, and that there are weaknesses in that argument. When making decisions about the waterfront, it is up to the Town Council to judge whether those decisions will have broad support.

Apart from broad issues around the waterfront, there are also regional concerns that may not be covered in the current study. What goes on at Lucas Point Park matters most to the people that live there, just as what happens to Monks Cove matters most to the people that live around there.

The current study may be a stepping stone; a useful stepping stone, but just a stepping stone.

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Of course different areas of town have different priorities and that needs to be taken into account. My concern is that survey participants who don't live in ANY area of Cobourg are being considered. In addition, if some participants voted multiple times that will seriously distort the conclusions. Until those two questions are definitively addressed the reported results are useless for decision making.

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With regard to methodology, the concern about potential bias suggests that random sampling may need to be bigger part of methodology in similar future processes. Weighting the consultation process in favour of identified stakeholder groups can be part of the problem of bias if not handled well. I agree that people who live nearer a smaller waterfront park may find it more important than the main central waterfront area. So, how to prioritize focus and ultimately, spending? And, expecting that citizens are mostly members of some organized group or other and then relying on a representative of that formalized organization or group to speak for all its members at every step of the consultation process may dilute valuable input from informed and interested people. In my view, identifying stakeholders is more about ensuring communication and constructive dialogue and less about seeking consensus or compromise with the biggest voices.

Good observations, Julien.

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Acccusing people of rigging the votevin favour of the trailer park is bs!! Director Hustwick is obviously bias against the park and should resign from his position for the outlandish claim.

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Bruce, Director Hustwick was adamant that the survey was NOT rigged - don't blame him. I am the one who is suggesting that.

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Typical reaction from you-know-whom.
Villainy in high places.
Off with his head!

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Cornbread - I'm hoping you are being sarcastic....

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58 out of 100 versus 42 out of 100 is 38% sarcasm intended...just regular math.

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Pardon me, but 58% is not just a bare majority...58 versus 42 is a 38% the math.

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People interested in the consultant's presentation to Council can hear it on the Town of Cobourg facebook page under videos ... the waterfront master plan presentation is near the start of the 2 hour plus video of the August 21 Council Committee of the Whole meeting and before the public meeting videos. Apparently, there is technical problems with the civicweb livestreaming of council meetings so both live and recorded meetings can be viewed live on facebook and you do not have to sign in. The powerpoint slides can not be seen on the facebook video but follow along using download link in article above.

I did not get the idea there was anything vague about the direction for the west headland and west beach. It scored 10/10 as top item in the dot exercise. It also appeared to me that the consultant made significant effort to present results fairly given some of the highly contentious, or popular, topics.


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