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At the October 7 meeting of the Cobourg Council's Committee of the whole, the issue of the 30 acre James Cockburn Park was raised.  Councillor Donna Todd made a motion to have the Town of Cobourg terminate its lease there because of problems related to its use as a park where dog owners could let their dogs off their leashes.  The owner of the Park is the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority (GRCA) and in a letter to the Town, they insisted that dogs remain on their leashes and further that the town increase the enforcement of this.  The town currently pays $200,000 a year to lease the park plus is responsible for the costs of maintenance.

Donna said that the latest lease renewal was in May and a closer examination of the document revealed areas of concern (such as the conservation area being able to dictate bylaw-enforcement terms to the town) that she said her motion was designed to bring to the forefront.

However, Stan Frost objected to Donna's motion saying: "You've provided no hard information as to why it no longer supports the needs of the community …. That park is probably the second-busiest park in our system - for dog people, used by high schools for athletic events, by the Y for day-care events, by joggers, walkers, hikers, photographers.  To remove it from the parks system would create quite a wrench in this community."

He therefore amended the motion so that "the matter be reviewed by town staff in a report to be returned to council."

Councillor Miriam Mutton added that members of the public should also be allowed input on the matter - she said: "There's potential for this area to be many things to many people."

Councillor John Henderson urged that any examination to be made by staff include associated costs (such as maintenance and bylaw enforcement) beyond the lease price itself.

Source: Northumberland Today
See also earlier articles on the dog park.

There are some unanswered questions here:

Why does the town pay $200,000 a year to "lease the park"?  If it simply belonged to the GRCA, would they bar access to people?  What difference would it actually make to anything? Isn't it simply no longer managed by the Town?  What is there to lose by terminating the lease?  Would GRCA put a barbed wire fence around it? And why should dogs be on a leash in this park?  The GRCA says that their policy is that dogs should be on a leash in all their parks - perhaps that's to limit the dogs' interaction with wildlife - but why is that applicable to this park?  If the town did not own the park, how would GRCA enforce their bylaw on leashes?  Would they call in the OPP?

It looks like a full report is needed - Donna wants one in 6 weeks but that may not be long enough.

Update Oct 11, 2013

Stephen Peacock has issued a statement that the $200,000 mentioned as the cost of the James Cockburn park is the annual levy paid by Cobourg to the GRCA and would not change if the lease was terminated.  The only cost to the town for that park is maintenance and bylaw enforcement. Good, we have an answer to one of the questions.


More information - summary/overview

October 11, 2013
Dominik Wisniewski at Northumberland News interviewed Cobourg Councillors Donna Todd and Larry Sherwin, GRCA CAO/secretary-treasurer Linda Laliberte plus some citizens using the park.  As a result there is some additional information which sheds more light on the subject of the use of the James Cockburn Park as an "off the leash" dog park. (Link below)

As reported above, the Town of Cobourg is reviewing the usage of the James Cockburn park keeping in mind that some residents want to use it as an off-leash dog park.  The GRCA is against that and wants to increase enforcement of the by-law that dogs should be on a leash. A few months ago, new signs appeared advising pet owners to keep their dogs on a leash and thereby upped the visibility of the issue.

Dominik reports that:

Larry Sherwin, the co-ordinator of parks and recreation for the Town of Cobourg, a 3.5 acre property located east of the Cobourg Conservation Area could become the town's official dog park.? The land is located between the YMCA parking lot and Oxford Court -- a 40 condominium development along Elgin Street West.? Mr. Sherwin said the proposal is now in the hands of the Town's directors of planning and public works and the chief administrative officer.? "Now it takes on a whole new view as the town has to sign off on this," he said. "I have stepped back until they are done with the process."? He said that staff have met with Oxford Court residents to hear their concerns, while the Town's arborist has completed a tree inventory looking at the impact a dog park could have on the area.? "Right now it's about 3.5 acres but we can look at expanding it to five acres down the road," Mr. Sherwin added. "If it's going to be an off-leash dog park it must be fenced and will be fenced."


With the Town's 20-year lease with the GRCA recently expired and yet to be renewed, councillors called on staff to review what the uses are, existing tree policies and the costs associated with annual maintenance and bylaw enforcement. Currently, municipal staff continues to maintain the park while the conservation authority undertakes projects within its boundaries.

In July, the GRCA and the Town began a Paws for Safety campaign in the park, which included posting no-off-leash signs and advertising that the park is not intended for off-leash dogs. As of Nov. 30, bylaw fines will be issued for those who let their dogs run free in James Cockburn Park.

GRCA CAO/secretary-treasurer Linda Laliberte said that the Town's upcoming review of uses would be in keeping with what the conservation authority did in 2002 when it reviewed its Master Plan.

According to Ms. Laliberte, the Town of Cobourg and the GRCA are looking at a naturalization of the property to make it more of a conservation area and less of a park-like setting.

"All conservation areas are meant for public use, for all users to enjoy," she said.

More details on the report by Dominik Wisniewski here: Northumberland News

So in summary, the town and the GRCA are going to revisit the uses of the James Cockburn Park but a change is not likely.  That means it's unlikely that it will be opened up for use as an off-leash dog park.  If that happens, there is more reason to proceed with the plan to create such a Park on the land between the YMCA parking lot and Oxford Court.  See this article for more on the proposed dog park.


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