Marina policy could help keep sails in the city

By Andrew Serba

Updated 37 minutes ago

Cold Lake City council will consider adopting a new policy that will govern the use and administration of the Cold Lake Marina.

It could also make an allowance for slip space for the Cold Lake Sailing Association, a group that says its survival is threatened by low numbers.

City staff presented a draft of the policy at council’s Jan. 17 Corporate Priorities meeting.

The policy was drafted from a need to “…formalize the rules in regard to the use of the Marina facility, its hours of operation and the boat slip allocation process,” reads background information provided to councillors.

The policy, as drafted, seeks to “… promote the safe and efficient operation of the Cold Lake Marina and to provide equitable service for all boaters and the general public,” the policy reads. “ The intent of this policy is also to confirm the City’s commitment to the concept of sustainable development and protection of the environment.”

While city councillors discussed the policy as drafted by city staff, they also considered a letter sent from the Cold Lake Sailing Association. The letter stated that the association’s numbers have been slipping over the years, and asked for a freeze on the number of sailboats granted access to slips at the facility.

Currently, a dozen sailboats have been allocated slips and while about 150 boat owners are on the waiting list for a slip, only one of those on the list owns a sailboat.

The sailing association’s letter, signed by Commodore Joyce Foreman, said that the association peaked at 32 sailboats in 1999 and that, if the current trend continues, she expects only two to three sail boats to have a slip at the marina by 2020.

Foreman’s letter states that the association, which is run on a non-profit basis, was able to host sailing races and events that attracted boats from across the province.

The association’s members also work to hold sailing clinics for community members and in 1999, the group drew as many as 40 people each Wednesday in the sailing season to participate in racing. The majority of the participants were not boat owners and were able to experience sailing as a sport for free, Foreman’s letter states.

“We realize that most people consider it fair to give every boater, power, sail or otherwise, an equal chance at acquiring slips,” the letter reads.

“We respect that. We are however asking the City of Cold Lake to consider a freeze on the current number of registered sailboats in the marina or a minimum number of 12, whichever is higher, so that as an organized group of individuals and a sports organization, we can simply survive.”

While some councillors raised concerns over what the general public would think if a certain group of boat owners were given priority for marina slips over others, council on the whole was supportive of allowing city staff to come up with a scheme where sail boat owners would have priority over a certain number of slips. Whether such an accommodation will make it into the final policy will be discussed at a future council meeting.

Councillor Kelvin Plain has been involved in the sport of sailing and told council that there is a basis for giving sailboats some form of accommodation.

“You have to appreciate that you can’t just take these boats out of the water,” he said. “You need to take all of the rigging down, you need to take the main sails down, it’s not just driving up with your loader and out it goes. I think we have to accommodate all of the groups and I don’t have a problem with allocating a certain number of slips to sailboats…if you’re putting a sailboat in the water, you’re putting it in for the season or for a couple of weeks.”

Councillor Chris Vining noted that making an accommodation for sailboats will not necessarily save the sport or the local group.

“It sounds to me that they’re just involved in a sport that has got seriously declining numbers,” he said. “I don’t see an issue that needs a special accommodation in the policy.”

City chief administrative officer Kevin Nagoya said that any accommodation, if approved by council, would be made in such a way that no slips would go unfilled if the number of sailboat owners did not meet the number of slips reserved for such boats. He also noted that while space is already a priority, the issue will only grow as the city replaces the piers over the next three years.

The city plans to replace two piers a year and, when the work is done, fewer slips will be available as the new piers will have larger slips to accommodate larger boats that are being registered.

The marina currently has 265 slips and about 150 boats on the waiting list for a slip to open up. Once the pier replacement continues, the total number of slips at the marina will decrease.

Plain noted that the size of the boats at the marina has grown steadily and warned council that the policy may one day have to reflect that – even to the point of establishing minimum sizes for boats that can be registered for a slip.

“I think the bigger issue that we are going to face is that people are buying bigger boats,” he said. ”That’s the demographic in the area, everyone works hard and want to play hard and have the biggest toys…in the area.”

“The 18-and-a-half foot boat that the marina was designed for is a dying breed,” he later added. “It’s just not there anymore.”

During the budget negotiations held late last year, a number of councillors pushed for plans to expand the marina.

Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland said that while such an expansion can take years to get approval from the federal government, expanding the marina would be the best step towards shortening the waiting list and improving one of the city’s greatest recreational assets.

“Councillor Plain is right, the boats we are seeing at the marina are bigger,” Nagoya said. “These new piers are going to have to be wider so that the boats can manoeuvre and so that there’s enough room between the boats. In order to accommodate for that, we are going to have to bump a few boats. We don’t have the final design for the pier replacement, so we don’t know how many spaces are going to be lost.”

“Council has committed to try and figure out how to expand the marina,” Copeland said. “When the consultant or whoever gets hired to look at that comes, they will take a look at all of the user groups and figure out how to fit all of these monster boats in the marina…we are marketed as the city of sails and I would hate for people to think that we are not encouraging sailing at the marina.”

Another draft of the Cold Lake Marina Operations and Allocation policy, including possible accommodations that can be made for sailboats, will be brought to city council at a future date.

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