2023 A Year of Triumphs and Tragedies in Northumberland County

In Editor Choice, Local, Photo Gallery

2023 was another year of triumphs and tragedies.

It’s hoped that COVID will be a thing of the past in 2024, but is still hanging on.

Today’s Northumberland tried to cover news events in the area as best we could.

There were the annual events that inspired us of the effort and love people had for their families.

Brian Connors 15th annual swim across Rice Lake on August 26 raising money for Defeat Duchenne Canada in honour of his two brothers.

Alnwick/Haldimand Township’s Valerie Coatham bringing home five gold medals from the International Dragon Boat Festival in August.

Port Hope’s, Nick Weiss and the Buffalo Bandits taking the National Lacrosse League title on June 3.

Zoe Bergeron representing Canada at the Canoe Marathon World Championships in August.

And many triumphs of other kinds, like Alnwick/Haldimand Township firefighters walking from (Rice) Lake to Lake (Ontario).

And the stories that captured the hearts of the community like the fawn who was stuck in the yard of a Cobourg residence on Spring Street. Last we heard the fawn had been taken away and was doing well at a facility.

Hollywood was once again in Port Hope filming another storyline from IT on Walton Street.

In January, one last Freedom Convoy came through the area along Highway 401.

In June, Chris Janson put on a spectacular show at the Cobourg Community Centre and throughout the year the Capitol Theatre put on a number of amazing shows including Little Shop of Horrors.

Waterfowl at Nawautin Sanctuary, to butterflies in Garden Hill.

The Sandcastle Festival, along with the SkyHawks along Cobourg Beach to the trout swimming up the Ganaraska River.

The dotting of the eye started the Dragon Boating in Cobourg in May.

The restoration of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Cobourg was complete and in April the cross dedicated to much loved community member Patricia Perkin was placed back in the church.

OPP officers took part in a 42-kilometre Walk for the Wounded from Hastings to Cobourg in August.

Ending the season of skiing in March at the Brimacombe Ski Club in Durham, adventurers tried to make it across the pond.

The annual Castleton Pet Parade in December had a number of animals take part through the streets.

Port Hope and Cobourg Police officers trained in September at a former school in Welcome while members of the Canadian Coast Guard trained on Lake Ontario with members of 424 Search and Rescue Squadron in July.

Finally with COVID hopefully in the past, members of Fern Blodgett Sunde’s family were able to take part in a statue dedication in Cobourg in April. Blodgett Sunde was born in Cobourg and was the first Canadian female wireless operator.

A father gave his young daughter about sacrifice at the annual Remembrance Day Service in Cobourg.

In September smoke from a transport fire in Cramahe Township gave a silhouette of firefighters going into battle.

A close call for Northumberland Hills Hospital was when a vehicle went through the front entrance in August. Thankfully no one was seriously injured.

The Coast Guard came to the rescue for a boater after strong winds dragged the anchor across the Cobourg Harbour and into the east pier in August.

Some of the strange things over the year were the number of people that ventured out to the lighthouse during a day in August even though numerous signs state clearly the area is off limits.
And there were tragedies in our area.

Senseless damage to St. George’s Church in Gores Landing in October where one or more people broke into the church and caused damage.

One person is facing a charge of arson after a dumpster fire at the Northumberland Humane Society Thrift Store in Cobourg in October.

A suspicious fire after a barn went up in flames along County Road 2 in Cobourg.

Fires in April in Roseneath lead to a person being charged and currently before the courts.

Cobourg isn’t immune to violence with the front door of the window being smashed at the Cobourg Police Station in September, while Cobourg Police have no updated in relation to numerous “pellets” being fired at Pizza Pizza in the early morning hours of September.

Tragedy in August after a Toronto man went for a swim off the east pier and despite frantic efforts of witnesses and emergency services the man died. A husband and wife were walking out to their sailboat tied to the east pier when they heard the man shouting for help.  While the woman ran to get help from the Coast Guard, the man got the life ring off his sailboat and tossed it to the man in the water.  Tragically the man was a few metres from reaching the life ring and soon went under.

The top three stories over the year had to be:
3 Major fires Foodland in Colborne in May and Beyond the Blue Box in September in Cobourg.

The fire at Foodland in Colborne caused nearly two million dollars in damage and the community rallied around to work out changes for the only major food store in  the community.

In September a major fire destroyed one of the Beyond the Blue Box buildings and its contents in Cobourg.

Beyond the Blue Box first opened in 1992 and the not-for-profit store has been giving back to the community ever since.

Employees could only watch from a nearby parking lot as members of the Cobourg Fire Department did their best to extinguish the flames.

Through hard work by employees two new locations are up and running on King Street East near McGill Streets until repairs can be made at the Covert Street location.


2. The encampments
Like most towns and cities across Canada and beyond, Cobourg is not immune to encampments sprouting up.

Any number of reasons have and will be attributed to why there are encampments. But within the encampments there is a criminal culture in some areas. Police, fire and paramedics have been at the encampments on a regular basis while the town struggles what to do. In August shots were fired at an encampment along the west beach. And the fire department has been called out on numerous occasions for fires at the encampment areas throughout Cobourg.

The encampment has been set up at the former Brookside Youth Centre for several months while town officials struggle to find out how to deal with the issue.

Infrastructure Ontario who controls the property has been almost non-existent explaining the situation.

Northumberland County has regularly started there is on average 17 rooms, but for various reasons the homeless don’t want to use them.


1. Ashley Jansen is a former educational assistant in Durham who was charged in 2022 with sexual assault and sexual interference with a student.

In a Oshawa Court on November 24, 2023, Jansen was found not guilty and was herself a victim of a false allegation.

There was provincial media attention garnered when the charges were released, but Today’s Northumberland was the only one who was there when the verdict was rendered.

Jansen’s lawyer, Alan Richter said at the time that too often cases like this happen and his client has suffered “immeasurable trauma.”

He’s right and we can only wish Jansen and her family the strength she has endured since the charges to carry on in her life.

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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