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Ferry service set to resume Monday to Toronto Island

NITISH BISSONAUTH | posted Monday, Jul 31st, 2017

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Ferry service for parts of the Toronto Islands and Centreville resumed on Monday morning, as the island officially opened for the season.

“Our city staff … worked incredibly hard to keep people safe and to protect these lands so we could open as soon as possible,” Mayor John Tory said at the ferry docks on Monday morning.

Tory also thanked the Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA), saying that “every single division, every available person, was working on this.”

For businesses impacted by the closure due to spring flooding, the opening is a huge sigh of relief. Captain Paul Dawson of The Otter Guy Water Taxi service is hopeful a return to business will help mitigate the losses he’s suffered so far this summer.

“It’s been really tough. I had to find other work,” said Dawson of his ‘dream job’.

“I didn’t think of doing anything else this summer. It’s my first year doing this and the island being flooded, it’s extremely disappointing”

Dawson says the water taxi businesses have struggled to stay afloat.

“This year we’ve had to do other things – Skyline tours, Ducky tours when the rubber duck was here – it’s been completely different. Wasn’t part of our business model, (but) we’ve had to adjust.”

The Island Cafe on Ward’s Island is hoping to make up for lost dollars after a slow start to the summer.

“It’s been a rough year,” said Max Kelly, a server at the café. “We think that because of the excitement of the island opening and people excited about coming over, when you miss something, you miss it so much when its gone. Now that its open, we think there’s going to be extra rushes of people coming over to enjoy the island.”

Access to the island has been limited since May due to unprecedented flooding, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 1970’s.

The damage was so extensive that by the end of May, over 45,000 sandbags, a thousand meter bags and 27 industrial pumps had been deployed by City and TRCA staff to protect residents and assets on the Island.

Dejan Ristic, who lives on the island, says he’s never seen a summer without tourists until this year. While he says it’s a quiet and peaceful change, it’s about time people come back and enjoy the island.

“Not everyone can afford a cottage up north, this is the next best thing,” says Ristic.

According to a report by the city’s general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, the flooding on the islands will cost the city about $4.88-million in lost ferry revenue and permit cancellations through the end of July.

Had the Island remained closed through the end of August, that would have resulted in an additional loss of $2.23 million

Mayor John Tory is expected to be on hand Monday morning as the first ferry leaves from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal for Centre Island at 8 a.m. Centreville is scheduled to open at noon. As for the water taxis, they’re planning on having extra boats to accommodate all the crowds expected to head to the islands.

10 Things You Need to Know 
List courtesy the City of Toronto

1. Services resume on Monday, July 31
Public access to the park, summer schedule ferry service and recreation programs such as summer camps will resume Monday morning. The first ferry will depart from the mainland to Ward’s Island at 6:30 a.m. and from the mainland to Centre Island at 8 a.m.

2. Get your ferry tickets in advance to avoid the lineups
Online ticket sales for the ferry service is available here. Island visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance to avoid lineups at the ticket kiosk at the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal. Additional staff will be in place tomorrow to provide quicker service and help visitors navigate their way from ticketing to boarding.

3. Know when to go
The peak period for lineups at the terminal is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Plan your arrival at the ferry for outside these hours to avoid the crowds. Check with @TorontoPFR on Twitter for updates on wait times and ferry schedules.

4. Hit the beach, island-style!
All beaches on Toronto Island Park – Centre Island Beach, Hanlan’s Point Beach and Ward’s Island Beach – will be open, however, some portions of beaches will be in a reduced state. Lifeguards will be on duty from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. (And remember, a portion of Hanlan’s Point Beach is clothing optional.)

5. Some areas may still be affected by flooding
Some areas of Toronto Island Park, such as Olympic Island, are still experiencing flooding impacts and remain closed. Signs clearly indicate areas that are closed and members of the public are cautioned to avoid restricted areas for their own safety.

6. There’s so much to do on the islands
Businesses on the island are expected to resume normal business operations on Monday. Centreville Theme Park will be open and details are available here. There’s also the Franklin Children’s Garden, William Meany Maze, canoe, kayak and pedal boat rentals from The Boat House, wading pools, splash pads, fishing, bicycle rentals and more. The park also features restaurants, cafés and tons of picnic spots. Learn about all of the Toronto Island Park amenities here and plan your fun-filled visit. While you’re there, visit the new information centre on Centre Island for more program, service and other visitor information.

7. There are going to be crowds
Last year, there were more than 1.46 million visitors to the park, which is considered one of the gems of the city’s park system and one of the city’s most popular attractions during the summer. Many residents feel summer isn’t complete without a visit to Toronto Island Park and have been anxiously awaiting the reopening since May when the islands were restricted due to flooding. Warm-weather weekends typically see more than 20,000 people a day on the islands. Plan your visit accordingly.

8. Event permits will resume, but it will take time
Island park permits are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis and City staff will continue to work with permit holders directly to provide any available options for rescheduling or relocating their events if affected by the parts of the park that remain closed. Permits that cannot be rescheduled or relocated will be refunded through the usual process. Permit holders should call 311 for assistance.

9. They weren’t always islands
The cluster of seven islands referred to as Toronto Island Park were not always islands. They were originally a series of continuously moving sandbars and eroded stone from the Scarborough Bluffs that were carried westward by Lake Ontario currents. By the early 1800s, the longest of these bars extended nearly nine kilometres southwest from Woodbine Avenue, through Ashbridge’s Bay and the marshes of the lower Don River, forming a natural harbour between the lake and the mainland. The largest of these formations was connected to the city’s mainland until 1858 when a storm completely separated the peninsula from the mainland and the gap was not repaired.

10. Summer fun safety
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and bug repellent (with DEET) and pack extra if you’re going to be on the islands for more than a couple of hours. A light jacket is also a good idea because it can get chilly by the water, and no day trip is complete without a refillable water bottle to keep you hydrated.

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