Update: Toronto Island may be closed 'well into July,' officials say
While the City of Toronto isn't ready to confirm the assessment, businesses on the Island worry about possible impact.
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Update: The city has confirmed that Toronto Island Park will be closed until at least June 30. You can learn more details here. Our original story, published on Monday, is below.
The Toronto Islands could be closed to the general public “well into July.”
That’s according to Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) waterfront specialist Nancy Gaffney, who warned that water levels are expected to rise for the next month or so and pose considerable flood risks.
The Island ferries have been closed to the general public since May 4, and two consecutive weekends of heavy rainfall have worsened the situation. Only the Ward’s Island ferry is currently operating and is restricted to Island residents, work crews and employees.
Water has swamped tennis courts, the disc golf course and public benches. A photo on the popular website Reddit showed carp enjoying a swim where there should be a baseball diamond.
Gaffney warned that it could get worse.
“Any storm could push the water farther inland,” she said, despite the industrial pumps and 15,000 sandbags in place to mitigate the damage. She added that another storm could pose considerable risks to homes, the Toronto Hydro station and the fire station. The TRCA is advising the city on how to proceed and has provided a flood map marking areas most at risk.
The City of Toronto is not ready to confirm Gaffney’s assessment. Spokesperson Wynna Brown said “further updates on the status of the Island are expected this week.” She explained that the “focus is on public safety and protecting infrastructure” and that a final call on Island access will have to wait for several days.
The city will meet with Island businesses on Tuesday morning to provide an update.
Business owners and employees are worried about what this means for their lucrative summer season.
“It feels like Jaws,” said 44-year-old server Trent McMullen, in the middle of an empty Rectory Café that would typically be three-quarters full.
If the ferries are barred to the public until sometime in July, “that would kill our business,” he said.
Shawnda Walker, director of marketing at the Island amusement park Centreville, expressed similar concerns. “A lot of youth rely on employment” there, she said.
While half of the Centreville train tracks are covered by water and multiple rides are inaccessible, Walker said they’re ready to go: “If we’re told we can open, we’re prepared to open.”