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Tory's Toronto

Metro's Matt Elliott, formerly of Ford For Toronto, keeps the light shining on Mayor John Tory's city hall.

Toronto Island is open, summer starts today: Matt Elliott

Toronto Island is the best public space in this city, bar none. So go now that you can.

Flooded Toronto Islands are threatened by rising water levels and more floods in Toronto on Friday, May 19, 2017. The waterlogged Toronto Islands will finally reopen to the public on July 31.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Flooded Toronto Islands are threatened by rising water levels and more floods in Toronto on Friday, May 19, 2017. The waterlogged Toronto Islands will finally reopen to the public on July 31.

It’s come to my attention that there are people who have lived in or around Toronto for a long time but have never visited Toronto Island.

Or maybe they only visited once or twice, as kids, to ride the carousel at Centreville and get lost in the hedge maze, and haven’t been back since — except to go to the airport.

This is shocking. Offensive, even.

With the Island reopening to the public today after a prolonged closure caused by flooding, anyone who falls into these categories needs to remedy this — now.

Toronto Island is the best public space in this city, bar none.

Along with streetcars, the ravine system and the Degrassi franchise, the Island is one of the things that makes Toronto unique, something that separates our big city from every other big city around the world.

Recognizing and experiencing the Island’s glory is especially important after the floods. With conditions dire, there was a real chance the public wouldn’t get a chance to go to the Island at all this summer. It’s only because of the truly impressive efforts of Toronto parks staff that things are able to open up again.

That near-miss should serve as a reminder to all of us to appreciate what we’ve got — and to think about how it might need to change. With climate change causing an increase in extreme weather events, it’s hard to believe that this year’s flooding isn’t likely to recur.

That reality could force some hard and expensive choices about things like infrastructure and access. It will require the city to look at new long-term strategies for the Island and its residents and businesses. It could mean big change — and things will be worse if elected officials aren’t actively planning for our climate future.

But still, try not to let thoughts of impending doom get in the way of having a good time.

If you are one of those Island newbies, here are a few important tips.

First, buy ferry tickets online in advance to skip the massive lines for the ticket booths. If you’re able, bring your bike. And unless you’re on a tight schedule, consider just getting on whatever boat arrives at the docks first. All the destinations are great, and it’s easy to get from place to place, especially on two wheels.

And bring snacks. You’re going to want snacks.

Most importantly, relax. The genius of Toronto Island is that it’s only two kilometres away from the busiest urban core in Canada but feels removed from the hustle and bustle. There is no experience in Toronto that better captures what this season is supposed to be about. The Island is open. Summer starts today.

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