City drops plan to create formal event space at Hanlan's Point in Toronto Island Park

TORONTO — The City of Toronto has dropped plans for a formal event space near Hanlan's Point Beach in response to concerns it could jeopardize the LGBTQ space on Toronto Island Park.

The city says it will no longer pursue plans to establish a formal event space on the open lawn adjacent to the "clothing optional" beach, which was the site of Toronto’s first gay pride picnic in 1971.

The city says staff made the announcement Monday at a public consultation, which was held after some residents raised concerns that a formal event space could increase homophobic harassment and marginalize the beach's importance as an LGBTQ gathering place.

The city says the idea to formalize the space, which could have included adding power access or temporary infrastructure, was first brought up in talks with a local LGBTQ community centre in 2020 as part of ongoing consultations on a draft master plan for Toronto Island Park.

But pushback gathered momentum in recent weeks after a social media account criticizing the plan as pushing LGBTQ people out of Hanlan's racked up more than 6,000 followers.

A city manager leading the consultation says there was a lot of alarm generated online about the plan, but in retrospect it was clear the city didn't engage enough on the issue.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2023.

The Canadian Press