City launches improvement plan for Toronto Island Park as visitor demand increases

·3 min read
City launches improvement plan for Toronto Island Park as visitor demand increases
The Toronto Island Park Master Plan, which launched Wednesday, looks to improve the visitor experience at the popular park. (Shutterstock - image credit)
The Toronto Island Park Master Plan, which launched Wednesday, looks to improve the visitor experience at the popular park. (Shutterstock - image credit)

The city has launched a blueprint laying out development work that would aim to improve the visitor experience on Toronto Island Park and put a focus on the its Indigenous history.

The project, called the Toronto Island Park Master Plan, acts as a guide for future decision making for the popular park, which sees close to 1.5 million visitors a year. The city says population growth downtown has only increased demand for park space.

"With the growth and change that is happening across the city, we recognize the importance of planning for the future of the Toronto Islands," said Ann-Marie Nasr, the director of Parks Development and Capital Projects for the city.

The plan aims to make the island accessible to visitors all year. It will improve signage, physical access to park entrances and develop more opportunities for businesses on the island.

The plan would impact the entirety of Toronto Island Park as well as the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal on the city side. It does not include any of the island's residential areas, the area around the water treatment plant, or Billy Bishop Airport.

Toronto Island Park is the city's largest park with 230 hectares of land, and includes seven environmentally sensitive sections of land and a provincially protected wetland.

Major flooding impacted the shorelines and beaches on the island in 2017 and again in 2019. The blueprint will balance protecting the land and aging infrastructure from overuse and flooding while creating a better year-round experience for visitors.

Major flooding impacted the shorelines and beaches on the island in 2017 and again in 2019. The blueprint will help protect the land from future incidents.
Major flooding impacted the shorelines and beaches on the island in 2017 and again in 2019. The blueprint will help protect the land from future incidents.(Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Some of the planned changes include:

  • Identifying park entrances, gateways, lookouts and improving access year-round.

  • Improving wayfinding and signage.

  • Helping to uncover the natural and cultural history of Toronto Islands, including their significance to the Mississaugas of the Credit and other Indigenous communities.

  • Considering improvements to shore treatments and marine activation.

  • Improving service delivery and businesses on the Island to meet the needs of park visitors.

The park as an Indigenous place

Another major goal for the plan is honouring the history of the island as an Indigenous place.

Since before Toronto existed, the island was used by the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and other Indigenous communities "as a place of healing," according to the city's website.

"Toronto Island Park today doesn't reflect this [spiritual] significance, and it doesn't feel like an Indigenous place," the website reads.

Mohawk Elder Pat Green of Six Nations took part in the virtual launch of the new Toronto Island Park plan Wednesday.
Mohawk Elder Pat Green of Six Nations took part in the virtual launch of the new Toronto Island Park plan Wednesday.(City of Toronto)

During the virtual ceremony, Mohawk Elder Pat Green of Six Nations spoke about the importance of this goal.

"Hopefully, if Toronto is being honest and truthful, from this point on we will all benefit from working together to make sure that Toronto Island remains a sacred place," Green said.

This week the city is launching a survey for the public to weigh in on the proposed changes.

The next stage of the plan starts in early summer with more feedback sessions.

The final master plan is set to be unveiled in the summer of 2022.