The favoured few

Usually, at this time of year, we go birding on the Toronto Islands. We take the ferry to Ward’s Island and spend the day walking to Hanlan’s Point for the return trip to the mainland. With a packed lunch along the way, there are glorious warbler sightings. During the week, we have the place pretty much to ourselves.

Not this year. Not last year. The water’s been too high. At times, the Islands have been closed to such meanderings. But not closed to residents. For them, there are sandbags and other protective measures for about 600 residents who usually live an idyllic life with year-round ferry service supplied by the city and ongoing aid from conservation authorities.

At one point, there was an opportunity to knock down all dwellings and create more public parkland. In 1981, following a Commission of Inquiry, Premier Bill Davis decided to renew all the leases on the Islands. And so residents have been ensconced ever since, in recent years whining about noise from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. (Despite such concerns islanders do accept assistance from the airport when their ferry’s not running or their water supply isn’t flowing.)

These spring floods are becoming annual affairs and tell us unequivocally that it would be better if there were no permanent residents on the Toronto Islands to worry about. Sailing clubs are fine, they are in keeping with the surroundings. So, too, with the children’s amusement part at Centreville. Now there’s talk of building berms and dykes. I say it’s long past time to keep protecting the favoured few when water laps against their foundations. Instead of any or all costly solutions, let the Islands return to nature.

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