The Portlands are home to what may be the most significant changes to Toronto’s shoreline for the next few decades at least. They are generally south of Lake Shore Boulevard, from where the Don River slams 90° into the Keating Channel, to Ashbridges Bay.
They consist of former wetlands that were infilled early in Toronto’s history to meet industrial demands, and it is composed of 3 main parts:
- The ‘Inner Harbour’, between Lake Shore Boulevard and Unwin Avenue;
- The ‘Outer Harbour’, south of Unwin Avenue; and,
- The Leslie Spit, a peninsula that extends 5 km southwest into Lake Ontario.
The north edge of the Outer Harbour, as well as the headlands of the Leslie Spit, is mostly public parkland. The exceptions are two marina areas that are restricted from public access, and the Ashbridges Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant. This may change if Waterfront Toronto’s Master Plan for “Lake Ontario Park” becomes reality, with public access opened up in these areas.
The rest of the Leslie Spit is 99% publicly owned and accessible, with some restrictions. While the upper portion of the spit is part of Tommy Thompson Park and managed by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, the lower portion is still an active fill dumping zone that is owned and managed by Ports Toronto. These sites of fill dumping are being converted to wetlands in the long term, and therefore there are changing restrictions on the areas and times that people can access the shoreline of the spit.
But the biggest area of focus is the Inner Harbour, where much of the land that meet the water’s edge is owned by Toronto Port Lands Company (TPLC). The Portlands in this area are currently the focus of redevelopment efforts that will dramatically change the area. One of the biggest changes is the new mouth for the Don River. This will restore the more natural outflow of the Don into Lake Ontario, and create a new island in the process. In addition, all of the other piers and ship channels owned by TPLC are expected to be converted into parkland or publicly accessible urban promenades.
When you exclude the Leslie Spit, these changes will dramatically increase the amount of publicly accessible shoreline from 2.8 km to 13 km, boosting the respective percentage from 21% to 83%. Only four segments will not be public access: the Rebel nightclub, the federal port, the Outer Harbour Sailing Federation, and the Portland Energy Centre intake channel.
Including the spit, this will boost public access in the Portlands from 58% to 81%, while growing the total amount of shoreline by 2.7 kilometres.