The idea for #shorelineTO started back in September 2017, when I traversed Etobicoke’s lakeshore. This can be a frustrating experience; much of Toronto’s waterfront seems to be publicly accessible, and this will be increased further downtown by redevelopment guided by Waterfront Toronto, and bluff and shoreline restoration/protection by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. But south Etobicoke remains a point of frustration. A great number of properties remain on the lakefront, keeping the shore privatized.
Etobicoke lakeshore. Public space pocketed between private exclusions. pic.twitter.com/DrF5vU7VRT
— Trevor Heywood (@hey_trev) September 23, 2017
But I had to ask myself: is South Etobicoke truly more privatized than other parts of Toronto’s waterfront? Or is it purely anecdotal? Well, we’ll look at the numbers. Let’s start in the west, and head east.
Nearly 3.6 kilometres of Etobicoke’s shoreline is private, forming the backlot boundary of about 172 houses, 6 apartment buildings, and 1 consular building. This is about 17.4% of Etobicoke’s shoreline, which doesn’t sound like much. However, there are 2 major places that help understate it: Humber Bay Park and Colonel Samuel Smith Park. These parks are artificial peninsulas, and are definitely a bit of an anomoly. While Colonel Samuel Smith Park accounts for 4 km (19.6%) of shoreline due to its elongated peninsula due south and west into the lake, there is only 790 m of distance as the crow flies between the west and east nearshore accesses into the park (Twenty Third Street at Lake Promenade, west terminus of Lake Shore Drive). That’s a multiplication factor of 5, but is that something that should be discounted? I defer to the readers judgement.
The conversion of Etobicoke’s shoreline into publicly accessible parkland began in the 1970s, courtesy of efforts by the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. Prince of Wales Park and Long Branch Park were two of the first peninsula parks completed in 1974.
A considerable amount of shoreline is publicly accessible parkland on both sides of Humber Bay Park. Humber Bay itself used to host a number of hotels since the 1800s, but the area began to go into decline after WWII. The then-Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority began redevelopment in the area with the creation of Humber Bay Park’s artificial peninsulas, which were completed and opened in 1984 at a cost of $6.56 million ($14 million in 2017 dollars).
The hotels and motels along ‘the strip’ west of the Humber River and south of the Gardiner were all demolished. The north tower of Palace Pier was the first, completed in 1978. A subsequent wave began after completion of Humber Bay Park, with the south tower of Palace Pier, and two additional developments west of Mimico Creek, finished between 1990 and 1993. A plan for a shoreline park wasn’t published until 1996. After this, development resumed starting in 2000, and is continuing today, albeit with a fully accessible and public shoreline.
Overall, private lands account for nearly a quarter of Etobicoke’s shoreline, and over a quarter of all private shoreline in Toronto. How that compares to other parts of Toronto will be explored in future chapters.
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