Waterfront access an issue for Parkdale voters

Early last spring David Greig heard rumours that a 1.4-kilometre strip of public beach was going to be sold to private clubs. And even though his club was one of the ones that would benefit from the sale, he was upset.

Upon further investigation Greig found that indeed, the strip of beach in southern Parkdale that runs between the Toronto Sailing and Canoe Club (TS&CC) and the nearby Boulevard Club was to be split between the two clubs for private use.

Greig, a member of the TS&CC, also learned of plans for a large city-owned willow grove, near the Palais Royal, just to the west of the Boulevard Club. The grove was going to be leased to the new owners of the Palais Royal and turned into a parking lot.

“Essentially the public was going to lose eight acres of public beach to private interests,” said Greig, “without any public consultation.” Greig managed to galvanize community support for his cause.

In late April a community meeting was held and 200 Parkdale residents came out to voice their concerns. According to Greig, then Councillor Sylvia Watson, who represented the ward of Parkdale-High Park, was repeatedly challenged on the lack of community consultation about the proposed plans.

After the meeting the Boulevard Club withdrew their offer to purchase the public beach area, the offers from the TS&CC and the Palais Royal still stand.

Midway through the summer Watson announced that she was going to run in a fall byelection to replace former Education Minister Gerard Kennedy. Though she lost the byelection, she declined to run again for council, leaving the door wide open for the 14 candidates in the running.

Now with the Nov. 14 municipal election fast approaching, Greig and many others believe that it is the candidates’ visions for the waterfront that will decide who wins in Parkdale-High Park.

The Parkdale-High Park Residents Waterfront Group (PHPRWG), an amalgamation of five local community groups, recently organized a community walk down to waterfront at the foot of Parkdale. Roger Brook, chair of the PHPRWG, billed it as an opportunity for residents to voice their concerns about the waterfront to the candidates running in the ward.

“We’re hoping that the councillors learn that when you don’t listen to the people,” he said, “your career could get hurt.”

Besides the loss of public space, one of the other problems with the Parkdale waterfront area, Brook says, is accessibility. This was highlighted during the walk, as the group tried to cross the busy Dunn off ramp of the Gardiner Expressway.

Brook, who was leading the group, called back to be careful while crossing, as there are no traffic lights on the busy ramp – though there are sidewalks on either side.

“A lot of people from the city say that this area is underused,” Brook said, “but if people don’t have access to it, they can’t use it.”