Un­der wa­ter

Flood­ing on Toronto’s is­lands causes can­celled wed­dings, closed amuse­ment parks

Cape Breton Post - - Canada -

The Toronto Is­lands, a pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion and home to hun­dreds of city res­i­dents, are a soggy mess where carp are spawn­ing on flooded road­ways, pub­lic at­trac­tions are shut­tered and large ar­eas are un­der wa­ter.

Ris­ing wa­ter lev­els in Lake On­tario, brought on in part by heavy rains in re­cent weeks, have led the city to close the is­lands to the gen­eral pub­lic and can­cel per­mits for sched­uled events un­til June 30.

More than half the build­ings on the Toronto Is­lands – which sit a short ferry ride from the city’s down­town core – are threat­ened by wa­ter lev­els that are ex­pected to keep ris­ing for sev­eral weeks even if there’s no more rain.

Yet is­land res­i­dents – who dub them­selves is­landers – ap­pear zen about it all, even those whose busi­nesses face plum­met­ing rev­enues.

Peter Free­man, part owner of the Is­land Cafe, said he’s just hop­ing to sur­vive the flood, and will be open for busi­ness this weekend de­spite the en­tire pa­tio be­ing un­der­wa­ter.

“Our dance floor has ac­tu­ally floated up­ward,” Free­man said, not­ing he’s had to lay off some staff. “We’re hop­ing the stage will not float away. I think it’s go­ing to be OK.”

Free­man, like many oth­ers who live on the is­land, has mar­velled at the ef­fect the ris­ing wa­ter has had.

“Ev­ery day you walk the dog is a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence cause the land­scape is com­pletely dif­fer­ent,” he said. “There are carp swim­ming around all over the is­land and all the wildlife is much more ... re­vi­tal­ized.”

A pea­cock from the Far Away Farm on the is­land has flown the coop and is in front of Free­man’s house, he said, more than three kilo­me­tres from its home.

“It’s bizarre, the whole thing. Just a sur­real sit­u­a­tion.”

Su­san Roy, who has lived in the com­mu­nity for decades, echoed Free­man’s at­ti­tude.

“We’re is­landers and we’re pretty re­silient,” she said. “It is in­cred­i­ble to see na­ture tak­ing back the is­land. You know, the is­land comes from na­ture and now it’s like it’s go­ing back to na­ture.”

Roy, who is chair of a Toronto Is­land com­mu­nity group, noted most homes haven’t been heav­ily dam­aged but a lot of un­cer­tainty re­mains over when full ac­cess to the is­lands will re­sume.

“We’re not sure when the is­land will be open to the pub­lic again, so that’s hard to take,” she said. “But all things con­sid­ered, it could be much worse.”

But Ralph McQuinn, who runs Toronto Har­bour Wa­ter Taxi, is less op­ti­mistic, not­ing his busi­ness is al­ready suf­fer­ing.

“I’m gonna take a big hit – I al­ready have,” said McQuinn, who just bought two new boats for his op­er­a­tion. “If I would have known I wouldn’t have bought those boats. But how would I have known?”

Thous of sand­bags have been set up along the shore­line of the is­lands and in­dus­trial pumps are cur­rently re­mov­ing 500,000 litres of wa­ter per hour from the com­mu­ni­ties.

Claire Bogh­dan, an ar­borist who was watch­ing sev­eral carp spawn on a flooded road­way, said she’s been help­ing fill sand­bags and check­ing on the health of is­land trees.

CP PHOTO

Ar­borist Claire Bo­hdan walks the street line row of sand­bags Fri­day as a spawn­ing carp splashes near her on Toronto Is­lands. The sand­bags hold wa­ter from flood­ing the land more as Toronto Is­lands are threat­ened by ris­ing wa­ter lev­els on Fri­day.

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