The Ward's Island Beach
Welcome to toronto Island
by Linda Rosenbaum
I welcome you to the charming and quirky community where I live, Toronto Island. I’ve been here over forty years. It’s the kind of place you come to visit, fall in love with, and never leave..
That’s what happened to me.I came as a single woman, and fortuntately, by the time I met my husband, he too had fallen in love with the Island, we have raised two children here, now young adults who have moved to the city, they both hope to come back to live some day.
But the Island is not for everyone.
Our community of 262 cottage-like wooden homes is nestled on a 27-acre sandbar, roughly one and half miles long, that’s part of the the larger 560-acre Toronto Island Park.
We're 1.5 miles across the bay from downtown Toronto, accessible only by a 15-minute ferry boat ride.
Homes are on two islands, Wards and Algonquin, on the eastern end of the park. People have been living here for over 150 years. Our community is separated from the hullabaloo of summer visitors and the noise and excitement of the amusement park on Centre Island by a buffer of woods, meadows and grassland.
Though our homes may only be a 15-minute boat-ride away from Toronto, islanders’ way of life is lightyears away from the urban lifestyle of “mainlanders.”.
Our community is carless and storeless. No form of motorized transportation is allowed on the Island other than garbage or maintenance trucks, a school bus and snowplow. And no stores. No cars, no buses, taxis, and no place to pick up a bar of soap, diapers, bag of sugar or extra piece of insulation when you’re in the middle of a reno.
What does that mean in terms of our day-to-day life?
It means going into the city, by boat to shop.
And once I’ve bought whatever I need, (which might include a refrigerator or new mattress), I then have to "shlep" whatever it is back on the boat, then lug my newly-purchased items to my home – either walking, on a bicycle, a cart, or a bundle buggy.
But who wants to go to the city, particularly when it’s raining or the temperature has just hit minus zero Celsius.,
So we borrow. Borrow all the time.. Our community e-group is flooded daily with requests. “Anyone have cilantro to spare” or “if someone’s going into the city, would you mind picking up my prescription.”
For all my love of this place, there is nothing convenient about living here.
So why am I here? Because the upsides of Island-living suck you in.
Immediate access to natural beauty, flora and fauna is one reason. We have meadows, a beach, wilderness areas, a lagoon for canoeing and kayaking, starry skies, relative quiet, bike and walking paths, the requisite raccoons, and now coyotes.
Though most of us work or go to school in the city, our Island lives are full. We have community newsletters, two active clubhouses for social events and classes (yoga, pilates, dance, stilt-walking, lantern-making…), all-age dances, classical music concerts, a canoe club, five book clubs, a cafe, restaurant and art gallery, tennis courts, lawn bowling, pub nights, quilting bees and a new residence for seniors, recently built with financial help from the federal government. We even get newspapers and mail delivered daily.
I believe we have the best of two worlds here. On the one hand, we’re very “small townish,” yet once I get off the ferry I’m so close to the downtown core of Toronto, I have access to all the artistic, cultural activities and entertainment that a big city provides. This connection to the city is good for us. Keeps us from getting too insular, something we Islanders have to watch out for. It’s pretty cosy here.
The strong sense of community we have is built on the reality that we’re dependent on one another. We also spend countless hours in community volunteer work and meetings, trying to make our community work.
For better or worse, Islanders, especially long-time islanders like me, pretty much know everyone who lives here. The ferry ride provides an essential daily point of contact with one another: gossip spreads like goutweed; babysitters get hired; borrowed books are returned; and recipes exchanged from the previous evening’s potluck.
Islanders fought the local metro government during the 1960s and 1970s when they planned to appropriate, then bulldoze our houses. Most of us are fiercely proud of our way of life and feel blessed to be surrounded by such beauty.
Though I might grumble about the inconvenience of life on Toronto Island when the cold winds blow, when I miss a boat or just can’t figure out how we’re going to get our new TV set home, I’m like most of my 700 neighbours, an Islander through and through.