I have a very good friend, one of the Wet Team members from eons ago, who now is the City of Toronto staffer responsible for running Toronto Islands (it actually sits under the City’s strategic initiatives umbrella not recreation, which probably makes sense).
ANYhow, today I popped over to the Island to chat her up about the high ropes course she runs on the island as I’m keen to send my current staff across for some training. I never knew the Island had such a program/course and to boot, it’s ridiculously affordable. We toured around in her van, which was great as it was blessedly chilly on the Island today and had lunch at the Rectory, which I’d highly recommend. I had the angus burger.
Some little tidbits I picked up today, included:
- Toronto Islands didn’t become Toronto Islands, with an ‘s’, until 1954 when Hurricane Hazel split the island apart.
- The famous Centre Island maze suffered a lot of snow damage this winter and they are looking for a corporation to fund it’s repair (if you know of anyone, shout me up!);
- There was a TTC bus driving on the Island today. Apparently, when there are repairs to the Ward’s Island dock, the City is required to move a bus across to the Island and it makes a run from Ward’s to Centre. But still, it was just so darn strange to see a bus on the Island.
- There was a stretch of time – 7 months – years ago when the ferries were not operating because the Toronto Fire Boat was not in serivce. When that happens, or when there is foul, foul weather, Islanders and tourists have to take the Toronto Island Airport ferry across to the airport, walk across the runway and then all the way past Hanlan’s Point (named after our most famous Olympic rower) to Centre and Ward’s Island.
- Ned Hanlan ran the Hanlan’s Point Hotel back in the 1890s right on the island. In 1893, a man by the name of Lol Solman was hired to manage the resort’s restaurant (and marry Ned’s sister). Sol is famous for later going on to build the Royal Alexandra Theatre and Maple Leaf Gardens.
- You can overnight camp on the Island … not really officially ‘official’ but if you’re interested let me know and I’ll connect you to the person who can make it happen.
- There are 700 Islanders still living on the Islands, and, my source tells me, all but 7 are brilliant, kind, caring folks.
- The Toronto Island School (in it’s new premises) still operates year round with the bulk of the children coming from the condos/housing along the west side of Queen Quay West.
- The Islands have their own Fire Station and Ambulance service.